Disruptive Technologies: You’ve heard this before
— the rate of technological change is accelerating. It’s unpredictable and unprecedented. As the World Economic Forum acknowledged in its Future of Jobs report, we’re entering a fourth industrial revolution: “Developments in previously disjointed fields such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing and genetics and biotechnology are all building on and amplifying one another . . . On average, by 2020, more than a third of the desired core skill sets of most occupations will be comprised of skills that are not yet considered crucial to the job today.”
“Will machines replace humans?” This question is on the mind of anyone with a job to lose. Daniel Susskind confronts this question and three misconceptions we have about our automated future, suggesting we ask something else: How will we distribute wealth in a world when there will be less — or even no — work?
With so many disruptive technologies emerging on so many fronts, it’s a challenge to keep up. Every advance is billed as “the next big thing.” Combining a report by The McKinsey Global Institute and knowledge of subject-matter experts, we’ve compiled a list of 10 technologies that will lead the fourth industrial revolution. As the Institute notes, “Not every emerging technology will alter the business or social landscape – but some truly do have the potential to disrupt the status quo, alter the way people live and work, and rearrange value pools.”
Interfaces, formats, sensors and apps will evolve as mobile computing devices dominate internet connectivity. By 2025, mobile connectivity could be accessed by an additional 4.3 billion people.
Machine learning and user interfaces such as speech and gesture recognition technology will advance to increase productivity or eliminate some knowledge work altogether.
Goldman Sachs is betting on the virtual and augmented reality industry to become an $80 billion market by 2025 – it’s around $7 billion right now. Major upgrades will come to technology infrastructure and an ecosystem of apps will form for consumers and enterprises alike.
One of the biggest buzzwords of the last decade will continue to impact the next. Nearly all IT services and web apps could be delivered through the cloud with more enterprises using the public cloud as cyber security improves.
More than 9 billion devices are currently connected to the internet – that number is estimated to grow between 50 billion to nearly 1 trillion in the next decade. Organizations will face monitoring and securing products, systems, devices and even people.
Advances in artificial intelligence, machine vision, sensors, motors, hydraulics and materials will change the way products and services are delivered. A surge in tech talent for building, operating and maintaining advanced robots will occur.
A recent survey of security professionals revealed that 72 percent of companies are planning to drop traditional passwords by 2025. This will give rise to new authorization services for face, voice, eye, hand and signature identification.
3D printing could enable unprecedented levels of mass customization and dramatically reduce the cost of supply chains generating an estimated economic impact of $230 to $550 billion annually by 2025.
Genetic engineering technology will grow with faster computer processing speeds. DNA sequencing technologies and advanced analytics will improve agricultural production, reduce reliance on fossil fuels and extend human life expectancy.
Blockchain is best known in the context of virtual currency Bitcoin, but a recent report showed 64 different use cases of blockchain across 200 companies. Streamlined, secure contracting and transacting will drive commercial use.
The application and adoption of quantum computing is unclear, but the technology is moving beyond the hype. Google’s Quantum AI Laboratory predicts that small quantum technologies will be commercially available in five years and will help businesses increase revenue, reduce costs and lower investments in infrastructure.
The Future Of Work
These disruptive technologies could have huge benefits for many companies – but they will also create big challenges. The report includes a few suggestions to prepare for those challenges, emphasizing anticipating future needs through employee training: “The nature of work will continue to change, and that will require strong education and retraining programs.”
The World Economic Forum concurs: “Across nearly all industries, the impact of technological and other changes is shortening the shelf-life of employees’ existing skill sets. . . . The talent to manage, shape and lead the changes underway will be in short supply unless we take action today to develop it. Businesses will need to put talent development and future workforce strategy front and center to their growth. Firms can no longer be passive consumers of ready-made human capital. They require a new mindset to meet their talent needs.”
The key to surviving this new industrial revolution is leading it. That requires two key elements of agile businesses: awareness of disruptive technologies and a plan to develop talent that can make the most of it.