ITIF Technology Explainer Series

Technological innovations drive economic growth and social progress. They boost productivity; they improve national competitiveness; and they enhance our quality of life. They also can be disruptive, which is one reason they can raise questions for policymakers. But before delving into the policy implications of a new technology, it is important to understand the fundamentals of how it works and why it matters.

That is the point of this series of explainers. In two pages each, ITIF provides an overview of an important technology that is likely to have a profound impact on the global economy and modern society—from artificial intelligence to blockchain, gene editing, and quantum computing. These explainers provide answers to basic questions that should serve as the starting point for informed policy debates: What is the technology and how does it work? What are its prospects for continued advancement? What are its applications and impact? And what are the policy implications? The explainers conclude by offering recommendations for additional reading. For further questions or additional information, policymakers and staff may contact ITIF at mail@itif.org or (202) 449-1351.

What Is 5G?

5G is the latest in the long evolution of mobile wireless technologies. It goes beyond the 4G LTE of today, and is expected to bring not just faster downloads, but a much more flexible and responsive network that can adapt to the needs of different uses throughout the economy.

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What Is Artificial Intelligence?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a branch of computer science devoted to creating computer systems that perform tasks characteristic of human intelligence. It is a “general purpose technology” that will affect most functions in the economy, particularly regarding more routinized information-based and physical functions.

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What Is Blockchain?

Blockchains are digital ledgers that record information that is distributed among a network of computers.

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What Are Digital Platforms?

Digital platforms are online businesses that facilitate commercial interactions between at least two different groups—with one typically being suppliers and the other consumers.

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What Is Gene Editing? 

Gene editing is a process of making precise changes an organisms DNA in a manner analogous to the way we change the text of a document with word processing software.

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What Is the Internet of Things?

The Internet of Things (IoT) describes the set of physical objects that can automatically collect a wide array of information about people, nature, the built environment, machines, and products and transmit this information over a network.

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What Is Quantum Computing?

Quantum computing leverages principles from quantum mechanics (a branch of physics), notably the unique behaviors of subatomic particles such as electrons and photons, to enable new, extremely powerful computing architectures.

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