Innovation S-Curves are Converging: Changing How We Live & Work

Innovation S-Curves are Converging: Changing How We Live & Work

The world we live in is changing faster than ever before. From AI to Blockchain, from energy storage to robotics, from 3-D printing to DNA sequencing, these innovations are not only transformative, but they are also converging in a way that is creating a series of innovation S-curves. These S-curves are now converging upon other S-curves, creating a catalytic change that will be profound in multiple industries at the same time. I’m going to explore what these S-curves are, why they are happening, and what companies, governments, and people need to do to stay ahead of the curve.

First, let's define what I mean by S-curves. S-curves are a representation of the life cycle of innovation. They start with a slow beginning, then accelerate to a rapid growth phase, before eventually flattening out as the innovation becomes mature. But these S-curves don't just end there. Instead, they often converge with other S-curves, creating a new strand or wave of innovation that is even more transformative and when that happens it becomes exponential.

S Curves represent the lifecycle of Innovation

The S-curves of the last century were many and varied, but some of the most significant ones include the automobile, the airplane, the elevator, the telephone, the computer, and the internet. Each of these technologies started slowly, but as they became more advanced and more widely adopted, they converged and transformed the way we live and work into what we have today. These changed our way of thinking, living, and working more in the last five years than in the previous fifty.

Now the 2nd decade of 21st-century innovations has hit an inflection point. They are accelerating off this base and rapidly catalyzing in ways we are just starting to understand. For example, the convergence of AI and Blockchain. AI (in all its forms) has the ability to analyze, process and generate massive amounts of data quickly and accurately. Blockchain (in all its forms), on the other hand, offers a secure and transparent way to store that data. When combined, these two technologies have the potential to revolutionize many industries, from finance, and supply chain to healthcare and many other industries. In the finance and supply chain industries, for example, the combination of AI and Blockchain can improve fraud detection, reduce transaction costs, and increase transparency. In healthcare, the same combination can help to improve patient care, diagnosis, and efficiency.

Healthcare is just one of many industries where AI & Blockchain converge.

But it's not just AI and Blockchain that are converging. Enter Energy Storage, Robotics, 3-D printing, DNA sequencing, and other virtual and in-real-life innovations that are converging with each other creating new opportunities and challenges for businesses, governments, and individuals. And while these sound far off “sci-fi”, it’s now more “sci” than “fi”. Here are some emerging technology examples I’m actively tracking:

  • Energy storage and electrification are on a collision course. As more and more energy is generated from renewable sources, the need for efficient and effective energy storage that is mobile is growing. And as electric vehicles of all types become more mainstream, the demand for high-capacity, fast-charging batteries is increasing. When these two S-curves converge, we will see a new era of energy storage and electrification that is both mobile and decentralized, and sustainable and affordable.

Robotics and Collaborative or Cobotics are emerging as the next frontier in human/machine symbiotic operation.

  • The convergence of S curves in robotics is happening in both hardware and software. The robot hardware is becoming increasingly versatile and capable of performing a wider range of tasks from performing surgery, driving vehicles, and operating various machinery, to assisting in patient care. As for software, the integration of machine learning and AI algorithms is enabling robots to learn and adapt to new situations, thereby making them more useful in a variety of applications. While the immediate concern is the loss of certain jobs, “cobotics” has shown that when robots work alongside people, they can enhance productivity and help to retain and improve human jobs.

  • 3D printing is a fast-growing area of convergence of multiple S curves. As 3D printing technology has advanced, it has become faster, more reliable, and more versatile. At the same time, we are seeing advancements in materials science that are allowing for the creation of new and more complex structures, many of them mimicking nature providing opportunities for living structures that morph over their lifecycles. When combined, these converging S curves have the potential to transform the manufacturing and supply chain, allowing for the creation of highly localized and customized nature-based infrastructure and local products on-demand, with reduced waste and transport, biodegradability, and radically smaller supply chain carbon footprints.

  • The convergence of S-curves in DNA sequencing has led to significant advancements in fields such as genomics, personalized medicine, and synthetic biology. For example, the ability to sequence large portions of the genome quickly and accurately has enabled the identification of disease-causing mutations and the development of targeted therapies. This is by far the most controversial s-curve example as there are multiple concerns about the potential for misuse of genetic information and the ethical implications of genome editing technologies.

The energy on S-curves-Spaced Based Energy not only is possible it can potentially leapfrog all known power sources. If it’s implemented it could provide ubiquitous energy to all communities.

