The Coming Biotech Age [Secure eReader]
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eBook by Richard W. Oliver
eBook Category: Technology/Science
eBook Description: The age of Biotech is dawning, says BusinessWeek. Here's how companies will benefit from the coming revolution in biotechnology. Biotech companies are quickly becoming the new economic engines of growth and innovation--and when they explode, the Internet revolution will look like small potatoes. Businesses must prepare now for the post-information Biotech Age, and this is the book that will get them ready. Richard Oliver, author of the acclaimed The Shape of Things to Come, has created the first practical guide to the Biotech Age. Rather than focusing on science or social issues, he presents an accessible overview of the business of biotechnology and its vast implications and opportunities for all types of industries. Like the Internet, this is a topic few can afford to miss out on--especially future-minded executives and investors in cutting-edge technologies.
eBook Publisher: McGraw-Hill Companies, Published: 2001
Fictionwise Release Date: June 2002
The Bioterials Century
Chemistry and physics were the sciences that drove the technologies and economics of the twentieth century. They created and enhanced both the industrial and information technologies that underlay the vast economic progress of the world, and much of its political, social, and cultural change as well. Now, the biological and advanced materials sciences are creating a new economic engine -- "bioterials" technologies -- that will dramatically drive the economics of the twenty-first century.
There are vast differences in scale and scope, though, between this and earlier economic eras. The bioterials economy will grow faster, be more global, more pervasive, and more powerful than any before it, even the Information Age.
The Bioterials Age will complete the triumph of economics over politics, which was begun in the Information Age. It will unleash forces stronger than nationalism and more powerful than the combined armies of the world.
For politicians and public policy makers, bioterials will create issues of immense complexities with global ramifications for the environment, trade, and public welfare.
The technologies of bioterials will challenge our very definition of life.
New products from bioterials technologies will be more important than the car or the computer.
Bioterials will demand a new public literacy -- BioLiteracy -- and a citizenry actively engaged in its development and direction. Every person in the world will be called on to make a personal decision about his or her own genes and perhaps those of others.
In less than a generation, virtually every company will be a bioterials company -- either an integral part of the development and use of the technology or dependent on it for survival and success.
The centrality of bioterials to the economy and every company mandates that every manager, every worker, in the twenty-first century be intimately conversant with the technology's potential to restructure and transform individual companies and major industries.
Bioterials -- "Sci Fi" or Sure Bet?
A writer intent on predicting such a future needs to be judicious in drawing the line between the "seeable," based on the extension of known information, and pushing that information too far into that realm of imagination we call science fiction. "Sci fi" though, is not without value. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) used large doses of science fiction to conceptualize its nearly $100 million Deep Space 1 experimental probe launched in 1998. It used Star Wars metaphors for its propulsion systems and an artificial intelligence system reminiscent of Hal 9000, the computer that "starred" in 2001: A Space Odyssey. This book has used no such stimulants. It does, however, attempt to "push the envelope" of current thinking and ask "what if."
Today, as in earlier eras, our view of the future, our asking the "what if" questions, is often constrained by our past. As a writer, futurist, or simply a dreamer, I worry that I lack the necessary imagination and vision in approaching this task. I think, however, that I am neither alone nor historically unique.
Who in 1899 could have predicted the computer and the Internet?
To begin not only a new century, but also a new millennium, calls for even greater vision. But, who in the year 999 could have foreseen the car, the skyscraper, the printing press, baseball, tin cans, or even grand opera and postmodern art?
Surely the next century, and the next millennium, will bring vast changes that no one can foresee. But, this book makes a start. As such, it makes many claims about the future. The most important of those claims is that we are at the end of the Information Age and about to embark on a new economic and technological period, the Age of Bioterials.
Cells Trump Electrons
Central to this idea is that the economy and societal issues of the twenty-first century will be dominated by biology and the new materials sciences, rather than the chemistry and physics that determined so much of what we did, or believed, in the twentieth. In other words, I argue that in the coming years biology will eclipse electronics, and that cells and "quarks" (among the dozen or so smallest known particles) or subatomic matter will trump digits as the "drivers" of our lives. Although others before me, in academia and the media, have proclaimed the next century to be one dominated by biology, I believe this book transcends those visions in three fundamental ways.
