In Mountain View, California, a group of top scientists is assembled at the premises of Quantum Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, a research centre developed by NASA, Universities Space Research Association, and Google. These scientists test algorithms using one of the first quantum computers in the world, a computer that is currently the size of a fridge, but promises to have the potential to be at least 100 million times faster than common processors. In the next suburb a company analyses saliva samples from hundreds of thousands of people from around the world, having collected $199 from each person in exchange for giving them details of their genotype. While this happens, in the city of Boston, on the east coast of the United States, a couple of engineering graduates from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) design a reactor capable of using nuclear waste to generate energy.
Unbelievably, these cases are far from being extracts from a science fiction story. On the contrary, these companies are real and currently represent investment opportunities. An investment with an eye on the future. An investment in technologies that will no doubt change the way humans will live over the next hundred years.
We live in an era of unprecedented change and innovation where several technological advances in the last decade have driven great discoveries in different disciplines. While the proliferation of the Internet and the invention of mobile phones have triggered the exponential creation of various companies and services, there are other great research efforts that are changing entire industries. A clear example is the Human Genome Project, which was completed in 2004 and which cost approximately $2.7bn. The project culminated with the first complete map of our genetic code. Thanks to this project, today we better understand the cause of several diseases and is also the reason why the cost to sequence one’s genome has fallen below a thousand dollars. It is also a consequence of this technology that a technique for modifying genes called CRISPR has been developed, which surprisingly opens the door for a future where disease can be eradicated altogether.
As can be seen, in recent years we have seen tremendous growth in “emerging technologies”. These technologies, sometimes referred to as “exponential technologies”, are disruptive technological innovations that represent exponential progress for humanity in their relevant sector. Singularity University in the United States generally refers to these technologies as able to impact the lives of at least a billion people on the planet. Examples of emerging technology sectors include: artificial intelligence, genomics, advanced materials, robotics, among many others.
It is evident that a new wave of technology investments is coming. If we look at the recent investment boom in mobile applications in the world, investing in emerging technologies promises to be stimulating and profitable for investors. Not only are funds increasingly investing in such technologies but also the largest multinationals. Companies like Google, Facebook, Intel, and Amazon, through their corporate investment divisions, are betting on the future and investing in businesses ranging from robot manufacturing to space exploration and mining.
We must be aware of this new wave of investment in emerging technologies, but above all, we must be prepared for the changes that will affect all of humanity. Surely life thirty years from now will be very different to how we live today.
NOTE: This article was originally published by Periódico Expreso on June 27th, 2016