Emerging technologies of nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive science can produce a fundamental change in our world. These technologies also offer numerous business opportunities. Unlike conventional technologies, the new technologies are knowledge-oriented rather than equipment oriented.
What knowledge orientation means is that if you have the know-how, or can hire someone with required know-how, you can often start your small business with little investment. For example, if you know how to develop custom business applications, you can start off with an inexpensive computer and a few software tools. Get a client, study the requirements, design a system to meet those requirements, code and test the system, implement it and support it till the client is happy.
You will notice that most of the work involved is brain work, not machine operations or raw materials processing. This is what we mean by knowledge industry. Just like in the information technology example above, the other technologies are also primarily knowledge-intensive.
A Look at the new Technologies
Nanotechnology works with atoms and molecules. You go to these fundamental units of materials and try to modify their structure to create new materials with customized properties. Though knowledge is what you need most, working at nano scale, i.e. at one billionth of a meter, will require expensive and sophisticated equipment like electron microscope (ordinary microscopes won't help you).
Instead of working at these fundamental levels, if you have the know-how, you can get nanoparticles from suppliers and use these to produce a novel product. For example, self-cleaning glass sheets have been developed with a nanoparticle based coating that breaks down dust, which is then washed off the next time some moisture falls on the glass.
Biotechnology works with living organisms such as plants, animals and humans. Though techniques like tissue culture also fall under this definition, modern biotechnology focuses on working with cells and DNA. It is the genes in the DNA that determine the characteristics of the organisms. Modify the genes and you can modify the organism's characteristics.
This technique has been used to develop crop varieties that are resistant to disease and can grow under inhospitable conditions. Genetic therapy can go to the root causes of diseases in humans, unlike conventional therapy that focused on treating symptoms.
Information technology has already created a Google, Amazon and eBay, and numerous obscure but money-making businesses. It was knowledge and ideas, rather than investment in physical facilities, that initiated these ventures. The technology also created opportunities for such services as data recovery and Web content development that smaller players can provide.
Cognitive science is for those who are interested in the functioning of the brain. There are cognitive tutors that sense the way a student is approaching problems, and directs him or her along correct channels. This has the result of making learning more effective. Our brain functions can certainly do with a lot of improvement and a cognitive scientist can use his or her know-how to develop tools that can improve things of the mind.
New Technologies Are also Changing Job Scenarios
The job market is looking for people with new skills. Many community colleges are focusing on training up people with the skills in demand in the current jobs market. Information technology skills, for example, is a favorite field of such retraining.
The more ambitious among you can look at the other technologies if these interest you. There are numerous courses, short-term and of longer duration, that can equip you with specific skills.
Emerging new technologies are thus opening up new avenues both for businesspersons and job seekers.