The biggest game-changers in the 21st century are going to take place on the technology front. Technology is going to be the single biggest key to power and prosperity.
Nowhere is this realization starker than in the United States and China. America has always led in disruptive technologies because of the powerful synergies between the US Federal Government, the Military, Universities, Federally Funded R & D Centres and Industry. China has followed suit by graduating away from the reverse engineering model to indigenous innovation. It is now eyeing the disruptive technology frontier. Both are engaged in a dialogue to learn how the other system ticks.
Realizing that the globalized and distributed model of manufacturing has led to a physical divorce between technological innovation and manufacturing, American academics are talking about re-shoring manufacturing and banking on disruptive technologies and thus retain technological primacy.
President Obama’s “Advanced Manufacturing Partnership” is a pointer in that direction. President Hu Jintao of China has acknowledged that there is a technological race going on. 3-D Printing, Artificial Intelligence, nanotechnology, genomics, super cheap solar energy, and other advances will transform productivity and manufacturing in such a way that the North-South divide will be eclipsed by the new divide – two different planets on a single mother Earth. Life spans are going to be extended, artificial intelligence is going to augment human capabilities and robots will replace blue collar workers and even white collar workers. “The New World is at your doorstep, if you are ready for it you may be able to ride it, if not, you’re history”!
McKinsey has quantified the wealth creation potential of disruptive technologies. It is US$33 trillion per year! MIT has brought out a list of 50 disruptive companies. Not a single Indian company is on that list.
The US$33 trillion advantage is going to be with the advanced countries and represents the wealth gap between the new North and the new South of the Future. Because the era of super growth is not going to be for everyone. The film “Elysium” illustrates this in an amateurish but pointed way.
India has to gear up and realise the potential and the danger in not keeping up. A dialogue needs to be started between Government, academics, scientists, the military, educationists and industry to generate a genuine eco-system in India that encourages indigenous innovation. The licensed production model only leads towards a technological dead-end. It is time to launch a novel approach – open up the black box, innovate and produce original stuff from our shores. Otherwise “stuff’ WILL happen!
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