Ellen Brockley, Amber Cai, Rebecca Henderson, Emanuele Picciola, and Jimmy Zhang
Technology changes the world. Steam power, the
In this brief
We also hope to highlight some of the challenges that continuing advances in science and technology are likely to create for managers. There is the immediate challenge of recognizing which of these advances is likely to be important for a particular firm, and of integrating them into complex organizations that are already under stress. More fundamentally, however, our results suggest that it will be increasingly impossible to manage "technology" or "science" as a thing apart from the complex human, social, and financial systems that make up a firm: that decisions about technology will have to be deeply integrated into the heart of the firm. This implies that the manager of the future will need to be much more technologically sophisticated than her predecessor: that technology will no longer be something that can be safely left to the technologists.
Our results also raise broader questions about issues of social
We are on the verge of the third industrial revolution—the convergence of Information Technology, Life Sciences, and Nanotechnology.
delivered the last technical revolution—the Internet. The volume and creativity of current research guarantee that the pace of innovation in networks, telecommunications, and computing will not slow. In fact, the rate of progress is probably accelerating. Advances in
Look how far we've come! In the last 15 years, information technology and computer science have brought us into the Information Age with pocket telephones, e-mail, automobiles that talk to us, laptops—a panoply of technical innovations that we take for granted but which were unheard of 10 years ago. New developments promise to continue at an
Computer network technology has evolved from loosely connecting communication paths among computers (i.e., sharing data via the Internet), to extremely tight coupling of multiple computers that create virtual super computers capable of sharing computational resources as well as data. These integrated systems will perform as a single machine, combining processing capacity and performance capable of solving some of the big scientific questions such as protein folding.
Neural networks are software designed to
Although real applications are probably 20 years away, quantum computing is pushing the frontier of computational possibility. Scientists are beginning to harness the power of quantum mechanics to control and interpret atomic spin cycles that may solve currently
We are in the midst of one of the most
I refer, of course, to the revolution in
Dr. Eric S. Lander Director of the Whitehead Center of Genome Research
Professor of Biology at MIT
Millennium Evening at the White House, October 12, 1999
Dr. Lander's prophetic comments heralded the dawn of a new age of possibility. With the completion of the human genome map, we suddenly face the prospect of understanding—and possibly controlling—the mechanisms of life itself. Scientists,
The Whitehead Institute, a
DNA microarray techniques now test hundreds of thousands of
Will we someday be able to determine the genomic sequence of an individual while they wait in a doctor's office? Paul Matsudaira, professor of biology and bioengineering and a member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, is creating hand-held bioanalytic devices designed to identify human disease genes. Other forms include disposable, plastic "lab-on-a chip" platforms that can analyze a tiny amount of body fluid (e.g., blood or saliva) for biomarkers to determine the health of an individual or the status of a disease process.
Much of the most interesting work at MIT today focuses on the "science of the small"—on machines, materials, and processes
Microelectro-mechanical systems (MEMS) are tiny machines, often only a cubic centimeter in
Over the last 15 years, the MEMS industry has grown to annually generate
Many of the new developments in MEMS technology will be focused on biology, optics, and power generation:
—Implanted microchip devices could relay the status of blood composition, hormone levels, and various pressures—basically ubiquitous sensing that cannot be accomplished any other way. Information could be used to identify
—Researchers are focusing on energy generation and efficiency with a goal to design a
MEMS sensors could also be used for civil engineering projects (e.g., bridges,
Nanotechnology is the study of matter at the nanometer scale—one billionth of a meter—the size of a single water
Theorists paint astonishing pictures of the possibilities of this new technology that is poised to change the world by creating a U.S.$1 trillion annual market within ten years. Some of the claims are almost
Passive applications—materials that accomplish a task by virtue of their presence—are first to market and are available today in the form of impenetrable coatings for machine
Nanoelectronic circuits built from carbon nanotubes may some day break through the theoretical limits of silicon and allow production of a microprocessor with up to 5 billion
Nanowire arrays built from nanoparticle crystallization may potentially store trillions of bytes of data per square inch of storage medium.
Fabricated nanomaterials that exceed the strength of
Nanoparticles called quantum dots reflect different waves of light depending on their size. They are used as biological markers and potentially as food coloring.
