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You may not know it, but there are global trends that impact the world around you. If you’re a business owner, you may enjoy amazing access to global supply chains. You might even get a chance to benefit from amazing new technologies that were developed elsewhere in the world.
Megatrends, and their growing impact on economies and societies, have gained a lot of attention recently. Many large organisations have devoted resources to better understanding their impact. One such organisation is the European Environment Agency which publishes an outlook report. We’re taking a closer look at the impacts in their studies for our own series on global megatrends.
This post focuses on how technological change advances at rates that we previously thought impossible. Innovations crop up in the unlikeliest of places – some beneficial but others highly disruptive.
We’ve compiled a list of characteristics to help you better understand the technological change that impacts businesses and societies around the world. Let’s check them out.
1. We’re adopting technology faster.
Not only is innovation happening more often, but consumers are adopting them faster, too.
Think about the example of electricity. It took half a century to reach a quarter of the US population. These days, the internet and smartphones took fewer than 10 years to access as many users.
2. Innovation cycles are getting shorter.
The world’s middle class is growing. For more information about demographic changes, read our earlier article in our series.
The growing middle class is increasingly educated and tends to be leaders in developing new tech.
Competition is on the rise, too, as more and more companies enter the innovation sphere to develop the next best products and services.
Funding in research and development has increased. With investment and competition pouring into innovative new sectors, the cycles of new development are shortening drastically.
3. People are getting smarter.
In part due to the growing global middle class, levels of university-level education are on the rise.
Developing regions that are increasing access to higher levels of education are also building human capital resources that drive innovation around the world.
OECD predicts that in the next decades, university education will grow fastest in countries like Brazil, China, and India.
4. Innovation has gone global.
In the past decades, the locations of the important innovation centres have shifted.
The United States, Japan and countries in Europe are still important innovators. However, other countries like South Korea, China, and Latin American countries have increased their technological innovation activities.
In the past few decades, many new countries experienced noticeable increases in their number of patent filings and added impactful new markets for product sourcing.
5. Innovation is clustering.
Urban centres are growing fast. The proximity and clustering that occurs from urban development only further increases the rate of innovation.
Proximity is a driver for innovation as skilled workers and competitive industries shape the innovation landscape.
6. Biotechnology and nanosciences are on the rise.
Predictions hold that a cluster of industries will drive the next wave of innovation and growth. These include nanosciences, biotechnologies, life sciences and neurotechnologies.
These technologies can treat dementia and other conditions. Genetics has advanced enough to see the regrowth of organs and tissue. Moreover, genetic screening can help with disease identification and prevention, which can positively influence global health. For more on global health trends, see our earlier post [link to #3].
These cutting-edge advancements may result in completely new ways of life. They may impact how we interact with computers, how we produce food or manage our health or natural environments.
How innovations can help solve problems
Without question, new advancements are making the world a different place. The good thing is that innovation can drive the solutions to societal problems.
Technologies can help us move toward being more resource-efficient and reduce our carbon reliance. Some nanotechnologies are leading the way toward energy conversion and the replacement of toxic waste.
The unknowns of innovation
Despite that rapid advancements can improve lives, there are still many unknowns when it comes to new technologies. For instance, innovations often lead to efficiency gains in the production process. However, making more of something, and doing it cheaper, doesn’t often help the environment and can lead to the depletion of finite resources.
Advancements in automation and artificial intelligence raise questions about how societies function. Should machines replace human workers? If so, are we sure that production can remain safe and efficient? How can we ensure that workers are re-skilled to adapt to new positions in the event of job loss due to automation?
Lastly, there are ethical dilemmas unbound when it comes to advancements in biotechnologies and genetics. Biotechnology raises questions about the value of human and animal life. Despite the technological advantages of genetic manipulation, societies have not yet come to terms with tampering with the natural course of living organisms.
Overcoming disruptions and focusing on solutions
The world may not have all the answers to some of the ethical questions raised by the cutting-edge of science. Technologies that cause controversy and dramatically impact livelihoods are often considered disruptive.
The important thing to watch out for with the megatrend of technological advancement is how innovation can help shape solutions to societal problems. One day, we might view the ethical problems raised by genetics as opportunities in the same way that we now see that green technologies can help solve environmental degradation.
The lens through which we view modern innovation often has the greatest impact on our perspectives and ways of thinking. One thing’s for sure – our ability to learn and adapt in reaction to new technologies will be one of the most important trends to watch out for as societies progress alongside the scientific community.
Don’t miss out on a single post in our series on global megatrends. Check out the Innovolo blog for more about modern innovations. The next post is all about trends in global economic growth.