The battle for innovation will be won at the intersection of materials and information. The field has been lagging for nearly a century as scientists focused on incremental improvements to established media. Now, there appears to be hope for progress at an accelerated pace (1). Well established techniques in fields such as life sciences could boost productivity in other areas.
Humans have gotten used to relying on nature for materials for half a million years. In the modern world, that substantially curtails their ability to move further. They have been given a matrix of simple molecules and the capability to combine them at will to create new properties and applications. They have been misguided for ever, trying to make gold from charcoal and attempting to fuse hydrogen in a cold test-tube. Industries such as pharmaceuticals that claim to have found "new agents," largely relied on tree barks and soil. It was nature that made the humans tick, albeit at a very uninteresting level.
The ability to custom develop materials to fit desired properties will be an indication of human advancement. It is not the ability to code, to send mechanical toys to nearby planets, to keep the weak and the weary on life support systems, to devise theories of nothing, to postulate the growth and decline of countries, markets and cryptic currencies, to create humanoids without consciousness, to make vehicles that move at the speed of sound or to inject poison to the political swamps.
Next generation materials will redefine the energy and the future of the "tiny blue dot."