Non-invasive diagnostics may be able to detect a tumor only a few cells in size when
Despite their differences, we believe that it is likely to be in the areas of overlap between technologies in all of these three areas—in IT, in the Life Sciences, and in the "Science of the Small"—that the most dramatic advances are likely to take place. This is for two reasons. First, all three fields face very similar challenges, and solutions that benefit one are likely to benefit the others.
Development of Tools
—progress in every field is dependent on the availability of interpretive tools that will measure, control, and diagnose the results of research. Appropriate tools are likely to be
—successful implementation of many of these technologies requires new processes and factories to manufacture high
Multipurpose Use —the viability of a technology will be determined by the variability and versatility of the applications it influences. Commercial success of a single development may depend on whether it can be integrated into multiple technologies or products.
Scale —as technologies become more sophisticated, products often become increasingly smaller. Understanding the behavior of molecular particles and developing design techniques to harness them will be essential enablers of new technology.
Second, the most compelling and most important developments may well occur in the areas of overlap across the technologies. Below are just a few examples.
Almost every facet of biotechnology generates massive amounts of data. A new field called bioinformatics, which crosses into the information technology realm, has evolved to address the particular requirements of storing and processing information generated from genome mapping, drug discovery, and patient diagnostics.
If we are to leverage the information provided by genotyping, we must understand the effect of gene expression at the cellular level. Kim Hamad-Schifferli, a postdoctoral associate in the MIT Media Lab, combined her knowledge of nanotechnology and biology to develop nanoscale
In the quest to achieve further miniaturization and increased capacity, semiconductor researchers have cultivated the realm of nanoelectronics and nanophotonics. Electrical engineers and computer scientists have come to rely not only on a new understanding of quantum physics for their work, but also to leverage the lessons biologists have learned from observing the pathways of various biomolecular devices.
Biological computing—the pursuit of nanoscale circuits and wires built from biomolecules for computational purposes—lives right in the sweet spot. The burgeoning field of silicon biology draws from every hard science to develop biomolecular machines, field-effect biosensors, wireless
With this "broad brush" overview of our technological future in mind, in this section we now focus in on a few particularly promising research programs. We have two goals. The first is to begin to put some flesh on the bones of our very general description. The second is to give the reader a sense of the uncertainty inherent in forecasting technological progress today with any precision. These technologies are fascinating, but they are also extremely complex. Trying to understand what may happen opens one up to the problem of the fractal: the more one understands, the more complex the
We focus on four groups of technologies: on pervasive computing, on advances in medicine, and on two technologies designed for the developing world—water purification and instant eyeglasses. While the latter two are much less "high tech" than the first, we include them deliberately since it seems to us one of the most important
In 2015, the developed world will contain billions of micromachines capable of sensing, manipulating, and communicating information about the environment, people, and objects. Buildings,
MIT's "Project Oxygen" is dedicated to
The Oxygen researchers envision environmental devices called "E21s" will be embedded within the physical structures of "
Mobile handheld devices called "H21s" will provide the personal link for users to communicate with the E21 platform. They will also provide functions like telephone service, Internet access, streaming video, and voice recognition. The network and communication pathways used by the H21s will be dynamic and self-changing, because the devices will determine their function and choose the device or network interfaces that are most appropriate to meet the needs of a particular
Communication among these devices will be controlled by networks called N21s that will configure
E21s, H21s, and N21s will not reach their full potential without the move from an information source that requires human interpretation to one that embeds meaning within the data itself, so that machines can navigate and solve problems independently. The evolution of our current World Wide Web to this kind of "Semantic Web" is the vision of its
The Semantic Web will provide a structural framework that will define data and guide automated processing by identifying the data type, defining potential uses,
If these technologies are successfully developed they will have dramatic implications. The following business conference scenario developed by the Project Oxygen team provides one possible example:
Hlne calls Ralph in New York from their company's home office in Paris. Ralph's E21, connected to his phone, recognizes Hlne's telephone number; it answers in her native French,
reportsthat Ralph is away on vacation, and asks if her call is urgent. The E21's multilingual speech and automation systems, which Ralph has scripted to handle urgent calls from people such as Hlne, recognize the word dcisif in Hlne's reply and transfer the call to Ralph's H21 in his hotel. When Ralph speaks with Hlne, he decides to bring George, now at home in London, into the conversation.
