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Persistent Forecasting of Disruptive Technologies
Statement of Task
The NRC will establish an ad hoc committee that will provide technology analyses to assist in the development of timelines, methodologies, and strategies for the identification of global technology trends. The analyses performed by the NRC committee will not only identify future technologies of interest and their application but will also assess technology forecasting methodologies of use both in the government and in other venues in an effort to identify those most useful and productive. The duration of the project is twenty-four months; two reports will be provided.
Specifically, the committee will in its first report:
Compare and contrast attributes of technology forecasting methodologies developed to meet similar needs in other venues.
Identify the necessary attributes and metrics of a persistent worldwide technology forecasting platform.*
Identify data sets, sources, and collection techniques for forecasting technologies of potential value.
Comment on the technology forecasting approach set forth by the sponsor.
Comment on the Delta Scan data sets and/or other data sets provided by the sponsor.
Describe effective “dashboard” techniques for forecasting scenarios.
From real-time data provided by the sponsor:
Select and comment on emerging technology sectors.
Advise the sponsor on where and how emerging and persistent technologies trends might become disruptive.
Provide rationale for selections and indicate what key aspects will influence the rate of development in each.
The first report will be provided 16 months from contract award. The committee’s second report will be delivered during the second year, and will expand and refine report one in light of subsequent information provided by the more complete technology analyses anticipated. The statement of task of the final report will be developed in the course of meetings of the NRC staff and sponsor and will be brought back to the NRC for approval.
*After discussion, the committee chose to use the word “system” instead of “platform” throughout the report, due to the fact that the term platform has developed different connotations over time. This change to the Statement of Task was agreeable to the sponsor.
The idea of creating a persistent forecasting system—that is, a system that is being continually updated and improved—grew out of the TIGER standing committee’s concern that both the defense community and the IC are largely focused on potentially disruptive technologies that are expected in the near future. It is the committee’s understanding that many of the list of such technologies were generated from workshops or surveys that were largely limited to experts, most of them older than 40, from Western, English-speaking countries (often the United States). As discussed later in this report, this method of forecasting may introduce a number of biases, and the committee asked if there might be a better way to forecast disruptive technologies. A goal of this committee is to develop a persistent forecasting methodology that will capture disruptive technologies that other forecasting methodologies might miss and that will describe the nature of the disruption when other methods might not.
If one were to ascertain the frequency with which a particular technology is mentioned, a plot such as that shown in Figure 1-1 would emerge. Technologies to the left, for which citations are frequent, are likely to already