  • Space exploration and development is an emerging area of convergence of multiple S curves. The commercialization of space travel, along with advancements in rocket and spacecraft technology, has led to the development of reusable rockets. At the same time, we are seeing significant advancements in satellite technology, space-based power generation, interstellar communications, and the use of AI robotics in space exploration. These converging S curves have the potential to open up new possibilities for space exploration and development, from mineral mining to eventually establishing human settlements in space (once we figure out how to develop gravity!). While these opportunities are boundless, we are seeing the old cold war style emergence of space wars among the superpowers.

  • From the real to the virtual. The metaverse and web 3 are emerging technologies that are still in the early stages of development. However, we are already seeing the convergence of multiple S curves in these fields, including virtual reality, blockchain, digital assets, and decentralized computing. When combined, these converging S curves have the potential to create a new paradigm for online interaction and commerce, with virtual worlds and economies that are governed by decentralized, community-driven systems centered on self-organization, joint decision-making, and specialized rewards-based tokens what we call “tokenomics”.

The metaverse offers infinite possibilities and potential and is in its early stages of development

  • In predictive AI and precision agriculture, we are seeing the convergence of multiple S curves that are transforming the way we produce and consume food. Precision agriculture, which uses sensors and data analytics to optimize crop yields, is already revolutionizing farming practices. When combined with predictive AI algorithms that can forecast weather patterns and other environmental factors including biodiversity restoration, farmers can make better decisions, diversify crop yields and minimize crop losses. These converging S curves have the potential to increase food security, and biodiversity and reduce inputs and waste, while also minimizing the environmental impact of agriculture by learning and adjusting to the changing cycles and patterns in the local region.

  • Synthespians, or artificially generated actors and personalities, is another example of converging S curves. As advancements in computer graphics and machine learning algorithms continue, we will see virtual actors and personalities that are indistinguishable from their human counterparts. When combined with the metaverse and web 3 technologies, these converging S curves have the potential to create entirely new forms of entertainment and storytelling.

So why are these S-curves happening? There are a few factors at play. One is the sheer pace of innovation. Advances in technology are happening at an unprecedented rate, driven by a combination of new research, entrepreneurship, and investment. Another factor is the increasing interconnectedness of the world. With the internet and other communication technologies, it's easier than ever for ideas and innovations to spread quickly and widely. Finally, there is the power of convergence itself. When two or more S-curves converge, the resulting innovation compounds and becomes exponential, meaning it is orders of magnitude greater than the sum of its original parts.

There are more opportunities than ever before to collaborate further accelerating innovation.

The convergence of S-curves has significant implications for the future of living and working. As industries and technologies converge, new innovation clusters of opportunities will arise, leading to the creation of new jobs and new ways of working. The pace of change will continue to accelerate, requiring individuals and organizations to be adaptable and flexible.

Innovation clusters also have the potential to drive economic growth and development. By bringing together diverse industries and technologies, However, there are also challenges associated with the convergence of S-curves and the emergence of innovation clusters. One challenge is the potential for job displacement, as new technologies and industries emerge and old ones decline. This will require individuals and organizations to be proactive in developing new skills and adapting to new roles and industries.

Another challenge is the potential for inequality and regional disparities. Innovation clusters tend to be concentrated in certain regions, leaving other areas behind. One of the most pressing is the potential for increased localized inequality. As new technologies and industries emerge, they often create regional winners and losers. Those who are already at a disadvantage - due to factors such as race, gender, or socio-economic status - may be literally left behind.

So what actions do we need to take to address these inequities? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Invest in localized education and training: As new industries emerge, it's important to ensure that everyone who needs it has access to the education and training they need to continue to participate in the evolving workforce. This could include skill transfer programs to help people develop new skills or retrain for new careers.

  2. Address structural inequalities: We also need to address the underlying structural inequalities that can limit people's access to opportunities. This could include policies to address discrimination, increase access to affordable housing, transport, and healthcare, and ensure that everyone has access to basic financial services.

  3. Focus on diversity and inclusion: Finally, we need to make sure that everyone has access to opportunity when it comes to innovation and entrepreneurship. This means understanding and implementing actual diversity and inclusion in the workplace and lifting up a range of voices and perspectives to shape the development of new technologies and industries. It’s been proven over and over that the more diverse an organization is, the more innovative it is, and the more successful in many dimensions including the bottom line.

As these technologies emerge, it’s imperative that we work together to identify and address inequalities within and among these industries and workplaces to ensure that people have access to these opportunities. If we focus on access we will not only address the mistakes of the past, we will ensure that these technologies succeed and improve all our lives for the better.