The Convergence of Disciplines in Technology

If you read my Most Likely To Succeed in 2014 post, you already know my take on trends: they don’t occur willy-nilly, but rather they are the result of four constant, universal forces: resources, technology, demographics, and governance.

But, as Yogi Berra said, “The future ain’t what it used to be.” Not when it comes to the rate of change. Change still follows an evolutionary pattern, as all new information builds upon established knowledge; it’s just happening much, much faster. The acceleration is propelled by communication technologies (the Internet, social media, video, and the most influential technology of the century, the cell phone) that make the exchange of information instantaneous. These tools, and those still to come, have thrust evolution into warp speed.

The collision of all this information yields a second accelerant to the rate of change: the convergence of cultures, disciplines, and ideas. Hyphenated disciplines are the norm now. Fields such as bio-technology and medical-informatics are the new standards, with newer hybrids emerging all the time like neuro-marketing and behavioral economics.

Innovation happens at intersections, and convergence of technologies is its fuel. Examples are all around us, including robots and education as well as med students studying anatomy with virtual cadavers.


Convergence Emergence

From all this, convergence emerges; not just cool new ideas, but cool new capabilities. Take the mini mobile robotic printer, for example. This miniature device was developed for the on-the-go, mobile lifestyle of today’s professionals.

Image from Kickstarter.com 

Image from Kickstarter.com 

While you’re out at your favorite coffee shop or co-working space and quickly need to print something, all you have to do is pull out your mini printer and the device of your choice, be it your laptop, cell phone or tablet. Information flows (wirelessly) from an app to the mini-printer, which can be used to print on any size piece of paper. This little device makes printing – something that used to tether us to offices and Kinkos – mobile. Thus, the convergence of two very different but important disciplines: robotics and mobility.

The electronic bandage is another example of an emergent capability to come from converging technologies.

In this case, wearable technology, personalized medicine and nanotechnology come together in an adhesive patch. This little system reads muscle movement (for now it’s focusing on movement disorders such as Parkinson’s) and differentiates between muscle contraction related to intentional movement and that of low-grade tremors. The bandage also has heating elements, controlled through a phone by patient or doctor, which trigger the release of medicine if a tremor reaches a certain threshold. All the while this information is being collected directly into the patient’s medical record.

These are just two fun examples of what happens when technology and ingenuity converge.