22 October 2017

Key Emerging Technologies

“New technologies are redefining industries, blurring traditional boundaries and creating new opportunities on a scale never seen before. Public and private institutions must develop the correct policies, protocols and collaborations to allow such innovation to build a better future, while avoiding the risks that unchecked technological change could pose,” said Murat Sönmez, Head of the Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and Member of the Managing Board of the World Economic Forum.

The emerging technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) will inevitably transform the world in many ways – some that are desirable and others that are not. The extent to which the benefits are maximized and the risks mitigated will depend on the quality of governance – the rules, norms, standards, incentives, institutions, and other mechanisms that shape the development and deployment of each particular technology.

Too often the debate about emerging technologies takes place at the extremes of possible responses: among those who focus intently on the potential gains and others who dwell on the potential dangers. The real challenge lies in navigating between these two poles: building understanding and awareness of the trade-offs and tensions we face, and making informed decisions about how to proceed. This task is becoming more pressing as technological change deepens and accelerates, and as we become more aware of the lagged societal, political and even geopolitical impact of earlier waves of innovation.

Twelve Key Emerging Technologies

3D printing. Advances in additive manufacturing, using a widening range of materials and methods; innovations include 3D bioprinting of organic tissues.

Advanced materials and nanomaterials. Creation of new materials and nanostructures for the development of beneficial material properties, such as thermoelectric efficiency, shape retention and new functionality.

Artificial intelligence and robotics. Development of machines that can substitute for humans, increasingly in tasks associated with thinking, multitasking, and fine motor skills.

Biotechnologies. Innovations in genetic engineering, sequencing and therapeutics, as well as biological computational interfaces and synthetic biology.

Energy capture, storage and transmission. Breakthroughs in battery and fuel cell efficiency; renewable energy through solar, wind, and tidal technologies; energy distribution through smart grid systems, wireless energy transfer and more.

Blockchain and distributed ledger. Distributed ledger technology based on cryptographic systems that manage, verify and publicly record transaction data; the basis of "cryptocurrencies" such as bitcoin.

Geoengineering. Technological intervention in planetary systems, typically to mitigate effects of climate change by removing carbon dioxide or managing solar radiation.

Ubiquitous linked sensors. Also known as the "Internet of Things". The use of networked sensors to remotely connect, track and manage products, systems, and grids.

Neurotechnologies. Innovations such as smart drugs, neuroimaging, and bioelectronic interfaces that allow for reading, communicating and influencing human brain activity.

New computing technologies. New architectures for computing hardware, such as quantum computing, biological computing or neural network processing, as well as innovative expansion of current computing technologies.

Space technologies. Developments allowing for greater access to and exploration of space, including microsatellites, advanced telescopes, reusable rockets and integrated rocket-jet engines.

Virtual and augmented realities. Next-step interfaces between humans and computers, involving immersive environments, holographic readouts and digitally produced overlays for mixed-reality experiences.

Source: The 12 emerging technologies listed here are drawn from World Economic Forum Handbook on the Fourth Industrial Revolution (forthcoming, 2017)

Gartner’s Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2018 Published: 03 October 2017

Trend No. 1: AI Foundation. Today's AI Is Narrow AI 
Trend No. 2: Intelligent Apps and Analytics. Augmented Analytics Will Enable Users to Spend More Time Acting on Insights 
Trend No. 3: Intelligent Things.Swarms of Intelligent Things Will Work Together 
Trend No. 4: Digital Twins.Digital Twins Will Be Linked to Other Digital Entities 
Trend No. 5: Cloud to the Edge.Edge Computing Brings Distributed Computing Into the Cloud Style 
Trend No. 6: Conversational Platforms.Integration With Third-Party Services Will Further Increase Usefulness 
Trend No. 7: Immersive Experience. VR and AR Can Help Increase Productivity 
Trend No. 8: Blockchain. Blockchain Offers Significant Potential Long-Term Benefits Despite Its Challenges 
Trend No. 9: Event-Driven Model. Events Will Become More Important in the Intelligent Digital Mesh 
Trend No. 10: Continuous Adaptive Risk and Trust. Barriers Must Come Down Between Security and Application Teams 

MIT Technical Review gives out 10 Breakthrough Technologies in 2017

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2017

Reversing Paralysis. Scientists are making remarkable progress at using brain implants to restore the freedom of movement that spinal cord injuries take away.

