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Edge Tech - Tech Scan
tech scan: Kermit Patton

What Is Technology Scanning?

Technology scanning is a way of taking a creative look at the world of technological developments and the cultural, regulatory, and business environments in which they emerge. We're looking for outliers (developments or factors that lie outside a technology's traditional domain), discontinuities, and synergies that hold the potential to change our world.

We're looking to move beyond the conventional wisdom of technology roadmapping and the predictive intent of technology forecasting. We're looking for the sleepers that will break the forecasters' curve. We're big on speculative thinking.

Our use of the term technology is very broad. "Technology-related scanning" might be more accurate, but we're not going to call it that. Graphical user-interfaces, for example, are not a technology per se, but such technology-related phenomena are certainly grist for this mill. TCP/IP is a protocol, not a technology, but if we had been running this forum 15 years ago, we certainly hope it would have been a topic for discussion. Cultural, regulatory, and market factors are important elements in the emergence of any revolutionary technological development, and so are fair game in this forum.

Technology scanning can identify new opportunities for you or help you avoid being blindsided by some bizarre new development that comes blasting in out of left field.

Technology scanning is participative. We want to replicate and extend the open environment that typifies technological development in the Silicon Valley. You're unlikely to find any patentable ideas in this forum, but we hope you'll find seeds that are amenable to cultivation through healthy doses of creativity, vision, and sweat equity.

Technology scanning deals with topics and ideas that are controversial. Many transformative technologies begin life with the labels crackpot or cockamamie firmly attached by the general public or the scientific community. We're less interested in how effectively people can shoot ideas down than in how people can twist them around or reapply them in creative ways.

Currency is not the be-all and end-all in technology scanning. Many transformative technologies have languished in research labs for years before finding an implementation champion and an application or environment that is commercially feasible. Part of the technology scanning process consists of identifying the point in time when the commercial, cultural, and technical stars line up appropriately for success.

We need your help in building the technology scanning process here at Electric Minds. Every day or so, we'll post an item that puts us in a speculative mind about one technology area or another. If it does the same for you, post your comments in the forum. Don't defer a response because the item deals with a field you're not familiar with. We're particularly looking for synergies across scientific or technical disciplines. During your daily activities, if you run into news or research items that tweak your imagination, jot them down (with source information, if possible, so other people can track them down) and summarize them here on the technology scanning forum at Electric Minds. As the process develops, we'll experiment to find the best means of presenting and archiving ideas and discussions. Suggestions are always welcome. Send them to me at

I have served as program manager for SRI International's business environment scanning program for more than five years and have authored a wide variety of articles in the company's quarterly publication, Scan. SRI's Scan process pools the expertise and experience (including monitoring of the technical, scientific, and business press; attendance at conferences and symposia; and personal networking among industry participants) of a variety of industry and technology analysts at SRI to achieve a comprehensive understanding of technical, regulatory, commercial, and cultural developments in the business environment. I have a B.S. degree in communication arts from Cornell University and have, at various times in my career, earned my keep as a computer programmer, graphic designer, and art director. Figure and portrait drawing is one of my avocations. I live on Easy Street in Mountain View, California, and have an outrageous comic book collection.

Read today's Tech Scan

needtoknow said:

Some companies are experimenting with combining changing price lists with corporate email showing customer/prospect requests. They could also be combined with projects up for bid from publications like Commerce Business Daily (for government projects) and and other Web-based transactional services.

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Chemical analysis hasn't changed much in 30 years, but the place it takes place has.

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DNA arrays will provide the means to conduct systems analysis on genetic effects.

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