Technology continues to bring profound changes to our lives

A scientist looks into a microscope next to monitors displaying DNA graphics

What are some of the evolving technologies that may lead to challenges and opportunities for investors?

Justin Lenarcic,Private Wealth Portfolio Manager, Wells Fargo Investment Institute
Justin Lenarcic
Private Wealth Portfolio Manager,
Wells Fargo Investment Institute

Technology. What does the word bring to mind? Smartphones? Electric vehicles? That wouldn’t surprise me. But we should also be aware of innovations taking place involving things we typically don’t see or touch that could impact our lives far beyond anything we’ve witnessed so far.

Take what’s going on in an area that’s interested me as far back as I can remember — health care. The fact is I originally planned to be a doctor, but I eventually learned that I liked the idea of being a doctor more than I was interested in what it took to actually become one. So I chose a different path. However, health care is often on my mind, and the changes technology is bringing and the possibilities the future holds continue to fascinate me, as do the potential investment opportunities they represent.

Added treatment and prevention

If the library of humanity is DNA, genes are the stories, which is why mapping the human genome was one of the most significant scientific achievements in history. Scientists are learning every day about how genes work and how DNA mutations can change the genetic “story.” That’s what’s so fascinating about genomics; it sits at the intersection of technology and health care. It focuses on locating and changing an individual’s genetic code in order to fight diseases and disorders. And it does this through the “Trojan horse” of a virus, which is particularly interesting considering our recent experience battling viruses.

One of the most exciting developments is gene editing. Imagine you wrote a long paper but then realized you mistakenly used an incorrect word throughout it. You could read the document looking for the word and replacing it, but there’s no guarantee you’ll catch them all. On the other hand, you might simply do a search and replace. That’s essentially what gene editing allows when it comes to the human genome — find specific damaged DNA and replace it with healthy DNA. This is known as gene editing.

I think the most encouraging and exciting result of these types of technological innovations is the broad spectrum of diseases and conditions that are now potentially treatable or preventable. Treatment for each of the “big six” major classifications of diseases — cancer, cardiovascular disease, metabolic disease, neurodegenerative disease, viral diseases, and hematological diseases — is seeing remarkable advancement in a relatively short time period. This gives me great hope for our future.

Elements are converging for artificial intelligence in health care

Artificial intelligence (AI), including machine learning, neural networks, and deep learning, plays a large role in the transformational changes taking place in health care and many other aspects of our lives.

As the name suggests, AI involves creating and using computers to perform tasks that typically entail human intelligence. While it may seem a futuristic notion, the concept has been around for decades, and, in fact, AI is already with us — most of us carry devices that employ the technology, such as face-recognition capability, in our pockets.

Only recently have AI’s three key ingredients — big data, faster computers, and machine learning algorithms — converged to propel it increasingly into new uses. The technology’s development is accelerating before our eyes, and the future will likely see the pace of change become exponentially faster.

More of the story for investors

Disruptive technological innovations such as these are likely to create challenges and opportunities for investors. My colleagues at Wells Fargo Investment Institute and I have written a detailed analysis of these emerging technologies in our “Transformative Technologies: Investment Opportunities in Artificial Intelligence and Genomics” report.

Wells Fargo Investment Institute, Inc. is a registered investment adviser and wholly owned subsidiary of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., a bank affiliate of Wells Fargo & Company.