Friday, August 26, 2011

Disruptive technologies and long term impacts IV

In yesterdays post (click here for the first in my series) I discussed some of the long term implications mostly related to the software industry. However, these ideas relate to some of my previous blog posts about innovation in that post I talk about long waves and these paradigmatic type technologies. Where we need to be aware that these disruptive technologies can interact with society on a number of different levels. In the case of video game consoles, while a pretty big industry, it's not a big chunk of our overall economic output. Even with in video games, you could argue that different types of coding methods have revolutionized how writing video games occur, so you can make these steps as small as possible, or as large as you can think of like the semiconductor based transistor. The transistor has lead to a huge shift in how our economy works.

The problem with new technologies is that we never know ahead of time what the impact of a disruptive technology will be. For instance, of the renewable energy sources we can't tell which one will have the most long term impact. However, these are all disruptive technologies. If enough solar, wind, wave, and geothermal energy were produced we wouldn't have a need for coal fired plants. This would create a massive shift in our economy. It would destroy a lot of mining companies, would shutter many power plants and put people out of jobs from the mining companies and the power plants. Of course changing from a poisonous energy source that we are rapidly depleting to a fully renewable resource is completely desirable. However, these disruptive technologies will have farther longer term impacts that we think of initially.

These new energy sources may eventually have lower energy costs than we currently experience under the coal/oil/gas regime. However, this extra money is typically spent on other goods. Which should be cheaper as energy costs are reduced. In many industries, the biggest expense is on energy. Reducing that will significantly shift the cost of these products. Unless, of course, the companies keep the higher prices to keep up profits. These lower costs should make it easier for new companies to enter with a lower price point which will keep innovation moving forward.

There difficulties with adopting new technologies. There are a lot of socio economic reasons to minimize the adoption of a disruptive technology. In my next blog I'll discuss some different theories of how new technologies are adopted.

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