Table of Disruptive Technology
Imperial College London – Data Science Institute
The Data Science Institute is one of the six Global Institutes of Imperial College London, created to address some of the most important issues facing the world today. From health inequalities and the dangers of global warming, to the opportunities created by big data and molecular engineering, these issues are often too big to be tackled by individual academics or even departments. Therefore, the Global Institutes aim to bring together the talents of a wide variety of researchers. They are by their nature outward-facing, promoting collaboration with policymakers and businesses and providing independent scientific advice.
Building on past collaborations in data visualisation, Wond was approached in January 2018 by Imperial College London’s Tech Foresight team. Our brief was to create a visual infographic that outlined emerging technologies that have the potential to disrupt current industries and business models as well as to radically change the way humans interact with one other and with the planet.
This visualisation followed research and discussion within the Tech Foresight team, between Anna Cupani (then Research Manager), Richard Watson (an external consultant on all things future related) and a variety of academics from Imperial College and beyond, on a huge range of subjects; robotics to energy management, personalised medicine to astronomical data.
The work was complemented by invaluable support from Gaby Lee who scanned the web to identify companies and governmental bodies investing in each technology.
The team discussed at length the best way to visualise this content in a clear and engaging way. 100 new technologies capable of significant social, economic or political upheaval were identified. Following several experiments with paper and post-its, the best format was determined to be the table, as displayed here.
Inspired by the Periodic Table of Elements by Mendeleev, each of the 100 technologies was given a 2-letter abbreviation, followed by a brief description.
The x-axis reports time and the y-axis indicates the potential disruption of the technology if it was adopted on a large scale. Importantly, time relates to common usage or ubiquity, not initial invention.
The 100 technologies (99 really) were organised into four groups:
a) Horizon 1 (green)- new technologies that are currently in practice
b) Horizon 2 (yellow)- technologies that are probable in the near future (10-20 years)
c) Horizon 3 (red)- technologies that are likely to emerge in the more distant future (20 years plus).
d) Horizon 4 (grey) – The outer edge of the table contains what has been termed as ‘Ghost Technologies’. These are within fringe thinking territory with some ideas bordering on complete lunacy.
However, while each example is highly improbable, very few, if any, are totally impossible as the list of researchers on the right proves.