Top Tech Expert: The Next Trillion-Dollar Industry Will Be Built on Genetic Code

Top Tech Expert: The Next Trillion-Dollar Industry Will Be Built on Genetic Code

Alec Ross served as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s senior advisor for innovation. During that role, he earned unique insight into the changing nature of technology. In his new book, “The Industries of the Future,” Ross not only lays out the key industries that will shape the 21st century, but also provides the geopolitical, cultural and generational contexts out of which they are emerging. Berggruen Institute’s Dawn Nakagawa sat down with Ross to discuss the book.

You assert the importance of a variety of disruptive technologies from robots to genetics to coded money. What in your mind will have the most impact on the day to day lives of our children when compared to how we live?

Commercialization of genomics is going to change the lives of the vast majority of people on Earth. My kids will live longer, healthier lives because of the commercialization of genomics. Today, health care is delivered with a very small degree of customization but that is going to change as genetic screening becomes less and less expensive and we understand better and better what to look for. The last trillion-dollar industry was built on computer code. The next will be built on genetic code.

You also talk about the potential and perils of big data. What is an example of how big data could go awry?

There are a large variety of possibilities, more than we can imagine at this stage of development. But take, for example, the Good2Go app. In response to the rise of sexual violence on college campuses, this app is used to document mutual consent to sexual activity. With an add on, it can also be used to read blood alcohol levels. So you are codifying sexual activity. In the terms of service agreement, that data can be sold. So information on the best bars to hook up at can be aggregated, or where to pick up a 19 year-old. Worse, what if the information is hacked? The consequences are quite serious.

Your experience in the State Department gave you a front row seat to the U.S. foreign policy agenda. Do you believe cyber occupies the space it should in foreign policy and security policy?

I spent a lot of time in the White House Situation Room. I have seen what we have averted. We have graduated from a Cold War to the Code War. The weaponization of code is the biggest development in warfare since the invention of the atomic bomb. There is not a leader in office today who does not make cybersecurity a priority item on the national security agenda.


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