Recommended reading: The Industries of the Future by Alec Ross

Our embattled Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was at least right about the importance of innovation, even if that message did not resonate with voters in Western Sydney, Tasmania and other regions where the Coalition suffered heavy losses. One of the best places to learn about the profound innovations that are occurring is a book by a former adviser to Hillary Clinton, Alec Ross, titled The Industries of the Future. Mr Ross deftly illustrates his main points with interesting anecdotes from his exciting career, including meetings with tech industry titans and foreign officials, with one particularly interesting anecdote from the Russian White House.

The book surveys important innovations such as the platform technologies that underpin the sharing economy (e.g. Uber, Airbnb), big data analytics, the internet of things, and automation and robotics. These innovations will provide huge economic benefits and redefine our economies, but, at the same time, they will increase inequalities both within regions and between regions, as regions such as Silicon Valley will be major beneficiaries of winner-takes-all platform technologies. And these innovations will bring huge risks, particularly to privacy and security, as technology becomes an even more essential and integrated part of our lives.

In a terrifying passage in the book, Mr Ross alludes to the possibility of a future conflict being started by a private sector company retaliating against a cyber-attack by a foreign government. In fact, Google, among other US companies, has been subject to such an attack, by a Chinese Government operation. Mr Ross asks (on p. 143):

“…what would have happened if, when Google had identified the source of the hack, it had responded in kind with an attack designed to disable its attacker’s network and computers. The Google engineers are some of the best in the world. Would China have considered this an attack or some other form of invasion? It might have.”

Given the growing threat from cyber-attacks, Mr Ross suggests one of the best careers over the next few decades will be that of the cyber-security expert. His advice for young people is excellent, advising them that, if they want the best chance in today’s rapidly changing and interconnected world, they should study computer science, as well as a foreign language and a technical (i.e. programming) language such as Python.

This is a terrific book which I cannot recommend highly enough.


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3 Responses to Recommended reading: The Industries of the Future by Alec Ross

  1. Jim says:

    And at the other end of the spectrum can I suggest we all read The Northern Myth, written by Bruce Davidson (an agricultural economist) back on 1965. What Dr Davidson predicted about agricultural development in the north has been spot on for over 50 years.

    It is a shame the National Party, the CLP, half of the Liberals, and KAP don’t take the time to read it. If they did, they might see a need to start thinking about the industries of the future instead of building more dams and more roads to nowhere.

    • Gene Tunny says:

      Thanks for the reminder, Jim! I do need to read that book.

    • NSSfT says:

      Hi Jim, I have read that book too and it has stayed with me forever. I grew up on northern cattle stations, and guess what, I am now in cybersecurity! I can travel anywhere in the world for work and have in demand skills. Meanwhile, my old school friends toil away in the dust not believing in climate change, running hard businesses poorly and leading more insular, shorter and indebted lives. I often say it’s time to abandon the north, not develop it. I mean it too. The regional towns of Queensland are in structural decline and the poor souls are lost, desperate and increasingly out of touch and out of time. It’s a tragic tale of people not understanding the north. They never have.

      My family were reluctant to leave, but within a few months realised the reality; that life in a city is almost always better than the bush. We still visit Townsville often though, and lets face it, its not worth selling a house up there. It may never be, and their precious ‘super stadium’ will only make it worse.

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