All three decide to meet next week in Paris. Conversing with their E21s, they ask their automated calendars to compare their schedules and check the availability of
flightsfrom New York and London to Paris. Next Tuesday at 11am looks good. All three say "OK," and their automation systems make the necessary reservations.
Ralph and George
arriveat Paris headquarters. At the front desk, they pick up H21s, which recognize their faces and connect to their E21s in New York and London. Ralph asks his H21 where they can find Hlne. It tellsthem she's across the street, and it provides an indoor/outdoor navigation system to guide them to her. George asks his H21 for "last week's technical drawings," which he forgotto bring. The H21 finds and fetches the drawings just as they meet Hlne.
The right medicine for the right patient at the right dose at the right time. Current research in genetics and in materials technology has the potential to dramatically improve the range and effectiveness of existing biomedical treatments. Here we touch
The Human Genome Project produced a consensus DNA sequence map of the human genome that describes 99.9 percent of the genetic composition of individuals. The remaining 0.1 percent—one in every 1,000
On the clinical side, information from SNPs can be used to map a patient's genetic
Many researchers see SNPs as the genomic keys that will open the doors to personalized medicine. SNPs may help explain why individuals respond differently to the same drug. As we learn more about the influence that human genetic composition has on the disease process, we will understand more about the metabolism of medicine. Once these pathways are further
Herceptin, produced by Genentech, is a successful example of this type of personalized
To date, most malignant brain cancers were largely untreatable owing to two complications. First, although the brain tumor is localized, the vast majority of chemotherapy drug therapies are delivered systemically, and significant doses of chemotherapy must be frequently administered. This exposes the entire body to the action of the drug and results in potentially significant side effects and substantial patient discomfort. Second, the blood-brain
Dr. Robert S. Langer, Kenneth J. Germenshausen Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at MIT, has changed the way brain cancer is treated. His approach offers new hope to patients with this severe, life-
Langer has also pioneered research in
Figure 7.1.2: Pharmacy-on-a-chip. Photograph
Dr. Langer is also a pioneer in tissue engineering, developing
Figure 7.1.3: Ear growing in rabbit. Photograph courtesy of Dr. Robert S. Langer.
Figure 7.1.4: Cartilage tissue engineering. Photo courtesy of Dr. Robert S. Langer.
For blood vessel engineering, Langer and Shulamit Levenberg, a postdoctoral associate in the MIT chemical engineering department, took a similar approach. They have achieved artificial structures that exhibit all the characteristics and strengths of natural blood vessels. A polymer structure is coated with cell culture that mirrors the cellular structure of a natural blood vessel: smooth muscle cells on the outside, endothelial cells on the inside. Although endothelial cell cultures can be grown from a variety of sources, human stem cells provide the greatest efficacy. After the structure is cultivated to the desired dimensions, the vessel is pulsated with an electric pump that propels fluid at an ideal rate and pressure.
Langer, always searching for new applications of his technology, is working with Julie Andrews, the
Dr. Shuguang Zhang, associate director of the Center for Biomedical Engineering, is tackling similar problems using biological scaffolds rather than polymer matrices. The
Today, over 1.1 billion people do not have access to safe, clean drinking water. Two and a half billion people do not have access to sanitation services. Each year, 2.2 million people, most of them children, die of
In addition to the high mortality rate, waterborne illnesses claim close to half the population in the developing world at any given time.
Diarrhea, ascaris, dracunculisis, hookworm schistosomiasis, and trachoma are responsible for severe malnutrition that leads to stunted physical growth, impaired cognitive development, and blindness. Poverty
Susan Murcott, lecturer in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, founded the Nepal Water Project to provide onsite water analysis and household cleansing solutions to people that need it. Her graduate students conduct research and design experiments during the academic year and
In addition to providing the technology solutions that will clean household water, Murcott and her students are interested in making people become self-sufficient in their water cleansing efforts. For example, local potters are engaged in clay vessel and filter design and production. Similarly, community
Murcott emphasizes that no single technical solution will work for all regions. Sustainable treatment programs must address the specific purification needs of local water and support the cultural norms of the community. However, all solutions share the following characteristics:
Perform well technically—consistent particle removal to reduce turbidity and microbial (bacteria, virus, protazoa, helminth) removal at acceptable levels
Low-cost—not more than USD 3–15 per household per year
Socially acceptable—gender sensitive, acceptable taste, e.g., minimal chlorine residue
Locally available and appropriate—parts and systems from acceptable materials that can be easily distributed, especially to rural areas
Simple to use—transferable to illiterate users
NO ELECTRICITY REQUIRED! 
