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The industries of the future

A fantastic read!

This book, by Alec Ross takes a stab at identifying the main growth industries of the future decades. Alec Ross, through his world travels as technology policy expert who was Senior Advisor for Innovation to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton witnessed many advances in technology, some from unlikely places, and hypothesises what the future growth industries will be.

A very well read book that will make your head buzz with ideas and help you be prepared for what is to come.

Robotics

Japan is leading the race towards a future where robots accomplish most of our mundane tasks, freeing us to perform more rewarding activities.

With its aging population, Japan has a strong need to provide care for the elderly, which the younger generations do not have the man power to provide. Along with robotics, a wave of socio-economics challenges will have to be overcome such as rising unemployment. Truck drivers and taxi drivers to name just these two professions, are facing a very gloom future if they fail to renew their skills. Japanese firms have already developed some advanced robots capable of helping with tasks like cleaning and some level of elderly caring. In the future, robots will live amongst us.

Genomics

The field of genomics will unlock medical miracles and is set to become a multi-trillion dollars industry.

With the falling cost of DNA sequencing, it will soon be possible to decrypt a genome for less than $100. When we hit this milestone, anyone will be able to know about their chances to catch particular diseases and how to prevent them. It is conceivable that in the not so long future, medicine will be able to make diseases a thing of the past. China has been investing heavily in the industry and is now leading world-research in the field.

The codification of money

The codification of money, that is the ability to make payments digitally using credit cards, mobile phones or even Bitcoins is allowing businesses to thrive where it would not have been possible. It is empowering Africa, where people are very poor yet own a mobile phone in large proportions to grow business on the back of the telecom companies. People can now transfer money cheaply and efficiently just by sending an SMS, where before they would have had to wire money, go to the bank and pay a high commission – most people do not even have a bank account.

As payments keep being made easier, new business opportunities will emerge and the economy will flourish. Bitcoin, through its code-based and borderless nature has the power to transform economies where trust in the monetary system is broken. It is estimated that only about 20 countries have a fully functional banking system in the world. For the other countries, access to basic services that we take for granted in the west is more complicated.

Sharing economy

We have now officially entered the age of the sharing economy. Uber and Airbnb are leading the march, with Airbnb being the biggest provider of holiday rooms in the world, and essentially owning none of it. Uber meanwhile, is on a crusade to be everyone’s personal driver across the world.

This trend is set to accelerate over the next few years, with more and more services coming online. The new generation is quite happy not owning anything, and embracing these services. This allows a lot of low skill labour to be able to find employment more easily and work their own hours.

Bitcoin’s emergence is allowing new and cheaper ways of paying, allowing fast transfers anywhere in the world very cheaply.

At the heart of Bitcoin lies the Blockchain, a public ledger which records every transactions for all to see. The owners of Bitcoins are not directly known, but the transactions are recorded in plain sight. The innovation in Bitcoin is that since the ledger is public it can be verified by a distributed number of machines. Bitcoin miners then verify each transaction that happens by solving a complex cryptographic problem and record the transaction. The first miner to find the solution to the problem will be rewarded a bounty: an amount of bitcoins. So long as no single network of miners control over 50% of the world’s miners, the blockchain’s past records cannot be modified. Because the issuance of Bitcoins is finite – in 2040 or so there will not be any more Bitcoin issued, Bitcoin is not subject to the whim of monetary policies.

A large number of online merchants now allow payments in Bitcoins. From 1995 to 2010, the Internet had had an impact on many industries, completely redefining them. It has however had very little impact on money transfers to date, which is the problem which Bitcoin is addressing. The Blockchain is a game changer that can be used to solve various problems such as verifying transactions of house sales for examples, regardless of whether Bitcoin fails as a currency.

The weaponisation of code

As most every business and government agency is now online, the number of cyber-attacks is on the rise. Companies like Saudi Aramco, the world’s most valuable company by a long shot have been hacked, bringing down its networks of computers for over 2 weeks. The cost of cyber attacks has now risen to over 4B dollars a year. As a response, security firms has sprung and cyber-security is becoming a very hot topic. Countries are getting ready for full-scale attacks on each-other’s networks, and some countries perform regular hacks on foreign companies to steal valuable technology secrets.

Companies developing solutions to helps protect networks from intrusions are set to do very well in the future, with the potential value of military contracts increasing, and the perceived need for every company to protect itself.

Big data

Big data in the future will allow us to find previously undiscovered patterns and associations which can lead to major breakthroughs.

For instance, using Big-data in the farming industry, Monsanto’s parcel split determines the best amount of water and grains for each parcel in order to optimise the yield of each parcel. Combined with the advances in robotics, In the future, farmers will become more like office workers and less like manual workers.

Using big data and machine learning, companies like Google have developed fully autonomous self-driving cars, making humans redundant and are expected to save many lives in the future.

As people’s digital footprints increases with the proliferation of IoT (Internet of Things) devices, privacy will have to be rethought in terms of not who has access to your data, but how long can they store it.

Fintec

Another hot topic of the future is financial technologies, aka fintec, which are set to revolutionise the way to we bank, and allowing developing countries to democratise the usage of bank accounts.

Conclusion

If you are interested in what lies ahead in the future, I would strongly recommend this book.

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