Self-Driving Trucks. Tractor-trailers without a human at the wheel will soon barrel onto highways near you. What will this mean for the nation’s 1.7 million truck drivers?

Paying with Your Face. Face-detecting systems in China now authorize payments, provide access to facilities, and track down criminals. Will other countries follow?

Practical Quantum Computers. Advances at Google, Intel, and several research groups indicate that computers with previously unimaginable power are finally within reach.

The 360-Degree Selfie. Inexpensive cameras that make spherical images are opening a new era in photography and changing the way people share stories.

Hot Solar Cells. By converting heat to focused beams of light, a new solar device could create cheap and continuous power.

Gene Therapy 2.0. Scientists have solved fundamental problems that were holding back cures for rare hereditary disorders. Next we’ll see if the same approach can take on cancer, heart disease, and other common illnesses.

The Cell Atlas. Biology’s next mega-project will find out what we’re really made of.

Botnets of Things. The relentless push to add connectivity to home gadgets is creating dangerous side effects that figure to get even worse.

Reinforcement Learning. By experimenting, computers are figuring out how to do things that no programmer could teach them.

Third annual report on emerging trends in science and technology (S&T) published by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Research and Technology (DASA R and T).2016 gives out the following emerging trends in science and technology

• Robotics and autonomous systems 

• Additive manufacturing 

• Analytics 

• Human augmentation 

• Mobile and cloud computing 

• Medical advances 

• Cyber 

• Energy 

• Smart cities 

• Internet of things 

• Food and water technology 

• Quantum computing 

• Social empowerment 

• Advanced digital 

• Blended reality 

• Technology for climate change

• Advanced materials 

• Novel weaponry 

• Space 

• Synthetic biology 

• Changing nature of work 

• Privacy 

• Education 

• Transportation and Logistics

Emerging trends in S and T over the next 30 years will play out against a background of ongoing sociopolitical, economic, and environmental change. Over the coming decides, six key trends are likely to shape the nexus between sociopolitical change, technology, and security: 

• Urbanization 

• Climate change 

• Resource constraints 

• Shifting demographics 

• Globalization of innovation 

• Rise of a global middle class

International Security Landscape

The history of warfare and international security is the history of technological innovation, and the modern era is no exception. The advent of nuclear technology, for example, led to the doctrine of deterrence through mutually assured destruction. More recent advances such as unmanned vehicles and precision mortars and missiles have increasingly minimized both own-side causalities and collateral damage, and with them the risk of unwanted shifts in public opinion, while placing ever more of a premium on accurate intelligence.

The fear of what both friends and foes are developing, and willing to use, could overwhelm existing processes of oversight, dialogue, diplomacy and control, disrupting our ability to make informed and politically sound decisions. Rapid advances in any of the following technologies could potentially destabilize fragile balances of power and permanently alter the international security landscape, entrenching disparities between countries or heralding chaos. 

Here are eight technologies that are changing the international security landscape: 

1. Drones. Essentially, drones are flying robots. The US appears to be leading the way with over 11,000 such vehicles, but the technology is spreading widely as it becomes more affordable: even North Korea reportedly possesses advanced drone technology, while offthe- shelf quadcopter drones are already being used by narcotics gangs to spy on and eliminate rivals. Last year saw the first instance of a US civilian shooting down a drone when a neighbour flew it over his property. 

2. Autonomous weapons. When drone technology is combined with artificial intelligence, the result is so-called “autonomous weapons” which can select and engage targets based on pre-defined criteria and without human intervention. These have been called potentially the third revolution in warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear. We might still be a long way from Hollywood’s humanoid-looking robots, coldly deciding who lives and dies; but current technology is advanced enough for, say, an armed quadcopter using facial recognition software to identify targets from a database and open fire. The risks of automated weapons are clear: for example, facial recognition is still far from reliable; while human override mechanisms can theoretically be built in, they can malfunction; and automated weapons could be hacked by malicious parties. 