One of the difficulties of treating water in the field is identifying the composition and level of
Typically, household water cleaning systems that meet these qualifications are contained within simple, spigot vessels, usually produced locally from plastic or pottery. (See figure 7.1.5.) Filtration systems are comprised of at least two containers that hold various sand aggregates or fibrous material that trap impurities as the water transfers from one well to the other. Most sand filters are easily
Figure 7.1.5: Making water filtration units.
Figure 7.1.6: Water filtration units.
The arsenic removal system shown in figure 7.1.7 is comprised of three vessels. Contaminated water is poured into the top portion containing course sand and iron
Figure 7.1.7: Arsenic removal system.
Solar disinfection systems use solar ultraviolet and thermal radiation to purify water in clear plastic bottles that are filled and left in the sun for at least 48 hours. Estimating that each person requires 10 liters of water per day, a family of five will have 75 1-liter bottles in transit over 3 days. While a bit cumbersome, this method is simple, inexpensive, and requires no chemicals. Murcott's students are
Chlorine is an effective water cleanser. A few
However, a portable machine that generates sodium hypochlorite from local salt and tap water may provide an acceptable solution and build a cottage industry for local communities. Because the machine requires an adequate supply of electricity, production facilities should be established in central locations, probably cities. Establishment of supplier and distributor networks is planned to ensure efficient delivery to local and remote dealers, NGOs,
Saul Griffith, doctoral candidate in the MIT Media Lab and technology history buff,
Previous attempts to solve this problem had focused on creating water-filled lens that are pressurized to achieve the desired refraction, but these proved unsatisfactory because of the high manufacturing complexity and weight of each pair of glasses, as well as the fact that the multiple interfaces led to many internal reflections in certain lighting conditions. The range of correction was also limited and would not correct for astigmatic error. Griffith
He partnered with two Harvard Business School students to found a company called Low-Cost Eyeglasses and won the HBS Social Enterprise Business Plan Contest in March 2001. The business model aims not only to improve the vision of billions of people but also to create entrepreneurial opportunities for people who live in developing economies.
These brief descriptions leave unanswered the question of exactly how and when these kinds of technologies will impact the commercial world. Many of these technologies—perhaps half—will never reach the market at all. They will prove to be technically infeasible, or there will, in the end, be no real need for them. Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing, ex ante, which half will prove to be the ones that do make it to the market. Predicting their likely impact is even harder. Recall ADL's famous prediction that the entire world market for the computer was likely to be less than ten units—or the skepticism with which the telegraph was initially greeted. Really important, world changing technologies have a history of being used in ways that no one—least of all their inventors—really expected. Who would have
Nevertheless, we speculate below on the four ways in which we believe that these technologies will change the world: on their implications for the firms and industries for whom these technologies are likely to be "disruptive," for the privacy and security of individuals, for the global structure of production and distribution, and, finally, for the changing strategic role of technology inside the firm.
The technologies that we have discussed are likely to have their most obvious impact on those individual firms whose business models and product lines they threaten to replace. While the collapse of the Internet bubble has made it less fashionable to worry about "disruption," significant technological shifts have a history of creating very significant problems for established firms. IBM and Digital Equipment did not make money from the PC revolution: Intel and Microsoft did. Even in the much maligned case of the Internet, it is clear that many industries—notably travel and financial services—will never be the same again. The kinds of advances in IT, in the life sciences, and in nanotechnology that we have discussed above are likely to have similarly dramatic competitive consequences.
