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The 'Technology Supercycle': A Tech Lawyer's Perspective From SXSW

It had been a while, but wow, was it great to be back at South by Southwest. Making my first trip back to Austin, Texas, and SXSW 2024 after a pandemic hiatus, I was thrilled to return to be back in the immersive discussions SXSW offers with the tech leaders and innovators at the forefront of the industry.

A highlight of SXSW for me every year is futurist Amy Webb's annual tech trends report. Webb and her colleagues at the Future Today Institute synthesize and analyze the overlapping tech trends in her trends report to cut through the noise and bring home clear, actionable areas of focus for the technology industry over the short, medium, and longer term.

This year, Webb went in-depth on the concept that we've entered a “technology supercycle.” Webb describes the technology supercycle as a convergence of three general purpose technologies: artificial intelligence (AI), biotechnology, and the connected ecosystem of things (like IoT devices and wearables). 

What makes this era unique is that instead of being driven by a single transformative technology, as in past cycles, it's the combinatorial effect of these three technologies reinforcing and accelerating each other that creates this "supercycle." She sees this cycle transforming society and business in a way that hasn't been seen since the beginning of the Internet.

Webb uses the analogy of a "flywheel" to illustrate how these technologies interact and amplify each other. She states: "Those convergences have created this flywheel of big leaps, AI enabled tech breakthroughs in biotech wearables that were intended for hospitals and professional sports created a consumer market for things like SmartWatches and rings; and once that flywheel got spinning it created new value for consumers; it created more practical utility that led to more funding; it attracted talent and that kind of brings us to where we are today."

In this flywheel effect, advancements in one area, such as AI, enable breakthroughs in another, like biotech. This in turn creates new markets and applications, such as consumer wearables, which generate more data and demand, attracting further investment and talent into these sectors. This self-reinforcing cycle leads to rapid, compounding technological advancement across all three domains.

Tech companies are facing challenges in navigating the legal complexities surrounding this technology supercycle in areas including privacy, AI, contracts, intellectual property, and M&A as they seek to capitalize on the opportunities it presents. The incredibly rapid pace of change and the need to make decisions in the face of uncertainty can be daunting. 

Webb's advice for companies this year resonated strongly with me:

  • Map your value network to understand how your business ecosystem will be impacted by the technology supercycle and identify where to play and how to win
  • Develop your organization's strategic foresight capabilities to anticipate and plan for future trends and uncertainties
  • Foster an adaptable, resilient culture and invest in flexible technologies and processes to navigate the rapid changes ahead
  • Prioritize ethical considerations and societal impacts as you develop and deploy new technologies
  • Collaborate within and across industries to find innovative solutions to the challenges posed by the technology supercycle

By taking a proactive, strategic approach and embedding legal considerations into their decision-making processes, companies can position themselves to thrive in this supercycle.

If you're a company looking for guidance on privacy, AI, or other legal aspects of the technology super cycle, I encourage you to download Webb's 2024 Tech Trends Report Executive Summary can be found on Future Today Institute's website. It's a valuable resource for understanding these key trends. 



CEO of the Future Today Institute and professor at NYU Stern School of Business, Amy Webb, unleashed her yearly Tech Trend Report at the 2024 SXSW Conference. Webb's reports on emerging technologies have become a beacon of insight for industry leaders and innovators. Using data-driven analysis, Webb and her team map out trends that give decision makers a vision to follow for their futures. According to Webb, we've entered a "technology supercycle," which she attributes to advancements in biotechnology, artificial intelligence, and the connected ecosystems.


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