First, my claim is not solely to the biological technologies, products, and services focused on all things organic. I am concerned as well with the materials sciences, whose embryonic activities at the subatomic level are aimed at fundamentally changing the inorganic materials in our lives. Thus, the unit of analysis here is matter -- organic and inorganic. Attention is turned, therefore, not only to those universities, companies, and government researchers working at the cellular level on organic material and tissues -- plants, animals, and human -- but to those exploring the subatomic universe of minerals, plastics, paints, and the like. Although information and awareness about new materials sciences activities is in comparatively short supply, I will endeavor throughout the book to remind readers that it is matter that concerns us here, not just biology.
A second point of differentiation from earlier works is that I will focus primarily on the economics of bioterials rather than on the technical, scientific, or ethical aspects. There are several existing volumes that do that job quite thoroughly. Although it is impossible to write a book about bioterials without lapsing occasionally into the "gee whiz" technical stuff, I'll endeavor to keep that confined to what's necessary to understand the commercial impact.
Thirdly, earlier works focusing particularly on the life sciences aspects of biotechnology have in the main been negative. They have been quick to point out the potential dangers of biotechnologies, and at least one has called for severe curtailment, if not total abolishment, of all biotechnology research. I take a more positive approach.
The history of technology is one of relentless advancement. At no period in history have sufficient forces been marshaled to stop new technologies, despite many attempts. No technologies, in and of themselves, are either good or bad. That comes from how we use them. Clearly, the issues associated with the manipulation of organic matter raise new, in some cases almost unthinkable, challenges. But, stopping the research won't solve them. The best approach is to understand their potential and work to shape and channel them into productive directions for society. This will require a better-informed citizenry -- a BioLiterate society -- and is one of the motivations in writing this book.
Bioterials: Conquering Matter
In an earlier book, The Shape of Things to Come: Seven Imperatives for Winning in the New World of Business, I argued that the end of the Information Age called for rethinking our approach to information technology, not only as organizational beings, but in our personal lives as well. I urged people to let go of their last hesitations, "seize the modem," and make information technologies an integral part of everyday life. Despite its futuristic title, the book in many ways chronicled the here and now, providing seven imperatives for success in a world dominated by mature, ubiquitous information technologies. The book's last chapter was a brief nod to the future era of bioterials. At its most conceptual, the book argued that in the Industrial Age we conquered space, in the Information Age we conquered time, and in the Bioterials Age, we would conquer matter.
This current volume expands on this last proposition. Although primarily oriented to the economics and business aspects of bioterials, the book will also be of interest to policy makers and others interested in the ethical and social issues that result with the fast and pervasive influence of bioterials. Although the inorganic materials technologies should be relatively noncontentious, innovations that alter organic matter, whether plant, animal, or human, will prove to be problematic. In fact they already are. Despite my decidedly pro business and pro technology perspective, I try, in fairness, to point out the legitimate positions held by those who oppose such innovations. Although I can make no promise of resolving those issues, I do hope to fairly stake out their respective claims.
The "Periodic Table" of Biology
I argue in this book that bioterials will bring about changes on a scale different than any technologies before them -- quantum changes, not incremental ones. I further argue that while the initial impacts are only now becoming apparent, the "inflection point" of rapid change is very close. Within a very few years, perhaps as early as 2005, we will begin the massive upward swing of knowledge and proliferation of new products and services indicative of the growth phase of any new technological era. The growth phase of bioterials, however, will dwarf all previous technology shifts in scope, scale, and velocity.
As we draw near the complete mapping of the human genome (the entire spectrum of some 100,000 human genes) and the comparable strides in the materials sciences, we are at a point akin to the scientific and commercial impact that the periodic table of the elements had on chemistry or the splitting of the atom on physics. Those inflection points drove the rapid discovery of new science, transformed economics and industries, and ultimately our lives. The bioterials growth phase will be almost vertical in its slope and global in its economic impact. It will swiftly create economic opportunities and advantages of almost unimaginable proportions, but mature just as rapidly as we reach the quarter century mark.
To extend my own views of the future and better understand the next century, I have had the good fortune to meet and hear the dreams of many of the researchers, scientists, and business people intent on imagining the unimaginable about the bioterials century. I owe them a huge debt. Although they are creating the new world of the twenty-first century, I hope to merely explore it. I trust this book will repay them in some small measure for sharing their insights with me.
The collective wisdom of those scientists, researchers, engineers, and business people convinced me beyond any doubt that the Bioterials Age will take us farther, faster, and create more change than any technology before it.
I make such claims with only one hesitation. I worry that I am underestimating the scope, scale, and speed at which bioterials will change our lives.
Copyright © 2000 by Richard W. Oliver