Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend a stimulating lecture held by Milo Jones, Professor of Geopolitics at IE Business School, where we analyzed how innovation can impact our society. It was interesting to see how sometimes we’re so engaged in experiencing new technologies or so accustomed to use some of them that we don’t even realize how they deeply change our life. Internet, smartphone, airplanes, credit cards, ecc, we usually consider them nice and useful gadgets or commodities that support our life, but in the really end they are much more: they have completely changed our routine.
We can find a funny example of this way of seeing technology into the short video where in the 80s, through The Jetson cartoon, we envisioned the lifestyle of the future.
As we see, despite the Jetson family was going to work with a space shuttle, the cartoonist applied the current 80s lifestyle to the family of the future. The father bringing all the family to school and the wife to the shopping center while he goes to work. The indipendence of the woman was still not contemplated. The kid using paper books instead of a digital version. The wife that is not working and that is going to spend her husband’s money. Only cash, no credit card. And finally the man that get to the office and seats at his classical desk with no PC or any other technological device. A cleare example of how we , cartoonist included,tend to think that society and habits are stable and not impacted by external forces like innovation.
Can you imagine a month of your life without some of the technologies that you use in your daily routine? Or worse, can you immagine the impact of the lack of development of the airline or telecommunication industry on the way we interact, learn and exchange information? Very likely, people would speak only the language of their country. Medical investigation would be pretty much slowed down (with all its consequences). Many cultures would be confined on the borders of their countries. A massive economy of scale would be difficult to be reached with a significant impact on the cost of life.
Joel Garreau, co-director of the Arizona State University, coined the acronym GRIN to describe a set of disruptive technologies that are going to have a heavy impact on our society during the next decades. It stands for Genetics, Robotics, Information Technology and Nanotechnology. To these, Professor Jones added the 3D Printing as a fifth force that may lead to huge changes. Therefore we talk about GRIN + 3D.
Genetically modified food may increment the nourishment production and help to feed the growing world population. Drones may increase our efficiency and support us in risky tasks or work in hostile environments. Thanks to the Brain Computer Interfaces it would be possible to build intelligent artifical limbs that would become an extension of our body. Nanotechnologies may improve the formulation of drugs and the medical diagnosis processes. And 3D Printing.. well, can you imagine your son printing his footbool shoes by simply having the CAD file? What about the impact on intellectual property and on business? Or what about shipments? Woulnd’t be easier and faster to send a CAD via mail to the other side of the earth and then printing the product in loco instead of sending the physical object?
As we know, shift happens. Our environment will change again and again and I wonder whether we will be able to live without these cool innovations that we currently don’t have, will you? 😀