In the course of our research for clients across many industries and fields, we come across emerging technologies, new materials, new chemistries, growing markets, changing regulatory landscapes, innovative business models, and much more. Every other Friday, we deliver five interesting things we came across during the preceding weeks. And no filler.
BIOENGINEERING | GMO
This past Wednesday (March 28, 2018), the US Department of Agriculture announced it will not regulate “certain gene-edited” plants in an effort to incite innovation in the field. The designer plant fast lane is limited to genetic alterations which could have occurred naturally, such as an insertion, simple swap, or deletion, but does not protect more significant or cross-species editing. By eliminating regulatory burdens, even relatively small-market plants are worth developing, allowing small start-ups to compete with even the largest agricultural firms. No word yet on the labeling requirements. [WIRED]
Inspired by the ability of squid and other cephalopods to rapidly change color, scientists at UCI Irvine have designed a new material that can—by stretching or stimulation with an electrical impulse—quickly change how it reflects heat. Potential uses include better camouflage for troops and insulation for spacecraft, storage containers, emergency shelters, clinical care, and building heating and cooling systems. The inventors believe the prototypes can be scaled to large sheets of commercially usable material. [SCIENCE DAILY]
Though undertaken by reputable institutions and organizations, estimates of the number of jobs which will be lost to automation vary widely—anywhere from 9% to 47%—depending on the study. Some reports include estimated timelines, number of expected jobs gained, and/or number of jobs significantly altered or requiring substantial new training. We think this is all ridiculous speculation: examining a single industry might be worthwhile if enough information is available today, but trying to predict where the technology will go when it is moving so rapidly is a fool’s errand. So we agree with the author: “we have no idea how many jobs will actually be lost to the march of technological progress.” [MIT TECHNOLOGY REVIEW]
3D PRINTING | MANUFACTURING | PODCAST
Knowledge@Wharton interviewed two of the authors of the new book, “Designing Reality,” for a recent podcast. The authors discuss the two previous digital revolutions, computation and communication, and suggest the third digital revolution will be decentralized fabrication. From bits to atoms, the conversion of digital data to products will occur at local fabrication facilities or even in-home. As with Moore’s Law—a roadmap forward developed by looking back—can we predict large-scale adoption of additive manufacturing using what we know now about the speed of development? How can we use what we know about previous digital revolutions to identify and address disparities in education and opportunity beforehand? [WHARTON – UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA]
If you have time on your commute or an upcoming flight, the podcast is worth your time, but the full transcript is available using the link above.
STRATEGY | PSYCHOLOGY
Costas Markies of the London Business School describes five important variables that determine how likely it is that your efforts to convince people to back your idea will succeed. All five have to be right but the good news is you can influence them if you think strategically about each one in turn. Read past the list itself: all five seem obvious, but they come to life as he expands on them deeper in the piece. The key message is that good ideas don’t sell themselves no matter how much we wish that was true. So don’t just hope for the best; make it happen. [LONDON BUSINESS SCHOOL]