The future is a moving target. It takes a bold author to aim for it, particularly using the unwieldy weapon of dead-tree media. Alec Ross, a veteran of Barack Obama’s election campaign and the State Department under Hillary Clinton, is just such an author. His first book concerns the emerging technologies that will spawn the ‘industries of the future’: artificial intelligence, genomics, online trade, cybersecurity and big data.
‘In business areas as far afield as life sciences, finance, warfare, and agriculture, if you can imagine an advance, someone is already working on how to develop and commercialize it,’ he writes in his introduction. That’s certainly true. Whatever else you can say about Silicon Valley, its residents cannot be faulted for ambition, with flights of technological fancy – from self-driving cars to stratospheric airships to private spacecraft – becoming engineering facts at a dizzying rate.
Ross’s introduction gets the book off to a promising start, recalling how the residents of his West Virginia home town, which had a large chemicals industry, lost out as globalisation took hold and their jobs were exported overseas. There will be winners and losers as the next great wave of