The Industries of the Future by Alec Ross

The Industries of the Future is not a very good book. Probably because it tries to talk about the future and nobody knows about it. But it has some merits that I will describe in the end…

Even worse, I think it is not as precise an analysis as is The Innovation Illusion by Fredrik Erixon and Bjorn Weigel. Why do I claim such a thing? Let me just mention one example. To show the potential of robots in the future, Ross reminds us Foxconn claim in 2011 that it would have installed one million robots in by 2015. (See for example Foxconn Will Replace Workers With 1 Million Robots in 3 Years). Ross even adds that Foxconn had already installed 300’000 robots. Erixon and Weigel have different views and explain that Foxconn had not even installed 50’000 robots in 2015. So who is right? I did some search and all media mentions 40’000 robots only in 2016… (see Foxconn reaches 40,000 robots of original 1 million robot automation goal). When you want to talk about the future, you need to be precise about the present…

Now his chapter The Geography of Future Markets provides interesting food for thought. Silicon Valley has been the center of high-tech innovation for nearly 50 years. Many regions have tried to copy it, without much success. But many regions have domain expertise such as Boston for biotech, Israel for security, Japan/SouthKorea/Germany for robotics, etc. If these regions leverage the future innovations, they will continue to be leaders. If not, “twentysomething” nerds without any domain expertise but with a lot entrepreneurial drive and technical know-how will take the lead. Ross provides examples but it is sufficient to look at what Elon Musk did to the payment industry (PayPal), automotive industry (Tesla) and aerospace industry (SpaceX). Silicon Valley has extensive experience in “scale-ups” and is not losing any of it…

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