The Industries of the Future

The Industries of the Future

With 521 ratings

By: Alec Ross and Simon & Schuster Audio

Purchased At: $17.00

Leading innovation expert Alec Ross explains what's next for the world, mapping out the advances and stumbling blocks that will emerge in the next 10 years - for businesses, governments, and the global community - and how we can navigate them.

While Alec Ross was working as Hillary Clinton's senior advisor on innovation, he traveled to 41 countries. He visited some of the toughest places in the world - from refugee camps of Congo to Syrian war zones. From phone-charger stands in Eastern Congo to R&D labs in South Korea, Ross has seen what the future holds.

Over the past two decades, the Internet has radically changed markets and businesses worldwide. In The Industries of the Future, Ross shows us what's next, highlighting the best opportunities for progress and explaining why countries thrive or sputter. He examines the specific fields that will most shape our economic future over the next 10 years, including cybercrime and cybersecurity; the commercialization of genomics; the next step for big data; and the coming impact of digital technology on money, payments, and markets. And in each of these realms, Ross addresses the toughest questions: How will we have to adapt to the changing nature of work? Is the prospect of cyberwar sparking the next arms race? How can the world's rising nations hope to match Silicon Valley in creating their own innovation hotspots?

Ross blends storytelling and economic analysis to give a vivid and informed perspective on how sweeping global trends are affecting the ways we live, incorporating the insights of leaders ranging from tech moguls to defense experts. The Industries of the Future takes the intimidating, complex topics that many of us know to be important and boils them down into clear, plain-spoken language. This is an essential work for understanding how the world works - now and tomorrow - and a must-listen for businesspeople in every sector, from every country.

The Industries of the Future by Alec Ross

“The Industries of the Future” is an informative and accessible book about the next economy and how this next wave of innovation will affect our societies. Leading expert on innovation and former Senior Advisor for Innovation to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Alec Ross, explores the industries that will drive the next 20 years of change. This 320-page insightful book includes the following six chapters: 1. Here Come the Robots, 2. The Future of the Human Machine, 3. The Code-ification of Money, Markets, and Trust, 4. The Weaponization of Code, 5. Data: The Raw Material of the Information Age, and 6. The Geography of Future Markets.

1. A well-researched, well-written book.
2. An interesting topic in the hands of a gifted author: the industries of the future that will transform our societies in the next 20 years.
3. A good format. The book includes six chapters each covering topics of interest such as: robotics, advanced life sciences, the code-ification of money, cybersecurity, and big data.
4. Factoids abound throughout this book. “About 70 percent of total robot sales take place in Japan, China, the United States, South Korea, and Germany—known as the “big five” in robotics.” “With 78 organs, 206 bones, and 640 muscles, not to mention up to 25,000 genes, our bodies are complicated machines.”
5. A fascinating look at robots and where there are more likely to emerge.
6. Concepts worth discussing, singularity. “Within the robotics community, the future of technology is wrapped up in the concept of singularity, the theoretical point in time when artificial intelligence will match or surpass human intelligence.”
7. Cool technology for the near future. “There is ample reason to think that robodrivers will be safer than we are now. Accidents are caused by the four Ds: distraction, drowsiness, drunkenness, and driver error.”
8. The future of genomics. “Genomics is going to have a bigger impact on our health than any single innovation…”
9. The dark side of genomics, designer babies.
10. Insightful information on coded money. “He views Square as a product that can help these struggling areas incubate new businesses. “The part I think Square plays is making commerce easy,” Jack says. “Not payments but commerce, so that anyone can make a start and then easily run and then easily grow.” It’s a commerce company for the little guy.”
11. The impact of mobile phones. “In 2002, only 3 percent of Africans used mobile phones. Today that number is over 80 percent and growing at a faster rate than any other region of the world.”
12. Cyberattacks, the Wild West. “There are three main types of cyberattacks today: attacks on a network’s confidentiality, availability, and integrity.” “
13. The impact of digitization. “The digitization of nearly everything is poised to be one of the most consequential economic developments of the next ten years.” “Gosler’s is not a lone voice. James R. Clapper, director of national intelligence, warned Congress in February 2015 that cyberattacks pose a greater long-term threat to national security than terrorism.”
14. The future careers with the most demand, cybersecurity. Find out why.
15. The role of big data for the future. “Even more impressive, though, is the role that big data might be able to serve in significantly reducing hunger, probably the longest-running challenge for humanity.” “Precision agriculture also offers the promise of a major reduction in pollution.”
16. In the final chapter, Ross talks about what it will take to compete and succeed in the industries of the future.
17. Cities as innovation hubs. “An important aspect of what makes major cities thrive is infrastructure, along with the analytics programs that allow people to use that infrastructure more efficiently.”
18. The clash between open and closed societies. “The principal political binary of the last half of the 20th century was communism versus capitalism. In the 21st century, it is open versus closed.”
19. The empowerment of women. “In 2013, China led the world in the percentage of women in senior management positions—51 percent. Half of the world’s wealthiest female billionaires live in China.” “It turns out that Rwanda is the only country in the world with a democratically elected parliamentary body that is majority female.”
20. A solid conclusion section that brings it all together.

