NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Next Great Tech Growth Cycle

September 4, 2012

During times of economic recession, techno-pessimists tend to emerge and claim that America and technology have plateaued. Such naysayers have been wrong in every one of the 19 economic downturns we have experienced since 1912, and they are wrong again, says Mark Mills, CEO of the Digital Power Group and an adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

After the recession of the 1970s, many were convinced that technological innovation had been tapped out. But the 1980s represented the longest economic growth in modern history and a technological revolution with respect to distributed computing and the Internet. Indeed, the speeds of computer increased 1,000 fold while the costs dropped dramatically.

Today, there is hope for another great revolution in technology through the convergence of three great technological changes that have already happened: big data, wireless capabilities and computational manufacturing.

  • Big data -- a reference to large amounts of readily available data over the web -- allowed the creation of social networking sites and e-commerce that make up a significant portion of Internet traffic.
  • Now, big data is a $3 billion industry -- $20 billion in half a decade -- as more people decide to save their data on the web.
  • In addition, the delivery of information through wireless capabilities has transformed the way people communicate, socialize and conduct business.
  • Finally, computational manufacturing is an emerging industry that mass produces computer parts, much the same way Henry Ford revolutionized the concept nearly a century ago.

Computational manufacturing is made possible with the advent of 3D printing -- the "printing" of parts and devices from a computer model or image -- using lasers, electron beams or microwaves, and powdered raw materials. This manufacturing revolution will bring with it a revolution in computational designs of the materials themselves since engineers can use supercomputing power to design and build from a molecular level.

The evidence seems to indicate the naysayers will be wrong once again. Together, these industries will integrate to compose a large portion of economic activity. Opponents argue that with such automation, jobs will be lost in the process. But consider that in the last 30 years, traditional U.S. manufacturing output doubled. These new industries will create opportunities for employment through economic productivity.

Source: Mark P. Mills, "The Next Great Growth Cycle," The American, August 25, 2012.


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