Patrice Riemens on Wed, 1 Feb 2012 10:15:12 +0100 (CET)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> M. Mills & J. Ottino: The Coming Tech-Led Boom (Wall Street Journal) - and more!

Let's beat the cold (in Europe at least) and inaugurate February with a
'radiant future' piece from our favorite Prawda (back for grabs atop the
paperdump container at the economics faculty of the university of
Amsterdam, despite the 'paid circulation' scandal of last November ...)

Original to:

The Coming Tech-led Boom
Three breakthroughs are poised to transform this century as much as
telephony and electricity did the last.


In January 1912, the United States emerged from a two-year recession.
Nineteen more followed?along with a century of phenomenal economic growth.
Americans in real terms are 700% wealthier today.

In hindsight it seems obvious that emerging technologies circa
1912?electrification, telephony, the dawn of the automobile age, the
invention of stainless steel and the radio amplifier?would foster such
growth. Yet even knowledgeable contemporary observers failed to grasp
their transformational power.

In January 2012, we sit again on the cusp of three grand technological
transformations with the potential to rival that of the past century. All
find their epicenters in America: big data, smart manufacturing and the
wireless revolution.

Information technology has entered a big-data era. Processing power and
data storage are virtually free. A hand-held device, the iPhone, has
computing power that shames the 1970s-era IBM mainframe. The Internet is
evolving into the "cloud"?a network of thousands of data centers any one
of which makes a 1990 supercomputer look antediluvian. From social media
to medical revolutions anchored in metadata analyses, wherein astronomical
feats of data crunching enable heretofore unimaginable services and
businesses, we are on the cusp of unimaginable new markets.

The second transformation? Smart manufacturing. This is the first
structural shift since Henry Ford launched the economic power of "mass
production." While we see evidence already in automation and information
systems applied to supply-chain management, we are just entering an era
where the very fabrication of physical things is revolutionized by
emerging materials science. Engineers will soon design and build from the
molecular level, optimizing features and even creating new materials,
radically improving quality and reducing waste.

Devices and products are already appearing based on computationally
engineered materials that literally did not exist a few years ago: novel
metal alloys, graphene instead of silicon transistors (graphene and carbon
enable a radically new class of electronic and structural materials), and
meta-materials that possess properties not possible in nature; e.g.,
rendering an object invisible?speculation about which received
understandable recent publicity.

This era of new materials will be economically explosive when combined
with 3-D printing, also known as direct-digital manufacturing?literally
"printing" parts and devices using computational power, lasers and basic
powdered metals and plastics. Already emerging are printed parts for
high-value applications like patient-specific implants for hip joints or
teeth, or lighter and stronger aircraft parts. Then one day, the Holy
Grail: "desktop" printing of entire final products from wheels to even
washing machines.

The era of near-perfect computational design and production will unleash
as big a change in how we make things as the agricultural revolution did
in how we grew things. And it will be defined by high talent not cheap

Finally, there is the unfolding communications revolution where soon most
humans on the planet will be connected wirelessly. Never before have a
billion people?soon billions more?been able to communicate, socialize and
trade in real time.

The implications of the radical collapse in the cost of wireless
connectivity are as big as those following the dawn of
telegraphy/telephony. Coupled with the cloud, the wireless world provides
cheap connectivity, information and processing power to nearly everyone,
everywhere. This introduces both rapid change?e.g., the Arab Spring?and
great opportunity. Again, both the launch and epicenter of this technology
reside in America.

Few deny that technology fuels economic growth as well as both social and
lifestyle progress, the latter largely seen in health and environmental
metrics. But consider three features that most define America, and that
are essential for unleashing the promises of technological change: our
youthful demographics, dynamic culture and diverse educational system.

First, demographics. By 2020, America will be younger than both China and
the euro zone, if the latter still exists. Youth brings more than a base
of workers and taxpayers; it brings the ineluctable energy that propels
everything. Amplified and leavened by the experience of their elders,
youth and economic scale (the U.S. is still the world's largest economy)
are not to be underestimated, especially in the context of the other two
great forces: our culture and educational system.

The American culture is particularly suited to times of tumult and
challenge. Culture cannot be changed or copied overnight; it is a feature
of a people that has, to use a physics term, high inertia. Ours is
distinguished by incontrovertibly powerful features, namely
open-mindedness, risk-taking, hard work, playfulness, and, critical for
nascent new ideas, a healthy dose of anti-establishment thinking. Where
else could an Apple or a Steve Jobs have emerged?

Then there's our educational system, often criticized as inadequate to
global challenges. But American higher education eludes simple statistical
measures since its most salient features are flexibility and diversity of
educational philosophies, curricula and the professoriate. There is a
dizzying range of approaches in American universities and colleges. Good.
One size definitely does not fit all for students or the future.

We should also remember that more than half of the world's top 100
universities remain in America, a fact underscored by soaring foreign
enrollments. Yes, other nations have fine universities, and many more will
emerge over time. But again the epicenter remains here.

What should our politicians do to help usher in this new era of
entrepreneurial growth? Liquid financial markets, sensible tax and
immigration policy, and balanced regulations will allow the next boom to
flourish. But the essential fuel is innovation. The promise resides in the
tectonic technological shifts under way.

America's success isn't preordained. But the technological innovations
circa 2012 are profound. They will engender sweeping changes to our
society and our economy. All the forces are in place. It's just a matter
of when.

[Mr. Mills, a physicist and founder of the Digital Power Group, writes the
Forbes Energy Intelligence column. Mr. Ottino is dean of the McCormick
School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Northwestern University.]


Liked it? Then you'll love Cory Doctorow's "Makers", available in 81 (!)
instaltments on (and starting at):

where he provides a brilliantly fictionalised 101 course of the new new
economy (as visualised by the 'Californian Ideology - even if the
revolution takes place in Florida...).

And if you can't get enough of the 'real truth' in the Wall Street Journal
and were suspicious about the climate change consensus anyway, enjoy what
a cohort of 'distinguished scientists', allegedly speaking for an opressed
majority have to tell us: global warming is all humbug!

No Need to Panic About Global Warming
There's no compelling scientific argument for drastic action to
'decarbonize' the world's economy.

Have a nice day!
patrizio & Diiiinooos!

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime>  is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info:
#  archive: contact: