An emerging technology (as distinguished from a conventional technology) is a field of technology that broaches new territory in some significant way, with new technological developments. Examples of currently emerging technologies include educational technology, information technology, nanotechnology, biotechnology, cognitive science, robotics, and artificial intelligence.
New technological fields may result from the technological convergence of different systems evolving towards similar goals. Convergence brings previously separate technologies such as voice (and telephony features), data (and productivity applications) and video together so that they share resources and interact with each other, creating new efficiencies.
Emerging technologies are those technical innovations which represent progressive developments within a field for competitive advantage; converging technologies represent previously distinct fields which are in some way moving towards stronger inter-connection and similar goals. However, the opinion on the degree of impact, status and economic viability of several emerging and converging technologies vary.
History of emerging technologies
Over centuries, innovative methods and new technologies are developed and opened up. Some of these technologies are due to theoretical research, and others from commercial research and development.
Technological growth includes incremental developments and disruptive technologies. An example of the former was the gradual roll-out of DVD as a development intended to follow on from the previous optical technology Compact Disc. By contrast, disruptive technologies are those where a new method replaces the previous technology and make it redundant, for example, the replacement of horse-drawn carriages by automobiles. This change continues into the contemporary day.
Emerging technology debates
Many writers, including computer scientist Bill Joy, have identified clusters of technologies that they consider critical to humanity's future. Joy warns that the technology could be used by elites for good or evil. They could use it as "good shepherds" for the rest of humanity, or decide everyone else is superfluous and push for mass extinction of those made unnecessary by technology. Advocates of the benefits of technological change typically see emerging and converging technologies as offering hope for the betterment of the human condition. However, critics of the risks of technological change, and even some advocates such as transhumanist philosopher Nick Bostrom, warn that some of these technologies could pose dangers, perhaps even contribute to the extinction of humanity itself; i.e., some of them could involve existential risks.
Much ethical debate centers on issues of distributive justice in allocating access to beneficial forms of technology. Some thinkers, such as environmental ethicist Bill McKibben, oppose the continuing development of advanced technology partly out of fear that its benefits will be distributed unequally in ways that could worsen the plight of the poor. By contrast, inventor Ray Kurzweil is among techno-utopians who believe that emerging and converging technologies could and will eliminate poverty and abolish suffering.
Some analysts such as Martin Ford, author of The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future, argue that as information technology advances, robots and other forms of automation will ultimately result in significant unemployment as machines and software begin to match and exceed the capability of workers to perform most routine jobs.
As robotics and artificial intelligence develop further, even many skilled jobs may be threatened. Technologies such as machine learning may ultimately allow computers to do many knowledge-based jobs that require significant education. This may result in substantial unemployment at all skill levels, stagnant or falling wages for most workers, and increased concentration of income and wealth as the owners of capital capture an ever larger fraction of the economy. This in turn could lead to depressed consumer spending and economic growth as the bulk of the population lacks sufficient discretionary income to purchase the products and services produced by the economy.
NBIC, an acronym for Nanotechnology, Biotechnology, Information technology and Cognitive science, was, in 2014, the most popular term for emerging and converging technologies. It was introduced into public discourse through the publication of Converging Technologies for Improving Human Performance, a report sponsored in part by the U.S. National Science Foundation.
Various other acronyms have been offered for the same concept such as GNR (Genetics, Nanotechnology and Robotics) (Bill Joy, 2000, Why the future doesn't need us). Journalist Joel Garreau in Radical Evolution: The Promise and Peril of Enhancing Our Minds, Our Bodies — and What It Means to Be Human uses "GRIN", for Genetic, Robotic, Information, and Nano processes, while science journalist Douglas Mulhall in Our Molecular Future: How Nanotechnology, Robotics, Genetics and Artificial Intelligence Will Transform Our World uses "GRAIN", for Genetics, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and Nanotechnology. Another acronym coined by the appropriate technology organization ETC Group is "BANG" for "Bits, Atoms, Neurons, Genes".
Artificial intelligence (AI) is the intelligence exhibited by machines or software, and the branch of computer science that develops machines and software with human-like intelligence. Major AI researchers and textbooks define the field as "the study and design of intelligent agents", where an intelligent agent is a system that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its chances of success. John McCarthy, who coined the term in 1955, defines it as "the science and engineering of making intelligent machines".
