Emerging Technologies

Put simply, emerging technologies are innovations that have the potential to change the status quo. They are radically novel, fast-growing, exhibit persistent coherence and have a prominent impact that is often markedly uncertain or ambiguous during the beginning stages of the technology’s first appearance. In recent years, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence and robotics have all become emergent technologies.

Everything That Rises Must Converge

To borrow the title of Flannery O’Connor’s collection of short stories; emergent technology often brings together diverse systems to achieve new ends. Smart TV, with its market-busting combination of television services, integrated internet and Web 2.0 features, is a prime example. Here are 5 more:

1. 3D printing and bio-printing

Everything from prosthetic limbs to fighter jet parts to synthetic human tissue is being developed for and achieved by 3D printers. Apart from the ability to customise each article and have it available wherever a printer can be plugged in, this emergent technology is changing the game when it comes to lowering the cost of such specialised products. Commercial production of expensive, non-unique items, will be a thing of the past once such printing truly takes off.

We can also say goodbye to ‘adjustable’ office chairs and hello to properly ergonomic ones, based on a user’s unique measurements.

2. Age reversal

Ponce de Leon spent his life searching for the ‘Fountain of Youth’ only to grow old and die like everyone else. But it may be as early as 2025 where we see real gains in the field of age reversal, which may be a bad thing if an unpopular Chief Exec is reluctant to retire! While the costs will be prohibitive, the experiments complex and the risk considerable, turning back the clock (or more properly, turning off the clock) has already begun in a lab in Japan. Professor Jun-Ichi Hayashi from the University of Tsukuba has been able to manipulate the function of human mitochondria, whose defects mark ageing in humans. While his theory is not without its critics, tinkering with humanity’s genes may hold the secret to why and how we become unable to resist the ravages of time.

3. Artificial intelligence

It’s too late to panic about The Matrix – it’s already begun. By the end of the year, it’s anticipated there will be 207,000 industrial robots in the global market. There’s a robot-staffed hotel in Japan, robots putting together our cars in factories and robots performing keyhole surgery. Even Amazon has its own robot, and AI assistant named ECHO.

The future of businesses everywhere will be affected by similar developments, especially in data management, product production and shipping, and even client-facing areas such as PR and customer service.

4. Pink farms for plants

In practice, this emergent technology is the use of LED lighting to grow pesticide-free food in a climate-controlled indoor environment, called a vertical pink farm. With cities growing exponentially and climate change disrupting long-established weather patterns, the need for new ways of growing food is undeniable. The blue and red LED lights are cooler and less expensive than traditional florescent grow lights, and it’s been shown that the other colours in the natural light spectrum (orange, yellow, green, indigo and violet) are actually unnecessary for plant growth. We’ll be growing food more efficiently and cheaply, so fill your plate! Perhaps every office canteen may be supported by this revolution in food production.

5. Wearable and implantable tech

Nothing seems more cutting-edge and yet accessible than a smartphone, but what about smart contact lenses and earpieces? Ghent University is already tinkering with a curved LCD display that can be embedded in contact lenses. In the future we may get text messages sent directly to our eyes and ears. That quarterly sales meeting doesn’t seem so dull now, does it?

Smart devices will become really smart devices, projecting the digital world onto the real world in a way that even Google Glass can’t fully anticipate.


And the rest…

Try these emergent technologies on for size. Cultured meat that was never part of a living animal, the next level of cancer vaccines, stem cell therapy and atmospheric water harvesting are all being developed as we speak. It’s difficult not to get excited about the future when emerging technologies are concerned. The list of potential candidates are almost beyond our imagination – almost, but not quite.


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