1. Notes not linked or referenced.
2. No formal bibliography.
3. A minor technical error, genomics will have the biggest impact in the 21st century not the 20th.
4. Lack of charts and diagrams to complement the solid narrative.
5. There is nothing really new or earthshattering in this book.
6. It’s intended for the masses so it will come at the price of technical depth.

In summary, it’s always fun to take a peek into the future. Ross does a good job of covering the most noteworthy technologies of the future and explaining the implications to our society. The book would have been better served by complementing the narrative with diagrams and charts. Lacks technical depth but for the layperson this is a worthwhile book to read, I recommend it.

Further recommendations: “The Fourth Industrial Revolution” by Klaus Schwab, “The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies” by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, “Race Against the Machine” by the same authors, “Rise of the Robots” by Martin Ford, “Our Final Invention” by James Barrat, “Tomorrowland” by Steven Kotler, “Singularity Is Near” by Ray Kurzwell, “The Price of Inequality” by Joseph Stiglitz, “Why Nations Fail” by Daron Acemoglu, and “Saving Capitalism” by Robert B. Reich.

- lorenzo_long

I purchased the book hoping it would lend some investment insight. Almost all the industries mentioned here are truly nascent and there are very few publicly available investment instruments involved at this point for the industries mentioned, aside from the ponzi scheme bitcoin. So unless you're a venture capitalist or private equity firm with big dollars and connections, you won't get much out of this book from an investment perspective.

I think it would be a good book for a high school student to read, maybe in their junior year, so they can see what the future job market looks like and can plan to prepare themselves for that.

- teagan_howard

Most books by folks who were there or took part usually contain insights or information of value. This is not one of those, despite being in a position with a view few could have Mr Ross leaves us with little other than platitudes and meh. Maybe I missed something but I was never drawn into this book or stimulated into new thought, save your money.

- ansley_stewart

Everyone needs to read this book, if you want to be aware of the world you live in and want to see a glimpse of where we're headed this is your best guide. We're entering an era where many potent technologies will drastically change a lot of things about us, from our lifestyles to how we interact with others. Alec Ross covers all the interesting avenues from artificial intelligence to advances made in bio-technology, I wish he went on and devoted a chapter to Virtual Reality, but everything else he nails to the point. Ross covers the potentials and the perils of what the future holds and takes us on an exciting journey of whats to come. Once you start reading you wouldn't want to put this book down!

- matthias_morris

Great book to read and great nuggets shared. if you know what you are looking for the book will be informative amd worthwhile.

The only thing that I thought wasn't really covrred well was the Sub saharan Africa especially that out of all advanced African countries only Rwanda, Nigeria and Sudan could be mentioned,while South Africa has been the leading economy for over two decades since Nelson Mandela namely in the

1.Financial services
2.IT services

I wondered has Alec ever visited South Africa?

- ryan_martinez

The book has many interesting chapters, but the one I most vividly remember is about cyber warfare and security.
The author predicted that the cyber security market will boost some 10 times what it was worth when the book was written in as little as 3 years.
With the latest cyber attacks against Microsoft and government institutions around the world, you clealy see this prediction unfolding.

- paul_harris

This book really spoke to me, not only because Mr. Ross wrote about my country several time in the book but also because it opened my eyes to things I didn't think that much about before. After finishing "The Industries of the Future" I now have a better idea of where I'll be focusing my efforts in the future as I still have several before finishing college and I intent on studying more on what I learned in this book in the meantime. Overall this is a very informative book with recommendation at the end that I will definitely apply to my life.

- chris_patel

The book helps you understand that other countries could play a larger role in some of the future industries due to their environments or acceptance w change (early adopters). This book points you in a “direction”. It can help w portfolio investments, open your eyes to growing or new industries, understand pitfalls, learning how to adapt, apply opportunities to your life and health. I find the book so far very interesting.

