Thursday, March 9, 2017

Economics of Digital Age 5: Technologies of the world unite

While the singularity focusses on AI it is a distraction from what is clearly happening every day at the moment and which wasn't present even a decade ago. That is a technological advance in one place is enabling technological advance somewhere else.

'Innovation systems' has now been replaced by 'innovation ecosystems' in the academic literature. Do we really know more - not really it is mostly just an exercise in talking about ' innovation systems' sounds dated so 70s. I am going to be pointed - I truly do not believe you can have an innovation ecosystem - you can have technology ecosystems but not innovation ecosystems in the geographic sense it is most often used. Clusters is also out of fashion, so we can't use that term either.

The point of ecosystems if anybody bothered to read the ecology literature is that they are so multidimensional. There are population dynamics, energy cycles nutrient cycles food web dynamics, shock and resilience dynamics. When it is used in innovation circles it typically means "do we have the right institutional blocks' in place.

If we were really interested in ecosystems we would be trying to figure out how AI is fuelling autonomous cars and how autonomous cars will rewire cities. Now to be fair this is happening - MIT labs and others have been doing some incredible modelling of possible scenarios with autonomous cars. But that is because it is such an obvious example - the problem is we need more and we need to think how to build an idea of the whole - how do different technologies possibly interact at the economic level.

What is clearly coming is multiple waves of change crashing in on us almost simultaneously. However, publishing cycles remain slow and policy makers are trained in ways that are now decades out of date.

It gets mighty complicated. In a recent article The Economist pointed out that  while renewable energy is coming online there are design problesm with the grid itself and as renewables drive down cost it gets less attractive to build the new grids. If you are temped to blow this off as "The Economist" then you should read this by the ABC in Australia on the South Australia power grid situation.

 So while the electricity grids are not built for significant amounts of renewable power, electricity demand will only increase because of new technologies increasing the viability of using batteries/ electricity in an ever wider range of products (IoT, cars, trucks, drones, robots etc etc.)

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