3. Wearable devices. Possible military uses here include sensing moods to avoid poor decision making; tracking bodily functions to optimize health and performance; “exoskeletons” to enhance soldiers’ performance, with current technology already allowing a human to carry loads of around 90kg without difficulty; and spying. In a real-life story reminiscent of an Ian Fleming novel, a lady styling herself as SexyCyborg has posted online about how she 3D-printed shoes with a hidden drawer where she installed devices for gathering information, then used her seductive appearance to gain entrance to organizations, evading the traditional detection mechanisms such as being asked to leave mobile equipment at the door. 

4. Additive manufacturing. 3D printing has already been tested by both the US and Chinese armies in war games, and could revolutionize supply chains by enabling replacement parts to be manufactured in the field from digitally transmitted designs and locally available materials. Militaries are even aiming to be able to print food, and skin and prosthetics for those injured in service. Questions remain to be solved, however, around intellectual property, quality control and liability. As printers become more precise and able to use more materials, there is also a risk of proliferation of certain types of weapon systems as it becomes easier to copy critical technologies and bypass normal restrictions such as export controls. Additive manufacturing techniques could enable the development of new kinds of warhead, with greater control of particle size and direction on detonation. 

5. Renewable energy. The capacity to generate power locally could revolutionize supply chains as much as the capacity to print parts locally. Militaries are already at the forefront of developing solar technologies, including dye-sensitized light harvesting materials which can harness light energy outside the visible spectrum. Nanomaterials embedded in clothes could potentially also turn them into a significant method of energy generation. 

6. Nanotechnology. Our ability to manipulate particles at the nano scale has progressed significantly in the last decade, and we are rapidly developing technology to make “metamaterials” which have properties that do not occur naturally. Some conceivable applications still remain in the realm of science fiction, such as Star Trek-type “cloaking devices”, and systems which can self-replicate and self-assemble. We have also barely scratched the surface of possible ways to exploit quantum effects of matter at supercooled temperatures. Still, in the short term, related innovations promise to make weaponry better, lighter, more mobile, smarter, and more precise. One challenge is that nano electronics need vast amounts of power; another is that it will be significantly harder to monitor the 

proliferation of nano weapons than, say, nuclear weapons. 

7. Biological weapons. While the history of biological warfare is nearly as old as the history of warfare itself, rapid developments in biotechnology, genetics and genomics are opening up new and highly lethal avenues for the creation of new biological weapons. We are already capable of altering cells and creating killer viruses. Airborne designer viruses, engineered superbugs and genetically modified plagues all seem like potential doomsday scenarios. The global norms against biological weapons, laid down in the 1925 Geneva Convention and the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, are coming under pressure as the capacity to create lethal biological weapons becomes more widespread. 

8. Bio-chemical weapons. The Chemical Weapons Convention prohibits any use of chemicals, including ‘non-lethal’ chemicals, in warfare situations – but here, too, technological advances are making such weapons almost a “do-it-yourself” project and increasingly hard to regulate. Unmanned vehicles also offer new and effective ways of delivering chemical agents in the battlefield. Advances in neurobiology and pharmaceuticals will offer increasing possibilities to alter behavioural patterns and emotions – perhaps including cocktails of chemical drugs which change neurological signals to create warrior behaviour reminiscent of zombie movies. 

What is the best response to such evolving threats? It makes little sense to try to ban the development of all technologies with the potential to create weapons of a kind which we would not want to see used. Many of the above technologies have obvious civilian applications – from delivery drones to the genetic engineering of viruses to treat diseases – and indeed are largely being developed by civilian entrepreneurs.Leaving aside the desirability of bans on the development of technologies, there is the question of feasibility. In a growing number of fields, the capacity to innovate potentially weaponizable technologies is no longer the preserve of militaries with large budgets, and can increasingly be done by small groups or individuals with off-the-shelf equipment. While technology is also improving our capacity for surveillance, it will be difficult to be confident that no group is working undetected. The following two diagrams will explain the emerging trends and threats associated with these.

I shall discuss the effects of the emerging trends on armed forces in my next paper. 

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