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Future tense

Don't get scared - get informed. Shaun Beaney looks at Alec Ross's book on the tech innovation revolutionising business.

Futurology may excite you, or it may leave you cold. But far from being an academic Mystic Meg, in The Industries of the Future Alec Ross has written a thoroughly accessible, thoughtful and thought-provoking account of the innovations that are already transforming, and will continue to transform, our lives and commerce. Ross has witnessed many of the biggest industrial advances first-hand, visiting 41 countries as senior adviser on innovation to Hillary Clinton when she was secretary of state – “building a bridge between America’s innovators and America’s diplomatic agenda”.

Tech revolution

Ross argues that the next wave of globalisation will see technological, economic and sociological developments over the next 20 years, as thoroughgoing as those of the late 20th century. In robotics Japan is leading the big five countries (with the US, Germany, China and South Korea following) in their expansion from manufacturing into domestic work, healthcare and transport – driver less cars anyone? A million Americans have already undergone robotic surgery.

Investment by governments, corporations and venture capitalists in robotics is growing fast. Venture capital accounted for $341m in 2014. The same year, Google bought British neural networks developer DeepMind, reportedly for more than $500m. Ross argues that in terms of potential, robotics today is where the internet was 20 years ago.

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