I know what you’re thinking: “Great. Just what we needed. Another article about fantastic technologies.”
I promise this one is *slightly* different and is targeted not at my techno-bro friends, but more for all the capable business people on this platform who don’t consider themselves technologists. I am aiming, not only to name and define the technology, but also to state, in the most succinct way, why each of these is so disrupting.
Had to have a G in there, right? 5G does not refer only to the latest iPhone you are getting. 5G is a combination of new radio (access), and network (backhaul, metro) specifications. Yes, a fully deployed 5G network will make your movie downloads completely seamless, but the biggest difference with previous generations is what we call “latency”, which -until now- remained mostly unaddressed. Mobile -and in general other- networks, are measured mostly by three performance parameters: bandwidth, capacity, and latency. If you imagine a restaurant, the number of tables determines how many diners can be served at once. We call this capacity. Then, the number of cooks and waiters going back and firth from the kitchen determines how many plates can be served at a time. This is what we call bandwidth. But if we are having a five-course meal and one of the tables, it will also determine how long it will take for serving from the appetizer, to dessert. This is why, with limited bandwidth, service deteriorates both with the amount of people connected, as well as with the size of the files they are downloading. This gets us to the final one, latency. Now imagine that our hypothetical restaurant has a detached kitchen two blocks (or three minutes) away from the tables. In this case, no matter how many cooks or waiters we hire, a waiter’s round trip will always be six minutes. Doesn’t sound that bad, considering I had to wait 45 minutes to be seated a few days ago; but things get especially bad when there is any back-and-forth involved. Any scenario where the kitchen is trying to address a special request, or fix a mistake, will require two or three times that the waiter has to talk to the back to the house. That’s a full additional 12 to 18 minutes to get served! Now imagine if the waiter is trying to get the defibrillator from the kitchen.
5G mitigates the effects of latency dramatically, not only on the wireless network, but also on anything connected through copper or fiber.
Why is revolutionary: coverage will become universal, and real time command, and therefore telepresence becomes possible. There have already been some tests performing remote surgery through a 5G network. Because of this, it has the potential to DISTRIBUTE certain activities that were only possible at a central location.
Only possible in a world without latency, the unsatisfied initial expectations and false starts with Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality have made of the Metaverse an over-used word. Most of us are only looking at the most obvious applications like meeting remotely, or gaming. Frankly, these don’t get me excited either, but where I do see great possibilities is for those applications that we haven’t thought about yet. What could we create that is not a mere copy of the real world, but something that doesn’t exist at all? For example, we are accustomed to see, in real-time, some of the laws of physics play out. We can see basic Newtonian mechanics on a Pool table. There are other types of laws that we cannot visualize, like grammar, or actual law. What if we could see how these interplay?
Why is it revolutionary: It completes the technologies necessary for distributing certain activities, and it opens a new frontier for imagination.
Internet of Things (IoT)
This is where we connect everything. Most IoT systems are sensors, temperature, presence, light, status, etc.
We have already seen how much more capable computers have become after the Internet was introduced, and the much bigger leap once people became connected with supercomputers in their pockets. What happens when everything, even inanimate objects start to contribute to that body of knowledge? Did I say “body”? Well, that’s another way of thinking of it. Imagine world where “things” can get “thirsty”, or feel “pain”; and we can chose to be aware of them.
Why is it revolutionary: Provides more data to make decisions. Objects become intelligent and their “attributes” (color, size, etc.) expand beyond the basic ones and become digitized. It removes human error from in-between.
Had to include it. No, it is not going to enslave us or kill us. What AI makes possible is that it creates leverage on human knowledge. It is the next logical step. First we had speech to be able to download from one brain to another, during the same lifetime. Then we invented writing. This gave us storage. The ability to write it once and recall it many times, and also later in time. The ability to “install software” in human brains across generations. Then the printing press, which gave us the ability to replicate the source, to “license” it and use it simultaneously. Then we digitized everything and we made it available through search engines. This made information available “on demand”, making it unnecessary to “install” it. You just get it when you need it. This final step, allows us to make sense of information quicker, and apply knowledge. We went from being able to look up Socratic logic, to have it applied to something.
