“Today and tomorrow we will be exploring the frontiers of technology. We are all eager to identify the next big thing or the next technological revolution. That seems to be the modern version of El Dorado! The truth is that technology has been so impressive lately that we have all become convinced that it’s disruptive innovation that brings growth and success. Well, it does… and yet, it doesn’t!
History can teach us a lot. Innovation has indeed always been the driver of growth and the main source of increasing productivity and wealth. But every technological revolution has brought two types of prosperity. The first type is turbulent and exciting like the bubbles of the 1990s and 2000s and like the Roaring twenties, the railway mania and the canal mania before. They all ended in a bubble collapse. Yet, after the recession, there came the second type: the Victorian boom, the Belle Époque, the Post War Golden Age and… the one that we could have ahead now. Bubble prosperities polarise incomes; Golden Ages tend to reverse the process.
The first prosperity of each revolution is a huge experiment for testing and choosing the new technologies and for installing the infrastructures (be they railways or electricity or internet). It is an intense process of creative destruction, of learning the new and unlearning the old, of getting rid of the dinosaurs. Innovation concentrates on the new industries (as we saw with the information revolution) and on modernizing all the other industries with the new paradigm. This time, it also concentrated on globalization.
The result is that the range of possible technological avenues is now immense. The power of information technology can enable almost any industry to make its own revolution: the world of medicine, the world of materials or that of biology, the creative industries, transport, energy, buildings, nanotechnology, stem cells, agriculture, 3D printing, robotics… Which is the next big thing? Nobody knows. There are no sure successes. They are all uncertain. But they are indeed powerful paths for innovation and wealth creation.”