The Fifth Techno-Economic Revolution

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The Fifth Techno-Economic Revolution

This trend is the second installment in a multi-part series dealing with systematic innovation and new technologies, as well as the business models to which they are giving rise. Part One appeared in Trends, under the title “A New Golden Age...When People Least Expect It.1

In that discussion, the Trends editors explained that we are at the turning point in the latest of the half-century techno-economic waves that have repeatedly destroyed industries based on old technologies and created new industries based on new technologies. Each of these waves consists of three phases:2

  • Installation — when an initial boom leads to a bursting bubble.
  • Transition — a period of disappointment when the assets of the bubble are revalued.
  • Deployment — when the dominant technology matures and becomes the foundation for everything else in the economy.

We reviewed each of the four prior waves. Then we examined the Installation phase of the current wave, based on digital technology. Finally, we talked generally about what would drive the Deployment phase of the current cycle and result in a long, sustainable boom. However, Part One stopped short of discussing specific technologies and markets.

Here in the Economic Update 2012, we present Part Two of this series, addressing those actual technologies and markets. The intention is to highlight a broad spectrum of emerging industry opportunities that offer enormous advantages in the coming decade and underpin our broader optimistic outlook. Among those, four industries offer such enormous potential that we chose to devote whole segments to them in the May 2010 Trends issue:

  • Mobile computing applications
  • Personalized medicine, including targeted diagnostic tools, preventive care, and treatments
  • Automated language translation
  • Neuromarketing


At the heart of this whole discussion is the matter of innovation. As the Trends editors have previously demonstrated, innovation has actually been accelerating over the past decade.

This point was driven home in an MIT Technology Review3 article by Steve Jurvetson — and he should know as well as anyone. Wired magazine named him “the world’s number one most influential geek,” and he is the managing partner of the venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson. In that role, he evaluates more than 5,000 business plans submitted to his firm each year...

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