Instaread Summary of The Industries of the Future: by Alec Ross
Two out of five stars
In terms of what industries are listed as those of the future in this summary, the list would have largely been the same about fifteen years ago. The first item listed in the key takeaways, the Human Genome project, took years to complete and is one technology where the promise was obvious and discussed decades ago. Second on the list is robotics, another subject that has been a major topic of discussion for some time. The famous three laws of robotics put forward by science writer Isaac Asimov appeared in 1942.
Other major new industries mentioned are cryptocurrencies, Big Data and cybersecurity. Again, nothing here that has not been around for some time. Societies where nearly all monetary transactions are electronic have been a staple of science fiction (Star Trek is the most obvious example) since the seventies. Furthermore, trillions of dollars of money are regularly transferred electronically and these are of course encrypted. Malicious software or malware have been a problem in computing for almost thirty years now.
Given that the topics, at least those that appear in this summary, are not new, I am reluctant to consider reading the book. For the follower of changes in technology will not likely find anything new in the book. There are two points, both of commission, in this summary, that make me question the quality of the book, or at least the summary.
The first is key takeaway 2, where the topic is the increasing role that robots will play in the economy of the future. There is the section “The great leap forward is not new and complex artificial intelligence, but rather communication devices that allow robots to access the internet or cloud computing servers, which can replace the need for artificial intelligence.” Whether the instructions that control a robot are stored internally or through the internet, they are still instructions. Therefore, this is just wrong, improved performance of robots, whether they are used in industry or to control cars, require more sophisticated artificial intelligence.
The second point is key takeaway number seven. “In this century it will be increasingly difficult for government bureaucracies to regulate the emerging digital economy.” This is also almost certainly wrong, the current legal battle between Apple and the government is over whether Apple will be required to create a backdoor that will defeat the hard encryption on Apple devices. If this is done, then it is likely that governments will be able to track your every move. Authoritarian governments such as that of Iran and the People’s Republic of China have no trouble controlling their digital economies and if they have the power to defeat device encryption then the situation will become Orwellian.
For these reasons, I was unimpressed by both the summary and the book that it describes.
This book was made available for free for review purposes.