The Future of Technologies that Don’t Yet Exist
Paul Saffo is a forecaster and essayist with over two decades experience exploring long-term technological change and its practical impact on business and society. He teaches at Stanford University and is a Visiting Scholar in the Stanford Media X research network.
He was the founding chairman of the Samsung Science Board and serves on a variety of other boards including the Long Now Foundation, the Singapore National Research Foundation Science Advisory Board, and the Pax Group. He has served as an advisor and Forum Fellow to the World Economic Forum since 1997.
He is a columnist for ABCNews.com, and his essays have appeared in numerous publications including The Harvard Business Review, Fortune, Wired, The Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, The New York Times, and the Washington Post. He is a Fellow of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences, and holds degrees from Harvard College, Cambridge University and Stanford University.
Question: How can businesses best use your counsel?
Paul Saffo: I’m a technology forecaster, which means I spend my time exploring the intersection between technological advancements and entrepreneurship. Technology advances our conversation between inventors and society. Inventors propose and society disposes and it’s that process that has delivered all the surprises, some welcome some unwelcome, in our lives over the last couple of decades.
What I really am is a historian of technology who spends most of his time looking at technologies that don’t exist yet. Looking at the historic pattern of technology innovation and adaption can tell us volumes about how things will evolve in the future, and in fact you can pull out some very simple rules.
Perhaps the simplest is when it comes to advance technologies. Never mistake a clearer view for a short distance just because the technology looks like it’s about to arrive in the very near future. Chances are there will be some surprises and in the long run even the most expected of futures tends to arrive late and in completely unexpected ways.
Conducted on: June 18, 2009.
Paul Saffo analyzes the historic patterns of technology innovation and adoption, and predicts their impact on entrepreneurship.
Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.
- Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
- Alcohol's effects on the brain range from temporarily limiting mental activity to sustained brain damage, depending on levels consumed and frequency of use.
- Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.
- The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
- The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
- It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
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