“This decade will be the most innovative in history”

By June 27, 2012 2 Comments

If you believe, as I do, that the pace of technological change is increasing exponentially then you would expect that most every new decade is the most innovative in history. In fact, it would be very bad decade that wasn’t.

However, looking ahead and seeing where the innovation will come from isn’t always easy, and many people think that we’re running out of ideas. Vivek Wadwha of the Singularity University wrote a great article for Forbes this week titled Why I Believe That This Will Be The Most Innovative Decade In History which sets out why they are wrong and where the innovation will come from.

Here are the highlights:

  • Genetics (1) – the cost of sequencing the human genome will be less than $100 within five years at which point genome data for millions of people will become available and correlations between DNA and disease will be used in diagnosis and to prescribe personalised medicines, bringing a revolution in medicine (DFJ Esprit portfolio company Horizon Discovery is one of a number of startups leading this revolution)
  • Genetics (2) – advances in synthetic biology are allowing “researchers, and even high-school students” to create new organisms and synthetic life forms. I don’t know where this goes, but the potential seems huge. Synthesising DNA from fireflies and trees to create trees that glow in the dark to remove the need for electric street lighting is one idea that gets mentioned a lot. There must be more/better ideas than this though.
  • 3D printing – I’ve written a lot about 3D printing here already and regular readers will have a good feel for where this technology is today. Vivek expects that within this decade we will see 3D printers doing small scale production of previously labour-intensives crafts and goods and next decade we can expect local manufacture of the majority of goods, and 3D printing of buildings and electronics. I write about 3D printing a lot because I think it will have a transformative impact on a number of industries, from toys to cars.
  • Nanotech – advances in this field are making it possible to build inexpensive sensors with a variety of applications, perhaps the most interesting of which will be healthcare – I’ve also written about this before. In the short term the most exciting of these will be consumer focused services which bypass traditional healthcare channels. Fitbit is a great example.
  • Artificial intelligence – in 2009 IBM modelled a cat brain in silicon and last year their Watson computer won the US general knowledge quiz show Jeopardy. We also have the beginnings of intelligent personal agents and self-driving cars on the roads. I expect both of these to be common place and genuinely useful by the end of the decade.

In the last fifteen years the internet has changed our lives beyond measure. Expect more even more change in the next fifteen years.