The central problems (or goals) of AI research include reasoning, knowledge, planning, learning, natural language processing (communication), perception and the ability to move and manipulate objects. General intelligence (or "strong AI") is still among the field's long term goals. Currently popular approaches include deep learning, statistical methods, computational intelligence and traditional symbolic AI. There are an enormous number of tools used in AI, including versions of search and mathematical optimization, logic, methods based on probability and economics, and many others.
A cancer vaccine is a vaccine that treats existing cancer or prevents the development of cancer in certain high-risk individuals. Vaccines that treat existing cancer are known as therapeutic cancer vaccines. There are currently no vaccines able to prevent cancer in general.
On April 14, 2009, Dendreon Corporation announced that their Phase III clinical trial of Provenge, a cancer vaccine designed to treat prostate cancer, had demonstrated an increase in survival. It received U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for use in the treatment of advanced prostate cancer patients on April 29, 2010. The approval of Provenge has stimulated interest in this type of therapy.
In vitro meat
In vitro meat, also called cultured meat, cruelty-free meat, shmeat, and test-tube meat, is an animal-flesh product that has never been part of a living animal with exception of the fetal calf serum taken from a slaughtered cow. In the 21st century, several research projects have worked on in vitro meat in the laboratory. The first in vitro beefburger, created by a Dutch team, was eaten at a demonstration for the press in London in August 2013. There remain difficulties to be overcome before in vitro meat becomes commercially available. Cultured meat is prohibitively expensive, but it is expected that the cost could be reduced to compete with that of conventionally obtained meat as technology improves. In vitro meat is also an ethical issue. Some argue that it is less objectionable than traditionally obtained meat because it doesn't involve killing and reduces the risk of animal cruelty, while others disagree with eating meat that has not developed naturally.
Nanotechnology (sometimes shortened to nanotech) is the manipulation of matter on an atomic, molecular, and supramolecular scale. The earliest, widespread description of nanotechnology referred to the particular technological goal of precisely manipulating atoms and molecules for fabrication of macroscale products, also now referred to as molecular nanotechnology. A more generalized description of nanotechnology was subsequently established by the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which defines nanotechnology as the manipulation of matter with at least one dimension sized from 1 to 100 nanometers. This definition reflects the fact that quantum mechanical effects are important at this quantum-realm scale, and so the definition shifted from a particular technological goal to a research category inclusive of all types of research and technologies that deal with the special properties of matter that occur below the given size threshold.
Robotics is the branch of technology that deals with the design, construction, operation, and application of robots, as well as computer systems for their control, sensory feedback, and information processing. These technologies deal with automated machines that can take the place of humans in dangerous environments or manufacturing processes, or resemble humans in appearance, behavior, and/or cognition. Many of today's robots are inspired by nature contributing to the field of bio-inspired robotics.
Stem cell therapy
Stem cell therapy is an intervention strategy that introduces new adult stem cells into damaged tissue in order to treat disease or injury. Many medical researchers believe that stem cell treatments have the potential to change the face of human disease and alleviate suffering. The ability of stem cells to self-renew and give rise to subsequent generations with variable degrees of differentiation capacities, offers significant potential for generation of tissues that can potentially replace diseased and damaged areas in the body, with minimal risk of rejection and side effects.
- Giersch, H. (1982). Emerging technologies: Consequences for economic growth, structural change, and employment : symposium 1981. Tübingen: Mohr.
- Jones-Garmil, K. (1997). The wired museum: Emerging technology and changing paradigms. Washington, DC: American Association of Museums.
- Kaldis, Byron (2010). "Converging Technologies". Sage Encyclopedia of Nanotechnology and Society, Thousand Oaks: CA, Sage
- Law and policy
- Branscomb, L. M. (1993). Empowering technology: Implementing a U.S. strategy. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.
- Raysman, R., & Raysman, R. (2002). Emerging technologies and the law: Forms and analysis. Commercial law intellectual property series. New York, N.Y.: Law Journal Press.
- Information and learning
- Hung, D., & Khine, M. S. (2006). Engaged learning with emerging technologies. Dordrecht: Springer.
- Kendall, K. E. (1999). Emerging information technologies: Improving decisions, cooperation, and infrastructure. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Publications.
- Cavin, R. K., & Liu, W. (1996). Emerging technologies: Designing low power digital systems. [New York]: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
- other examples of developments described as "emerging technologies" can be found here - O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference 2008 .
