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Page 1
Trends and Future Values in Technology

This article identifies five technology product areas, or areas for applied scientific research, which have the most potential for innovation and expansion within Kentucky over the next 5 to 15 years. These areas are: telecommunications, life science technology, biotechnology, material design, and environmental remediation.

By Dick Dedic
University of Kentucky

rom a global perspective the single most critical factor in the process of evaluating and
forecasting the future of science and technology is compression of the time for discov\u00ad
ery, creation, and commercialization of innovative technologies. Time has always been
a critical element in the evolution of technology and the way new ideas are fashioned into
applied science. But today, and into the future, critical successes will hinge not only on the
timing of an event but also on the length of the time frame within which that event occurs. Not
only will an idea have to occur at the time when it is most useful, it will occupy an increas\u00ad
ingly shorter period of ascendancy before being supplanted by newer and more advanced
ideas. Consequently, forecasting a future 5 to 15 years from now is like aiming at a moving
target that changes direction and speed at will. At best, the forecaster will be right for only a
small fraction of time.
Nevertheless, the microprocessor is almost certain to be increasingly important, and the
rate of scientific and technical discovery is likely to accelerate. Three new broad areas of de\u00ad
velopment will, in turn, affect every part of the evolution of science and technology. Firstly,
the size of every working device will shrink. As machines continue to shrink at increasing
rates, we will be able to move more information, more quickly, across wider distances. Sec\u00ad
ondly, thisnano\u00adtechnology will spawn a biogenetic revolution that will significantly affect
the way in which humans exist by more fully integrating living organisms with non\u00adliving
support devices. Thirdly, we will develop a highly sophisticated \u201cartificial intelligence\u201d that
can be used in combination with human intelligence to escalate the development of the previ\u00ad
ous two processes. I point these concepts out not as an attempt to scare anyone with visions of
a robotic future nor to put a \u201cwet blanket\u201d on the potential for excellence, but rather to alert all
of us to the potential of this magnificent adventure in self discovery. To succeed we must
constantly evaluate where we are in the process and anticipate high achievement rather than
simply react to a realization that science and technology have changed.
In addition to global prospects, the process of technological innovation hinges on the pres\u00ad
ence of pioneers\u2014firms and individuals\u2014and a supportive local infrastructure. It is a two\u00adway


street. While innovative technology tends to issue from individual creators or champions
within small economic units, the overall infrastructure established by government encourages
or discourages innovation. But nothing is certain. All too often, pioneering companies find a
comfortable niche and lose their pioneering spirit. What\u2019s more, the risk pioneers take does
not always pay off, as the work of seeking out and developing new technologies is costly and
often subject to regulatory requirements designed to ensure product safety and efficacy.
Moreover, products can be appropriated in the marketplace by firms that have invested little
time and effort. As a consequence, individuals and firms can only do so much. Likewise, in\u00ad
frastructure can only do so much to facilitate success. Ultimately, we are able to achieve suc\u00ad
cessful pockets of advanced technology when the individual or the enterprise risks becoming a
technology pioneer and encounters a supportive infrastructure. Unfortunately, there is no pre\u00ad

Page 2

182 Exploring the Frontier of the Future
cise formula that will ensure the successful advancement of technology. Therefore, any pre\u00ad
diction will remain hostage to the interaction of the individual and the facilitating infrastruc\u00ad
In spite of the difficulty of creating the \u201cright\u201d infrastructure, I propose a series of specific
technologies that are, at the very least, worthy of review and promotion at the state or regional
level. I have concentrated on technologies for which global markets appear likely and a sup\u00ad
porting infrastructure already exists in Kentucky. It is my belief, however, that all institutions
of higher education or individuals with a pioneering spirit should make earnest attempts to
participate in the research, development, and implementation levels of these technology areas.
Further, the Commonwealth would do well to concentrate infrastructure\u00adbuilding efforts in
these areas. Ultimately, scientific research within Kentucky\u2019s institutions of higher learning
should become more attuned to the areas and to the potential for commercial application that
they hold, an area that needs more emphasis if Kentucky is to become competitive in new
Increasingly, the federal government\u2019s approach to the discovery process is becoming lim\u00ad
ited to providing a framework, while leaving discovery and development to industrial and
academic sectors at the state and local levels. The largest applied research funding source
within the federal government, the Department of Defense, has been reducing its research and
development budget and retargeting its dwindling resources to support dual use technologies,
those with civilian as well as military applications. Given this situation, more of the research
burden will continue to be shifted to the business and academic communities of states. Uni\u00ad
versities will be hard pressed to provide both basic and applied research capabilities without
more active involvement from the business community and state government.
In January 1996, the National Science Board released a study of Science and Engineering
Indicators, which examines all aspects of the research and development process from aca\u00ad
demic and industrial perspectives.

1The United States, it concludes, is a world leader in science
and technology, but that leadership has narrowed in relation to countries that have major
commitments and capabilities and have increased their resources over the past two decades.
2This dimension of global competition is significant for Kentucky because it opens new mar\u00ad

kets and new development opportunities for technologies derived from the rural, agricultural
and extractive industries that have been the mainstays of the Kentucky economy for many
years. Kentucky not only shares geographic and industrial similarities with many technology\u00ad
developing countries, but infrastructure similarities as well. Many of the new technological
competitors on the global scene have few major industrial centers and a limited breadth of
technological expertise. Most global competitors will be emerging from traditional industrial
technologies to compete inlimited advanced technology markets that can be supported by ex\u00ad
isting infrastructure and economic resources. The implication is, of course, that Kentucky
should identify a set of technological priorities based on its existing capabilities, its historical
experience and expertise, its realistic economic and academic resources, and its desire to be\u00ad
come a technological pioneer.

Future Technologies
Ihave selected five areas for technology products or applied scientific research which I

believe will be important to Kentucky during the next 5 to 15 years. The technologies I have
selected are all included in the U.S. Bureau of Census classification system, 10 Advanced
Technology Product Areas. Technologies included on this list have historically led to leading\u00ad
edge or pioneering products. These product areas are derived from the National Critical Tech\u00ad
nologies list of seven areas considered to be critical to develop and further long\u00adterm national

1National Science Board. (1995). Science & engineering indicators\u20131996. (NSB 96\u00ad21). Washington, DC: U.S. Gover
ment Printing Office.
2National Science Board, p xvii.
Page 3
Trends and Future Values in Technology 183
security or economic prosperity.
3This list of seven critical technologies is closely monitored

both in terms of imports and exports and in terms of academic research and development. The
seven technology areas pertain mostly to scientific research, hence are useful for international
benchmarking of intellectual activity.
The 10 Advanced Technology Product Areas are application\u00adbased derivatives of the criti\u00ad
cal technologies list. As such, they are oriented toward the commerce of innovation. Patenting
activity has long been used as a marker of the direction of innovative development and scien\u00ad
tific thinking. Each of the advanced technology product areas has experienced and continues
to experience high levels of patent activity both in the United States and abroad, further con\u00ad
firming the categorization of these technologies as important to the global economy and the
process of innovation. It is also important to recognize that these technology areas each repre\u00ad
sent very broad applied capabilities and innovative possibilities. The 10 advanced technology
product areas are:

4\ue000 B i ot ech n o l o g y. The medical and industrial application of advanced genetic research
to the creation of new drugs, hormones, and other therapeutic items for both agri\u00ad
cultural and human uses.
\ue000 Life Science Technologies. Application of scientific advances (other than biologi\u00ad

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