In May this year, right around the time when the pandemic had taken full force and started showing every promise of wreaking havoc on some of the world’s greatest economies, McKinsey Global Institute came up with a report on the advances of biological sciences. It explored how biosciences empowered and accelerated by AI, automation and computing could potentially change the face of efforts towards countering major global issues like climate change and pandemics of the likes of the presently relevant COVID-19.
The report delved into what it termed as ‘the bio revolution’ -- a stream of the most contemporary biotechnical innovations that could transform economies and impact individual lives. On one hand, the report outlined the extent of far-reaching applications, which in numbers account for a $2-4 Trillion worth of annual direct economic potential in the decade of 2030-40. On the other hand, it also highlighted the profound risks of a kind that mankind hasn’t encountered yet.
To wrap our head around all of this overwhelming information, let’s break down what this newfound revolution means and how exactly is its impact going to be transformative for economies and society.
Bio Revolution: A Transformative Disruption Or A Competitive Game Changer?
The bio revolution is basically a product of a breakthrough of innovations coming together in biological sciences. When the world’s most cutting edge technologies of AI, automation, and computing come together with biology, the scope of applications is sure to have consequential impacts, to say the least.
Bio revolution is hands down disruptive, not in one but four ways:
- Biomolecules which will involve engineering intracellular molecules, for instance, by genome editing in gene therapy.
- Biosystems which will include organ level systems and technologies like stem cell and transplantation.
- Biomachine Interfaces will fill the gap between organisms and technology, for instance, by connecting the nervous system to a prosthetic limb.
- Biocomputing which will involve using biological components like DNA for computational purposes.
The competitive edge, however, can also not be overlooked. The companies and businesses that have the resources to make use of the potential will emerge not only as technologically advanced trailblazers but also profit-generating segment leaders
Let’s understand how, in the section below.
Bio Revolution’s Influence On Industries and Economies
Although the complete scope of the applications of the bio revolution is yet unknown, players who start experimenting and making use of what’s available will be the first ones to know. One thing is clear, the greater the applications, the wider the scope, the larger the economic impact.
The salient ways in which the bio revolution will influence and practically transform economies include:
- Creation and production of novel materials with better performance and sustainability using biological means, in masses that can significantly make up for a large share of the physical materials of the national economy. For instance, biofuels replacing gasoline and diesel.
- Increased precision and capability to engineer and reprogram living organisms -- human and non-human -- using gene therapy. This can be momentous in minimizing large scale losses due to droughts or deaths by making heat or drought-resistant crops, or genes that are immune to certain diseases.
Increased and efficient interaction or connectivity between biological and computer systems with potential applications to be seen among restoration of sensory functions using bionic vision or using DNA to store unprecedented amounts of data.
The initial misinterpretation was that agriculture and healthcare would stoke up a lion’s share of the economic impact, however, estimates indicate half of the impact to be generated from sectors besides these. All in all, we are talking about an expansive consolidation over industries and sectors including, but not exclusive of the following:
Human Health and Performance (33%)
Agriculture, Aquaculture, and Food (36%)
Materials, Chemical, and Energy (16%)
Biomachine Interfaces (5%)
Companies with investments in this bio revolution, gaining an economic advantage over others will present in primarily two ways:
Traditional bioengineering processes, for instance, are expensive and highly resource-centric. The advanced methodologies and products developed in the span of this revolution will ‘high volume at a low cost’ production capabilities.
These new methodologies will also pave the way for cheaper is better in terms of quality, features, and overall characteristics of products and services.
How It’s Changing Our Society and Steering Lives
The most predictable and directly influential change to individuals and societies can be expected in the form of the advancement of Personalization and Precision Products and Services. If you thought website cookies were the invasion of your privacy to make your targets of personalized marketing and advertisement, imagine biological data being used to cater exactly to what your body needs. This sector alone is expected to create an economic impact of around $200 billion and the premise is expected to mainly include skincare, haircare, nourishment products developed using genetic testing.
Besides these, as the innovations shape up various industries, the ripples will naturally be felt in our daily lives. Right from the food we eat to the precautions, we take when we fall sick, right from the unsustainable items we use to the basic education we receive, each and every aspect of our life and society can be expected to be replaced with a reality that is more inclusive of and compatible with the forthcoming bio revolution.
Effective But Not Conclusive: Risks and Possible Fallouts Of The Bio Revolution
Above we hinted at a possible mega exposure to your genetic data and issues of privacy, but that’s really just a fraction of the concerns that such biological innovations have posed. The most fundamental risks stem from the fact that biology is interconnected and self-replicating.
This means cascading, detrimental effects due to changes in one part of the system can have off-target consequences, and replicating these can have serious repercussions on the ecosystem level. There are also moral and ethical concerns with technologies like embryo editing, socio-economic disparity due to the inaccessibility of healing technologies, so on, and so forth.
With a decade in hand, businesses and nationals systems are sufficiently incented ahead of time. Whether the facts above are intimidatingly daunting or magnanimously encouraging purely depends upon how we utilize the time as the world gears up to the ultimate bio revolution. Want to know more? Let's Connect with Experts.