Disruptive Technologies That Will Transform Our World

Disruptive technologies are rapidly changing our lives, our businesses and our world. The McKinsey Global Institute released an in-depth study on 12 disruptive technologies that are changing the way we work and live. These technologies bring new possibilities as well as new challenges for governments, business and families.[1]

The idea of disruptive technology comes from a term originally coined by Clayton Christensen, disruptive innovation. According the Christensen, disruptive innovation “describes a process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves up market, eventually displacing established competitors.” [2] Disruptive technologies have potential to disrupt markets, governments, businesses and culture as we know it. These emerging technologies can bring both positive and negative challenges. Here is the list 12 disruptive technologies that the McKinsey Global Institute believes will have the following characteristics: “high rate of technology change, broad potential scope of impact, large economic value that could be affected, and substantial potential for disruptive economic impact.”

  • Mobile internet – A $400 iPhone has the same computing power of a supercomputer that cost $5 million in 1975.
  • Automation of knowledge work – In 1997 IBM introduced Deep Blue, a chess winning computer. By 2011, they released Watson, a Jeopardy winning computer. This same technology shows up in digital assistants like Siri and Google Now.
  • The Internet of things – The last five years have seen an increase in machine-to-machine devices of 300% coupled with a price drop of 80-90%.
  • Cloud technology – At the current rate, the cloud server performance is doubling every 18 months.
  • Advanced robotics – The price of robotic technology has dropped 75-85% as sales have surged 175% since 2009.
  • Autonomous and near automated vehicles – In 2004, a driverless car drove 7 miles in the DARPA Grand Challenge. In 2005, the culmulative miles driven by cars in the same competition was 1,540 miles. Today, Google’s autonomous car has driven over 300,000 miles with only 1 accident (that was human-caused).
  • Next-generation genomics – It currently takes 10 months to double gene sequencing speed per dollar.
  • Energy storage – Lithium battery backs for cars have dropped 40% since 2009.
  • 3D printing – The price of 3D printing has dropped by 90% in the last three years.
  • Advanced materials – 10 years ago 1 gram of nanotubes cost $1,000 dollars. Today, 1 gram of nanotubes cost $50 dollars.
  • Advanced oil and gas exploration and recovery – US. gas well tripled efficiency in only three years. U.S. oil wells doubled efficiency in that same three year period (2007-2011).
  • Renewable energy – Solar photovoltaic cells have dropped 85% per watt since 2000.

[1] “Disruptive technologies: Advances that will transform life, business, and the global economy.” McKinsey Global Institute, May 2013.

[2] Clayton Christensen. “Disruptive Innovation.” <http://www.claytonchristensen.com/key-concepts/#sthash.6RmvdxLa.dpuf>