Category Archives: WSJ

On the Edge of an Innovation Revolution

Peter Diamandis, the Chairman and Chief Executive of the  X Prize Foundation, tells us about eight technologies that are at tipping points in an enlightening article that summarizes a talk he gave at the CIO Network conference. The article An Explosion in Innovation which appeared in the Wall Street Journalon Tuesday, January 22, 2013 (B14) explains that the X Prize Foundation “designs and launches large prizes to drive radical breakthroughs for humanity.”

Peter Diamandis explains why he believes we are at this tipping point. He tells us that while we see about 2 billion people on-line in 2010, we will find 5 billion people on-line by 2020. That says Diamandis is “3 billion new minds”. “I think it’s going to be driving tens of trillions of dollars in the global economy…Add artificial intelligence on top of that, and we’re going to start seeing a rate of innovation that will scare all of us.” (Yikes!)

Here are the 8 technologies: (Of course, I don’t know what half of this means, but someone does.)

1.       Biotechnology – “Synthetic biology, in particular when you start to think of life as programming language.” He mentions Craig Venter who increased the efficiency of photosynthesis by 300% and he wants us to think of the implications for food production.

2.       Computational Systems – work in this area will give us “the ability to model anything” – you will be able to hire 100, 1000 computers for a minute, an hour, a day and begin to model things.

3.       Networks and Sensors – “will offer huge amounts of data” and “if we know the right questions we can ‘mine’ the data.” The Foundation wants to offer an X Prize for Earthquake Prediction.

4.       AI (Artificial Intelligence) – “has transformed almost every industry.” They are going to become the most powerful assistants we have.

5.       Robotics – “will be everywhere.” People will be able to “beam into conferences when they are unable to be physically present.”

6.       Digital Manufacturing – including 3D printing and digital manufacturing – will “transform global manufacturing.” A woman who needs a new dress to go to a concert, for example, will be able to “print out a dress.” “The notion is being able to print out what you want, where you need it, on demand.

7.       Medicine – is becoming an information technology. The foundation has offered an X Prize for anyone who can develop a “hand-held mobile device any mom could use at 2 a. m. to diagnose themselves or their kids, no matter where they are.” (265 teams in 23 countries are working on this)

8.       Nanotechnology – the foundation is working on an X Prize on the future of mobility and another on battery improvement that will increase battery energy and power storage densities 300% to 500%. (We certainly could use better batteries.)

In his remarks Diamandis favors a strategy that has businesses offering more competitions with prizes. “Ultimately, when you put up these competitions, 99% [of contestants] will fail, they’re not on your books. It’s not a black line on your company or your research department or whatever the case may be…Because when the one that succeeds pulls it off and has a true breakthrough – that’s a success, and you’ve won. The world’s won in that regard.”

We’ll be watching and apparently we’ll be shaking in our boots, but also excited enough to peek out through the open fingers covering our eyes every once in a while.