- ivy_davis

Is the author a visionary or a mere a reasonably connected guy making sweeping statements based on pub discussions with his mates? You decide.

Some insights about what will happen next are interesting (you should soon be able to tweak your own genes, big data is –well– big, money is no longer made in manufacturing stuff but in design and clever marketing, Uber is here to stay). This is IMHO a good round up of what's in store.

Despite the large number of references to papers and articles, I have the nagging feeling that Alec Ross has adopted an angle (spoiler alert here: if you are not in the digital economy by tomorrow morning, some guy in Estonia will eat your bacon sandwich) but has conveniently disposed of the nuances and the "if things carry on exactly the way they go now" - and we know they don't always do.

Long and short, it is a good outlook on the near digital future, but you will probably want something a bit more high octane if you like the specifics and a more nuanced approach.

- kaden_rodriguez

What are the industries of the future?

Before I read this book I would say anything environmental, AI, robotics, biotech (that include genetics), IoT, neuroscience, space, gaming and health. There is obvious overlap between those sectors. Just imagine a huge box full of lego blocks, combining these technologies with mobile, nano, virtual reality, big data, augmenting, biomimicry, material science, quantum physics and you have a Pandora’s box of industries we have not even imagined.

Alec Ross

Alec Ross thinks that the industries of the future are robotics, advanced life sciences, the codification of money, cyber security, and big data. Not much to argue there, although in my view very limited and almost too easy.

North Korea or Estonia

What the book does do is show the countries that are ahead and the once that are behind, and the book puts the industries into a geopolitical, cultural, and generational context. All 196 countries in the world have a choice. You can be North Korea or Estonia. That goes for your company too.

Europe versus Japan

I would suggest it will make for unhappy reading for European policy makers and there is no doubt, power is shifting East. Japan already leads the world in robotics, operating 310,000 of the 1.4 million industrial robots in existence across the world. Driven by an increasingly older population, they have particularly focussed on elderly care and health. That includes augmentation, which is a growth sector all on its own. Other counties to watch in robotics are China, the United States, South Korea, and Germany.

Pandora’s box

What everyone needs to consider, and here is the Pandora’s lego box again, is when robotics get combined with big data, cloud (all robots connected and learning), AI, nano and biology. No wonder venture capital funding in robotics is growing at a steep rate. It more than doubled in just three years, from $160 million in 2011 to $341 million in 2014. The market for consumer robots could hit $390 billion by 2017, and industrial robots should hit $40 billion in 2020.


The number of robotic procedures is increasing by about 30 percent a year, and more than 1 million Americans have already undergone robotic surgery, and it is growing exponentially. It is quite amazing what robots are doing already, from hunting jelly fish and hunting cancer to hair washing, waiting tables, cleaning floor but also teaching maths and anything in between. There is no doubt, as the technology continues to advance, robots will kill many jobs.


Two Oxford University professors who studied more than 700 detailed occupational types have published a study making the case that over half of US jobs could be at risk of computerization in the next two decades. Forty-seven percent of American jobs are at high risk for robot takeover, and another 19 percent face a medium level of risk.

Singularity, when, not if

The level of investment in robotics (including drones, self-driving cars, etc.), combined with advances in technology are setting the foundation for the 2020s to produce breakthroughs in robotics that bring today’s science fiction right. Including singularity which is expected somewhere between 2023 (Vernor Vinge) and 2045 (Ray Kurzweil). We have moved from “if” to “when”.


That is why China is not just relying on forced urbanisation to produce low-cost labour; it is also investing heavily in the industries of the future. Every country needs to invest in growing fields like robotics but also invest in a social framework that makes sure those who are losing their jobs are able to stay afloat long enough to pivot to the industries or positions that offer new possibilities. Humans are not as easy to upgrade as software.

Life sciences

That is the robotic industry. Now for life sciences. The size of the genomics market was estimated at a little more than $11 billion in 2013 and is going to grow faster than anyone could imagine. We are talking DNA sequencing, precision medicine, designer babies, neuroscience (the genetics of suicide), xenotransplantation and Jurassic Park.

With 78 organs, 206 bones, and 640 muscles, not to mention up to 25,000 genes, our bodies are complicated machines. We are hacking the machine, part by part. As a result, we will live longer lives, but our lives will grow more complicated as we manage

Cyber security

Including and particularly in the world of cyber security If you have read “Future Crimes“, you really want augmentation, DNA and robots to be secure. A hacked care robot hovering over your bed with a knife is not something you want. A hacked augmented hand strangling you is also not a prospect you would relish. Let alone someone hacking your voice, your DNA, or your brain.

