A futurist who is passionate about launching businesses. He is the CEO of BlockVentures & Unite.AI, a news website on AI & robotics.
While there are endless articles highlighting the benefits of artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality and blockchain, there are other emerging technologies that are often neglected by entrepreneurs. These technologies have the potential to completely disrupt the aerospace, health and manufacturing sectors. In this article, will explore five potential breakthrough technologies and how I believe they will converge.
Additive manufacturing is more commonly known as 3D printing. While the industry was initially hyped with the promise that 3D printers would become prevalent in people’s homes, the real breakthroughs will result from commercial 3D printers.
Traditional manufacturing subtracts material (cutting out/hollowing) from metal or plastic to craft the intended object. This results is material waste that is approximately 40% higher than in additive manufacturing. Additive manufacturing naturally reduces the amount of waste on the manufacturing side by constructing a 3D object from a digital 3D model (CAD model). The additive manufacturing process creates successive layers of material until the desired object is created.
Not only is there a waste reduction, but there can also be a massive weight reduction benefit. The 3D printing company Materialise claims it has created titanium with a 63% weight reduction compared with the traditionally manufactured titanium. The benefits for transportation and shipping, where product weight is often the highest cost factor, cannot be understated, especially in the aerospace industry launching payload into Earth’s orbit. This cost increases the further objects are launched into space. As if that wasn’t convincing enough, Relativity Space is now printing 3D rockets.
Additive manufacturing was the needed breakthrough to create nanobots. Nanobots offer significant potential to disrupt many industries — especially in the healthcare sector. Nanobots are atomically precise and are 0.1 to 100 nanometers in size. They are tiny enough to enter the bloodstream and are invisible to the human eye and even to conventional laboratory microscopes.
Nanobots can be designed to enter the human body and, with a high degree of specificity, target cellular clinical applications. The list of applications is endless: The nanobots could be used to attack cancer cells, blood clots or cardiovascular diseases. Because nanobots are so tiny, they can also cross the blood-brain barrier to target neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s. Nanobots can either attack cells or deliver precision medicine. Other use cases of nanotechnology include military applications.
Brain-computer interfaces (BCI) take advantage of the brain’s plasticity. The human controls the BCI by using brain signals, and when a wanted positive change is detected on the BMI, the neuronal connection is strengthened.
Current use cases of BCI include assisting people with paralysis or other neurological disorders. Future benefits could include transforming the future of work, controlling Internet of Things (IoT) objects with your mind and having unfiltered access to all the world’s information via the internet. When you wanted to remember a fact, there would be no need to take out a smartphone. Direct access to the internet could enable real-time instant access to the necessary data points. Having direct access to a BCI would offer users instant data access and may result in a user receiving an unfair advantage in the workspace because their level of efficiency would increase dramatically.
This field relies extensively on genomics, which is arguable the ripest for disruption. The reasons for this can be traced to the human genome project, which had the goal of mapping all the genes in the human genome. Mapping out the first human genome started on October 1, 1990 and was completed in April of 2003, at a cost of $3 billion.
Due to Moore’s Law and other exponential breakthroughs, the cost to sequence a human genome has been drastically reduced to $1,000 per human, with speculation of it soon dropping to $100.
This new level of affordability combined with CRISPR, a tool used to edit DNA sequences and modify the functions of different genes, will enable a new type of healthcare based on precision medicine. The goal will be to actually prevent sickness instead of treating it. This technology combined with nanotechnology will enable humans to remain in full control of their bodies.
Autonomous vehicles are essentially autonomous robots on wheels, and they are likely to be the most common mass-produced robot that we interact with on a daily basis. I believe robots will penetrate every facet of our lives in ways that we cannot yet imagine. Robots will eventually be 3D printed or manufactured on assembly lines by other robots.
A robot simply serves as a host to an AI system, and how the robot behaves is entirely dependent on the type of AI interface that is programmed. We may choose robots as companions or as pattern recognition tacticians that interface with the real world and report the results to us through both words and facial expressions. A multitude of machine learning technologies are yielding promising results, such as deep reinforcement learning and meta-learning.
Currently, the most successful robot in the world is the Roomba, a robot to vacuum homes. Clever entrepreneurs are tackling other use cases such as assisted living and disaster relief.
The above technologies are converging and will disrupt the manufacturing and healthcare landscape. In the future, I expect to witness the launch of 3D rockets into space with 3D printing in a space habitat.
On the health front, with the assistance of a BCI, a user will benefit from real-time monitoring of their health status. If confronted with an alert of cancer cells or a pathogen, the user would then be able to trigger a request for precision medicine delivered via nanobots or immunotherapy.
Entrepreneurs that are familiar with these technologies can be best positioned to take advantage of them and other converging technologies for industry success.
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