“We wanted flying cars. Instead we got 140 characters,” opines the oft-repeated quote attributed to Peter Thiel in 2013.
It’s not wrong.
But that may change.
We got Twitter because the initial use cases for information technology revolved around commerce, communication and entertainment. Now, with the investment opportunities in media and commercial tech largely dwindling, experts believe that with tempting exponential opportunities in deep tech, we may finally put that flying car in our garage.
And a whole lot more.
Deep tech — or deep technology, or hard tech — is a general term for technology that requires extensive engineering to reach the market, or, in other words, commercialized. Deep tech companies cover a range of fields and industries, including AI, biotechnology, quantum technologies, new energy and materials sciences. Within those categories, though, deep tech researchers and entrepreneurs are involved in a range of outcomes, from making treatments to reverse aging to building homes that can suck the carbon out of the atmosphere.
In this article, we will review some of the real breakthroughs deep tech scientists and engineers are trying to make, as well as a number of tangential benefits, that make deep tech important — if not the most important — scientific pursuit of our time.
9. Deep Green: Deep Tech Offers Multiple Ways to Confront Climate Change
Deep tech researchers and companies are investigating both the causes and solutions of climate change on several fronts. In fact, deep tech can offer multiple approaches to climate solutions, from near-term to far-out. Researchers in the materials sciences are investigating ways to boost energy production from sustainable sources, such as solar and wind. They’re developing better ways to sequester carbon, a key contributor to greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. Materials scientists are also working on alternatives to typical carbon-producing transportation, for example, making cars lighter and more efficient.
8. Beyond Aging: Deep Tech Will Extend Our Lives
Deep tech’s most important work will likely affect all of us through medicine, personalized health and biotechnology. Scientists are on the cusps of advances that will find cures for diseases, treatments for a variety of conditions and insights into the very mechanisms of aging. Deep tech could make us live longer, healthier and more productive lives.
7. Beyond Human: Deep Tech Can Extend Our Bodies and Brains
Health and technology breakthroughs will also merge into ways to expand the capacity of what humans can do — from exoskeletons to genetic engineering to brain-computer interfaces.
6. Deep Space: Deep Tech Will Expand Horizons — Literally
After decades of growth, the space program slipped into a funk. That funk appears to be un-funking, thanks to deep tech. Space entrepreneurs are uniting deep technologies to design better propulsion systems, tap natural resources in space and even look to make interspace travel a thing for all of us.
5. Deep Inclusion: Deep Tech Will Address Social Problems
When we think of deep tech, we tend to think of subatomic particles, or science fiction-style computing labs, but deep tech, if used ethically and creatively, has the potential to solve many of the problems faced by you and me — and the rest of society — right here in the real world. Right now, artificial intelligence engineers are investigating how machines could better plan relief during disasters and identify issues in money that’s allocated to infrastructure projects. As computational power increases, this is just the beginning. In other sectors, de-fi and blockchain technology are offering new ways to save, invest and spend money, as well as offering banking services and solutions to the once bankless.
4. Deep U: Deep Tech Will Bolster Universities
Deep tech needs universities and universities need deep tech. In the tech revolution of the 1990s and 20002,, a high school dropout could develop an app and a website that would achieve unicorn status in months. In deep tech, nanotech and biotech entrepreneurs will need laboratories, clinical trials and expensive equipment. Deep tech will also require deep learning, which universities should be prepared to supply.
3. The Great Stagnation: Deep Tech Will Promote Real Growth
Georgetown University’s Tyler Cowen calls it the Great Stagnation. It’s a theory that America — and the rest of the world, presumably — have generated prosperity by picking from the low-hanging economic and technological fruit. Whether you believe it or not — deep tech has the power and potential to pick the top limbs of the technological and economical fruit trees. Think cheap, clean energy, robust computing and near magical engineering prowess.
2. D-Tech for DeFi: Deep Tech Will Decentralize Finance
The dream of cutting out the layers of inefficiencies in the financial system will require blockchain, AI and other technologies to decentralize the system, but do so in safe, secure and trustworthy ways.
1. Supplies! Deep Tech’s Supply Chain Surprise
If you worried about toilet paper during 2019-2020, you probably realize the importance of logistics and the vulnerability of supply chains. Deep tech, again, offers more than a few solutions to ongoing problems with supply chain management. Materials breakthroughs can make manufacturing more versatile and inexpensive, computational tools can find logistical inefficiencies and provide efficient solutions and blockchain may make coordination more precise.
All of these advances are not guaranteed, nor are they without risks. Technologies can and do fail. Markets decide against using technologies, or opt for other solutions. And the implications of deep tech are fraught with ethical challenges. However, by being aware of the possibilities, exploring proper ethical paths and exploiting technological breakthroughs, the deep tech community — scientists, investors and entrepreneurs — may be able to change the world for the better — forever.