NC State Economist Dr. Mike Walden – What’s on the Technology Drawing Board?

There’s no question that new technology is a big driving force in our economy. What do experts see ahead as the big technological breakthroughs? N.C State University economist Mike Walden responds.

“Well, they see breakthroughs in five broad areas. One is information management and utilization. Think of this as smartphones getting smarter, computers able to do more things and using all that data and information to make better decisions, monitoring various apparatus for example, putting monitors on bridges to know when they’re going to collapse. So, that’s all involved in that information management utilization category.

Robotics is another area. I think we’re going to increasingly see robots used in the factory, in the home, even driving our cars. These are going to be robots that can actually simulate thinking.

Genomics is another area, which is simply applying scientific methods and technologies to modifying living organisms. It has broad implications for health, for the food supply, probably the most controversial of these technological areas.

The fourth area is manufacturing and materials. We’re going to see a change in how things are manufactured, so called 3D manufacturing. We’re going to also see a growth of what are called nano materials, very small materials that can be used in very small machinery.

And then finally, energy. And I think the big breakthrough here would be to improve battery storage, which would allow us to generate electricity from, for example, wind, solar and store that energy, which has been a big problem. Right now, power plants store only three to four percent of their energy. If we could get better batteries, better storage mechanisms, that could be a big game changer.”


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