Why is it revolutionary: we get a human intelligence force multiplier and decision tool that abstracts the simpler tasks from us.
Things get done without human intervention. The Roomba is probably the closest to us.
Why is it revolutionary: We cannot be everywhere, all the time. Things fall through the cracks. Let another piece of the “ecosystem” take care of it. Autonomous robots give us a way to fight back entropy, the relentless motion of the universe towards disorder, together with IoT and AI gives us the possibility to have a dynamically changing environment tailored to our wishes.
3D printers are becoming more and more capable, to the point that 3D printed parts are being used now as “production” components. Printing allows for geometries not possible before (think pieces inside cavities of other pieces) because of the “additive” nature of this method of manufacturing and the possibility to use several different materials.
Why is it revolutionary: 3D printing makes it possible to “license” parts instead of selling the actual physical part, eliminating unnecessary shipping, but it also decouples the cost of manufacturing from the production batch size. This phenomena has already been experienced with high speed production quality laser printers replacing some applications of industrial-grade printing presses (offset, flexography, etc.)
This one raises so many emotions. Among others, we have unimaginable attachment to our trucks and other internal combustion engine toys. It doesn’t matter what you think, this is coming. The cost of solar is doubling now every three years. And the interesting part here, is once installed, the energy is FREE. This promises to have a major effect on our economies. Imagine that almost anything would have a marginal cost of zero to produce the next unit.
Why is it revolutionary: Once in-place, renewable energies are trending to zero cost. In addition, DECENTRALIZATION of the energy grid brings better resiliency and independence.
Blockchain and Web3
Forget Bankman-Fried and other fraudsters. The Blockchain is the technology that is here to stay to store value, but more importantly TRUTH. Still in its nascent phase, Web3 will incorporate Blockchain technology to be able to save state, reputation, value for each user and allow each of them to control it.
Why is it revolutionary: Another DECENTRALIZING technology. Just as Renewables decentralize the grid, Web3 and the blockchain, make it possible to dispose of banks, central banks, and even the big tech giants like Meta or Google. You could own your information once again, and decide who and why do they get it, and in exchange of what.
Another human-augmentation technology. It has been a while since we have created something as powerful as this. “Co-bots”, as they are called, are really intelligent tools that can execute tasks after taught. They are also aware of humans, so they don’t have to live in a cage to keep them from hurting people accidentally.
Why is it revolutionary: Robotics have been around for several decades and have provided immense productivity, and quality increase for large industries, but small business have mostly been prevented from these benefits, until now. Co-bot prices currently run from the few hundred dollars (even LESS than $100!) up to the price of an average car, depending on the weight they can handle. The stronger, the more expensive. Robotics is now affordable by small businesses.
Oooh! The non-GMO folks are going to chew on me on this one. Precision fermentation is a mix of different biotechnologies and food processing. Precisely manipulating microorganisms makes it possible to make a variety of products through a process similar to brewing beer. Lab-brewed milk (100% milk, not something that looks like it, but a liquid that is identical to milk) is already available at some supermarkets. I have tried the ice cream and is fabulous.
Why is it revolutionary: This technology has the potential to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions (bovine-emmited methane can be 80 times more harmful than CO2, depending on how you measure it) and animal cruelty. Besides this, it has the potential to disrupt a $890B global industry employing 3.3 million people just in the US.
See the pattern? Each of these technologies by itself is pretty remarkable they fall into three categories categories: either enhancing humans or taking them out of the equation, and some form of decentralization or deintermediation; which will all radically change the way we do things today; but perhaps the most outstanding thing about them is that they are about to hit us almost in unison. The level of disruption this can generate is enormous. How are you preparing for these shifts in the marketplace? and Did I miss any that you think is as remarkable?