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Digital technology revolution: Traversing the continuum

Posted: 04 Aug 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:digital technology  IoT  wearable  3D printing  cloud 

However, I'm optimistic that this stagnation can be reversed. Technologies, like robotics and 3D printing, will have a much more beneficial productivity impact on the wider physical economy, once they transition from introduction to their market growth phase. Japan for instance is actively betting its economic future on robotics being the solution to an aging population and shrinking workforce. Or with 3D printing we should in the next several years see some noteworthy applications in the aerospace industry that have a meaningful bottom-line impact for companies.

Of course these technologies will be disruptive, and one only needs to contemplate the future impact of autonomous vehicles on the shipping industry (a matter more of when than if) to get a sense of just how disruptive these changes will be to the job market.

And it won't just be how we work. The potential of additive manufacturing means individuals increasingly able to custom manufacture harmful, as well as helpful products. The promise of the U.S. military that a human will always be in the decision loop of battlefield systems, will last only as long as we don't face an adversary with similar technology, who reduces their decision cycle by removing the human element, thereby increasing their relative lethality.

I have no doubt that by the midpoint of the 21st century, philosophical debates about the implications of our machines becoming exponentially more intrusive, intelligent and powerful will not be so theoretical.

When you look at all of these trends from the 10,000 foot level, you can see how they will eventually come together and drive enormous changes, across multiple markets, as well as society.

But when you look close at the technology and economic data, you can also see we are not there yet.

Right now odds are good that there will be a growth gap, between mobile giving up the baton and these new technologies taking it up.

But for those working to make these seemingly disparate technologies from the cloud to 3D printing, mainstream market forces, there will be no rest. There is simply too much to be done in the pursuit of the next big thing that will define the first half of this young century, as the walls separating the virtual world we have created, from our physical world, come down.

- Stephen Brennan
  Alhambra Investment Partners

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