Hacking. Malware. Virus. Worm. Trojan horse. Distributed denial-of-service. Cyber attack. The terms for the weaponisation of code are by now well known, but we are just beginning to understand their full implications.

175 billion industry

Over the 20 years from 2000 to 2020, the cyber security market will have grown from a $3.5 billion market employing a few thousand people working in IT departments to a $175 billion market providing critical infrastructure. Cyber has grown into such a mission-critical function that every Fortune 500 board chairman now should make sure he or she has a board member with cyber expertise. In five years, any board of directors without a board member with expertise in cyber will be perceived as a shortcoming of corporate governance.


Combine that with what will be a $19 trillion global market in the Internet of Things and we are creating an almost unimaginable new set of vulnerabilities and openings for cyber security hacks.For example, in July 2015, hackers managed to remotely infiltrate and shut down a Jeep Cherokee while it was speeding along the highway. Did you know that GPS is hackable? Don’t trust your Tom-Tom.

Long term cyber attacks pose a greater threat to national security than terrorism. We have moved from cold war to code war.

Coded money

Alec Ross other favourite future industry is coded money, blockchain and fintech and how that will transform local and global economies, particularly Africa. M-Pesa and Shwari as examples. But also the sharing economy. At last measure, the estimated size of the global sharing economy was $26 billion, and it’s growing fast, with some estimates projecting it will be more than 20 times larger in size by 2025. Read “Machines, Platforms, Crowds“.

Big data

The last industry he mentions is big data, quantified self and algorithms. Did you know that an estimated one-third of all marriages in the United States begin with online dating which is run through an algorithm? The best quote of the book is this one “Serendipity fades with everything we hand over to algorithms”.

Impact on your business

Alec Ross is spot on. None of those industries can be ignored and they will impact on your business. Robotics, cyber, big data, coded money will do so very soon.

What are we going to do?

The question is what policy makers are going to do about it. If you read “The Seventh Sense”, politicians are the last ones to understand what goes on. And it not about:

Technology parks
Mix in R&D labs and university centres;
Provide incentives to attract scientists, firms and users;
Interconnect the industry through consortia and specialised suppliers;
Protect intellectual property and tech transfer;
Establish a favourable business environment and regulations.
It is about broadband infrastructure, women (“women hold up half the sky”), openness, domain expertise, quality of life, the flow of ideas, innovation and yes, creating active serendipity.

What are you going to do?

Or look at some examples of good practice such as Singapore, Estonia, Japan and China versus Belarus, North Korea and Venezuela. Which one do you want to be?

I want to be Estonia (or Japan).

- arely_torres

An excellent read with many in depth examples and the chapters are themed so that you are able to understand the different applications of new industries. Simply written and accessible yet introduces you to new ideas and terminology. Slightly tainted by the americ elections in that it was overtly positive but I have understood ideas that I would difficult to grasp previously as someone that didn’t use email till my mid20s. I was born in the 70s.

- erika_cruz

Good points but very repetitive, ended up skimming the rest and sent it to a charity shop.

- reece_castillo

Made me change my outlook for my business. This book brings together a lot of those newspaper articles about innovation and technology that you kinda take on board but don't GET. There are changes taking place across the globe and they are not necessarily developed world driven. Read the book - time well spent.(A copy should be sent to politicians. Do they read anything these days except for polls?).

- alfred_stewart

If I am honest this book didn't really give any more information about the future of jobs than you can already read on the Internet

- lia_torres

Bright guy with enough experience globally to have something new to say on the subject. Worth a read for any millennial (if they really exist) as it does gear them up a little to what direction they may want to focus on. Easy to read.

- everleigh_gray

Interesting background to the digital revolution and how business,commerce and governments have responded (or not) to the changes.
A little too much of the author's ego. Loses momentum towards the end of the book where it lacks a more definite opinion on how those areas/countries not innovative and outside the digital hub complexes could look to improve.

- matthew_thomas

A very well written, interesting and thought provoking read. If you are interested in which areas of industry or countries will grow in the next 20 years this is a must read.

- ophelia_thomas

Forward thinking

- egypt_kelly

Arrived quickly, husband pleased with book as a gift. Right up his street

- clarissa_cox

enjoyed reading it

- clementine_baker

Very insightful

- moshe_hall

An interesting read. describes some of the industries that will be the powerhouses of the future, but a little thin on what happens to everyone else!

- mike_carter

This book, which deals with the potential impact of the applications of digital technology on World society, is one of the best I have read on the subject.

- kallie_king

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