In This Review

The Industries of the Future
The Industries of the Future
By Alec Ross
Simon & Schuster, 2016, 320 pp.

Many observers marvel at the pace of technological change these days. Some see it as troubling and destructive. Ross puts a positive spin on it: new technologies have disrupted outdated practices and will offer huge potential gains in the future. He divides the major changes likely to emerge in the coming decades into five broad categories: robotics and artificial intelligence; genetic discoveries and gene manipulation; the increasing digitization of economic transactions, which is producing new kinds of businesses and new forms of money; the weaponization of digital code, which will transform adversarial relations among nations; and the continuing growth of “big data.” He regards the United States as a major source of innovation, but one that will soon have to compete with other countries where cultural conditions encourage creative thinking and entrepreneurship. Rapid change in many places might allow for development to skip technological “generations” and those places to catch up quite quickly. A final chapter addresses how the United States should prepare its young people for this brave new world; educators, Ross argues, should focus on improving knowledge of foreign languages and cultures and on inculcating the habits of scientific thinking.