- International Congress Innovation and Technology XXI: Strategies and Policies Towards the XXI Century, & Soares, O. D. D. (1997). Innovation and technology: Strategies and policies. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic.
- Emerging Technologies: From Hindsight to Foresight. Edited by Edna F. Einsiedel. UBC Press.
- Emerging technologies: where is the federal government on the high tech curve? : hearing before the Subcommittee on Government Management, Information, and Technology of the Committee on Government Reform, House of Representatives, One Hundred Sixth Congress, second session, April 24, 2000
- See: Wired Magazine, "Why the future doesn't need us",
- Joy, Bill (2000). Why the future doesn't need us. Retrieved 2005-11-14.
- Bostrom, Nick (2002). Existential risks: analyzing human extinction scenarios. Retrieved 2006-02-21.
- Warwick, K: “March of the Machines”, University of Illinois Press, 2004
- McKibben, Bill (2003). Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age. Times Books. ISBN 0-8050-7096-6.
- Kurzweil, Raymond (2005). The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. Viking Adult. ISBN 0-670-03384-7.
- Ford, Martin R. (2009), The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future, Acculant Publishing, ISBN 978-1448659814. (e-book available free online.)
- "Machine Learning: A Job Killer?"
- "Will Automation Lead to Economic Collapse?"
- Roco, Mihail C. and Bainbridge, William Sims, eds. (2004). Converging Technologies for Improving Human Performance. Springer. ISBN 1-4020-1254-3.
- Joy, Bill (2000). Why the Future Doesn't Need Us. Wired.
- Garreau, Joel (2005). Radical Evolution: The Promise and Peril of Enhancing Our Minds, Our Bodies — and What It Means to Be Human. Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-50965-0.
- Mulhall, Douglas (2002). Our Molecular Future: How Nanotechnology, Robotics, Genetics and Artificial Intelligence Will Transform Our World. Prometheus Books. ISBN 1-57392-992-1.
- ETC Group (2003). The Strategy for Converging Technologies: The Little BANG Theory. Retrieved 2007-02-09.
- Circuit boards began development in 1960s. An example, among others, includes Stacked Printed Circuit Board by Victor F. Dahlgren et al. U.S. Patent 3,409,732. See also: System in Package (SiP) or Chip Stack MCM
- This conceptual drawing measures in diameter 200+ m (660 ft.+).
- "Approval Letter - Provenge". Food and Drug Administration. 2010-04-29.
- "What Comes After Dendreon’s Provenge?". 18 Oct 2010.
- Siegelbaum, D.J. (2008-04-23). "In Search of a Test-Tube Hamburger". Time. Retrieved 2009-04-30.
- World's first lab-grown burger is eaten in London
- Building a $325,000 Burger
- Temple, James (2009-02-23). "The Future of Food: The No-kill Carnivore". Portfolio.com. Retrieved 2009-08-07.
- Preliminary Economics Study of Cultured Meat, eXmoor Pharma Concepts, 2008
- Drexler, K. Eric (1986). Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology. Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-19973-2.
- Drexler, K. Eric (1992). Nanosystems: Molecular Machinery, Manufacturing, and Computation. New York: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0-471-57547-X.
- "robotics". Oxford Dictionaries. Retrieved 4 February 2011.
- Lindvall, O.; Kokaia, Z. (2006). "Stem cells for the treatment of neurological disorders". Nature 441 (7097): 1094–1096. doi:10.1038/nature04960. PMID 16810245.
- Weissman IL (January 2000). "Stem cells: units of development, units of regeneration, and units in evolution". Cell 100 (1): 157–68. doi:10.1016/S0092-8674(00)81692-X. PMID 10647940. as cited in Gurtner GC, Callaghan MJ, Longaker MT (2007). "Progress and potential for regenerative medicine". Annu. Rev. Med. 58: 299–312. doi:10.1146/annurev.med.58.082405.095329. PMID 17076602.
- Collaborating on Converging Technologies: Education and Practice
- Converging Technologies NSF-sponsored reports
- EU-funded project CONTECS
- EU-funded project KNOWLEDGE NBIC
- EU-funded summerschools on ethics of emerging technologies
- EU High-Level Expert Group on Converging Technologies
- European Parliament Technology Assessment on Converging Technologies report
- ETC Group
- Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies
- Institute on Biotechnology and the Human Future