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Disruptive technologies: breakthroughs that are likely to change the world

At the age of ever-developing technologies, those qualified as “disruptive” merit a special attention. In contrast to a gradual and piecemeal transformation, disruptive technologies replace older ways of doing things, making old skills and organisational modes obsolete. These “disruptions” happen relatively quickly, sweeping away their precursors in a short time period. For instance, chemical-based photography was supplanted by a digital one in less than 20 years. Nowadays the print media industry is seriously threatened by online news and e-books, while the DVD industry is danger to be replaced by online streaming.

In the current rapidly transforming world, the McKinsey Global Institute identified a set of technologies that could have massive, economically disruptive impact by 2025. In order to be economically disruptive, a technology must be far-reaching and widespread, influencing people, machines, products or services. Only major and deeply transformative technologies can significantly affect GDPs, capital investments, labor costs, productivity, etc. Moreover, certain disruptive technologies, such as next-generation genomics, could have an important impact on life expectancy as they have a potential to revolutionize cancer diagnosis and treatment.

The graph bellow illustrates the technologies that are likely to have the highest economic impact. We then briefly present those that are expected to be the most “disruptive” for our lives and economies.

Mobile Internet has become an inextricable part of a daily life of around 2 billion of people. The possibility to be connected to the web 24/7 via portable devices has transformed and has potential to further transform the way people know, perceive and interact with the physical world. This is mostly due to the ever-increasing numbers of apps that penetrate in all most all areas of our daily lives, facilitating our daily activities and expanding possibilities. Moreover, the mobile Internet is widely used by businesses and the public sector, which employ its immense potential for improving public services or for increasing workforce productivity. In parallel, the technology of the mobile Internet is constantly developing, notably by introducing more intuitive interfaces and new formats.

Automation of knowledge work refers to the inventions such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural user interfaces, which are likely to substitute the work force in various areas as many tasks will be performed by machines. These changes can deeply affect work organisation and performance. The performance of highly skilled employees could be significantly improved by these new technologies, while those less educated and skilful may end up in a precarious position since many lower-skilled jobs may become completely automated.

The Internet of Things involves embedding sensors and actuators in machines and other physical objects, introducing them into the connected world. These revolutionary technologies are used in a wide range of businesses and public services as they enhance performance and give birth to new business models. The following examples illustrate a wide range of application of the Internet of things: monitoring the flow products in a factory, measuring the moisture in a field of crops or keeping under observation the health of patients with chronic diseases.

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