What technologies will most radically transform human life in the next twelve years?
The McKinsey Global Institute looked at more than a hundred possible candidates across a variety of technology fields and narrowed the most potentially disruptive down to a dozen. They are, in order of size of potential impact:
- Mobile Internetdefined as “increasingly inexpensive and capable mobile computing devices and Internet connectively.”
- Automation of knowledge work or “intelligent software systems that perform knowledge work tasks involving unstructrured commands and subtle judgments.” An example might be IBM’s Watson system.
- Internet of Things or “networks of low-cost sensors and actuators for data collection, monitoring, decision making and process optimization.”
- Cloud Technology or “use of computer hardware and software resources delivered over a network or the Internet, often as a service.”
- Advanced Robotics or “increasingly capable robots with enhanced senses, dexterity, and intelligence used to automate tasks or augment humans.” This category is perhaps most famously personified by the Baxter robot (profiled in the May-June issue of THE FUTURIST magazine).
- Autonomous and Near-Autonomous Vehicles.
- Next Generation Genomics or “fast, low-cost gene sequencing, advanced big-data analytics, and synthetic biology.”
- Energy Storage.
- 3D Printing
- Advanced Materials defined as “materials designed to have superior characteristics.” Much of what we today call nanotechnology would fall within this category.
- Advanced Oil and Natural Gas Recovery
- Renewable Energy
Of the above, the Mobile Internet, which could change the lives of more than 5 billion people around the globe, the automation of knowledge work, and the Internet of Things would have by far the largest economic impacts, according to McKinsey. All together, the above technologies could generate $14 to $33 trillion per year in 2025. But the authors caution that much of that growth will be at the expense of older technologies and even entire industries falling into obsolescence.
“When necessary, leaders must be prepared to disrupt their own businesses and make the investments to effect change,” the report’s authors write. “By the time the technologies that we describe are exerting their influence on the economy in 2025, it will be too late for businesses, policy makers, and citizens to plan their responses. Nobody, especially businesses leaders, can afford to be the last person using video cassettes in a DVD world.”