In IT, it is already clear that a move to embedded, mobile computing based around an open architecture
In the life sciences, a move to personalized medicine and the development of therapies that are targeted to an individual's genotype would run directly counter to the pharmaceutical industry's current focus on the development of "blockbuster" drugs. Will the major pharmaceutical firms be able to cover their research and development costs if there are many more drugs, each selling to a much smaller population? Will the considerable skills they have developed in marketing and sales be rendered obsolete by the new technologies? Will diagnostic laboratories be disintermediated when lab-on-a-chip technology provides immediate feedback on a patient's condition?
The new materials and the move to nanotechnology open similar questions. Du Pont, for example, has announced a major commitment to "biologically based materials" as a long-
The flip side of these concerns, of course, is that the new technologies will open up enormous opportunities for newly founded, entrepreneurial firms. Truly ubiquitous computing
These technologies are also likely to have a very significant impact on us all as individuals. The initial rumblings about the importance of individual privacy that have surfaced around the Internet and around the increasing consolidation of commercial data banks are likely to become a shout. The technology will soon be available to link nearly every data base on earth; to have that information instantly available at any point; to track every transaction, and even every movement of every "connected" individual. Such power has an obvious potential for abuse. How much do you wish others to know about you? How vulnerable is your life if much of it is instantly visible to possibly unauthorized eyes?
Advances in medical technology will raise similar concerns. There has already been much discussion about the pros and cons of genetic screening: do you want your employer to know that you have a genetic susceptibility to depression? If a company
From a more optimistic perspective, these new technologies have the potential to significantly increase our quality of life. Better therapies will bring obvious benefits, but it may be that the biggest benefit we can expect is that local, embedded, micro sensors will give us a better idea of where our time is going and of how we are
Third, there is the possibility that these technologies will change the very structure of firms and organizations. We have already seen that recent advances in telecommunications have made it possible for tenperson firms to become truly global in a way that would have been unthinkable twenty years ago. It may be that the new technologies will only accelerate this trend. As products and machines become very small, production and distribution may become very local. This may preclude the need for large-scale and expensive factories and could
However, implementation of the Semantic Web and corresponding device development will allow companies to control ever increasingly large volumes of information, support huge employee bases, and potentially capture even greater market share. Will emerging economies of scale in data management remove the limits to growth and encourage formation of monolithic companies? Will we see a world in which the consolidation of economic power into a few very large firms continues? We might.
There is also a real possibility that these new technologies may open up qualitatively different development paths for some of the developing economies. Does the move toward
Lastly, we predict that the days when technology could be safely left in the hands of R&D are over, if they were ever here. The work that is in the labs now has truly startling potential. If there are real interactions between the three streams of work, between advances in computing, biology, and the "science of the small"—and the beginnings of such interactions are already visible—then they will have advances that no one can predict. The innovative networks that we see now between the public and private sectors and between large and smaller firms are likely to become increasingly important and increasingly pervasive. Making decisions as to which technologies to invest in internally, which externally, and which to simply "watch" will become increasingly costly and increasingly important.
The returns to managing technology strategically, to being fully aware of what is likely to happen, and to having thought through how the organization will respond to the future while
Some organizations are already experimenting with the appointment of a "Chief Innovation Officer" and with integrating technology much more closely into the strategy of the firm. These are clearly important steps and we expect that they will become commonplace. However, we suspect that they may not be enough. Twenty years from now sophisticated technological literacy will be as central to the CEO's job as financial
What implications for the future of management education can be drawn from this very brief and
Our work suggests that it will be increasingly critical for managers to develop at least a basic technological and scientific literacy: to have a sense for what science and technology can do and for the problems and opportunities that they create. But we suspect that our results also suggest something both more subtle and more complex than this. They suggest that successful managers will come increasingly to manage science and technology as an integrated part of an increasingly complex and
MIT News, 28 March 2002
MIT Tech Talk, 17 July 2002
Scientific American, Special Issue, September 2001
Technology Review, May 2002
 World Health Organization, UNICEF, Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council, Global Water Supply and Sanitation Assessment 2000 Report , 2000, http://www.unicef.org
 Ashok Gadgil, "Drinking Water in Developing Countries," Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Environmental Energy Technologies Division, 1998.
 Susan Murcott, lecturer, MIT Department of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science and Director of the Nepal Water Project, interview November 2001.