Rather than regarding technology as a monolith, futurists Joel A. Barker and Scott W. Erickson fracture it into a few major subsystems and then use them to divine the future of technological opportunity. In Five Regions of the Future (Portfolio, $24.95), they identify the biggest region as "Super Tech," which is about being bigger and better, and includes nuclear power plants and SUVs. "Limits Tech" conserves resources by means of, for instance, birth control and recycling. "Local Tech" thinks small, with technology appropriate to local needs, such as Segway scooters. "Nature Tech" emphasizes natural solutions such as ethanol fuel and spider silk-based materials. "Human Tech" operates on and in ourselves with the likes of gene therapy and, in the world of business, microlending.
The authors don't judge which technology is best. Instead, they present each's underpinnings, advantages and disadvantages, and suggest how they will develop over several decades. Today's entrepreneurs may be able to use these pathways to exploit future opportunities. For those who want to know more, the authors refer readers to numerous experts and gurus associated with each technology.
Design of the Times
Where did the iPod come from? In The Design of Things to Come (Wharton School Publishing, $26.95), innovation experts Craig M. Vogel, Jonathan Cagan and Peter Boatwright say transformational new products such as Apple Computer's digital music player target customer emotions, self-image and fantasy rather than gee-whiz functionality. They look at the iPod, Swiffer mops, Ford's F-150 pickup and other successful products to show how nearly any entrepreneur can come up with a redefining innovation.
Mark Henricks is Entrepreneur's "Staff Smarts" columnist.