Monday, January 9, 2006

The Business Landscape of the Future: General Antimatter, Clones ‘R’ Us, and Intergalactic Business Machines

Author: Nick
Category: Money

While I’ve got the old financial crystal ball out, I figured it would be fun to envision some of the new business opportunities that will be awaiting us in 40 or 50 years. Easier said than blogged since I can’t imagine anyone 50 years ago thought we’d be using a network of millions of magical boxes to purchase ferret hammocks and robotic vacuum cleaners. At the current pace of technological advancements, in half a century we may be living on the moon and commuting to work via demolecularizing teleportation. Well, maybe things aren’t moving that fast, but there’s no doubt in my mind that the economic landscape will be drastically different by 2050. Just what sort of businesses will be setting up shop on your street corner by the mid-21st century? I’ve used my magic, alcohol-activated powers of divination to peer into our future, so make sure to save a few hundred million dollars (inflation, duh!) to invest in these light-speed ventures.

It’s 2050! Are these industries in your portfolio?

  • Robot repair. The present-day equivalent of this industry-to-be is computer repair, and plenty of peope make an absolute killing at helping the technologically uneducated install anti-virus protection and wireless home networks. Still, for the most part, computer repair is relatively inexpensive when compared to, say, space station repair. By 2050, there will likely be a robot in most middle-class homes to aid in everyday household tasks like cooking, cleaning, and perhaps even contract killing. But once that robot burns the pot roast, forgets to dust before vacuuming, or assassinates the wrong foreign diplomat, we’ll be needing robot repairmen by the starship-load. Now consider the complexity of a robot: hardware more advanced than that found on a nuclear submarine, algorithms more complicated than this one, and batteries you can’t just replace with a quick trip to the drugstore. And since complicated household robots could cost as much as a car, throwing one away and buying another whenever it breaks down might not be an option. Imagine today’s world with only 1% of its current automobile repair specialist population; that’s the crisis awaiting tomorrow’s robot-run world. Become a certified robot fixer-upper (better yet, start a training school with multi-million dollar tuition) and you will be making more than an eight-armed lawyer … in fifty years or so.
  • LoooOOOooong-distance telecommunications. Forget 35 cents a minute for a call from Pittsburgh to Pakistan; your phone bill in 2050 may include two-hour subspace transmissions with loved ones on the Moon or Mars. The fact that my cell phone won’t get a signal in the bathroom makes me wonder if we’ll have a cheap way of providing common folks like you and me with instantaneous, interstellar communication lines. While I’d love to see us run a few million miles of Cat-5 cable from Earth to Earth: The Sequel, it’ll probably be less expensive to develop and implement something a little more advanced. Come on, Verizon, open our hailing frequencies already!
  • Universal translation. No, I’m not talking about human-to-Klingon translations. By mid-century, the concept of “national languages” may be defunct as people of different cultural origins spread all over the planet. Nowhere else will this be more true than the United States where the present minority is expected to become the majority. I doubt the average person will want to learn multiple languages, but being able to understand them may prove vital to large international businesses or small, culturally-diverse neighborhoods. Research and development of tools to aid us in understanding those around us will be critical to all facets of life in the future.
  • Alternative fuel. Forget oil, coal, or electricity. There might not be enough of any of these by 2050 to help power man’s lofty endeavors while still keeping the lights on in your garage. You probably can’t go to the store or service station to pick up a gallon of the fuels we’ll most likely be using in the future: fusion, hydrogen, solar power, and even everyone’s favorite fictional-but-not energy form: antimatter. Whatever its form, the power of the future will need specialists to help harvest it, contain it, and dispense it. The real question: do you trust your local gas station attendant to pump your car full of a fuel that could vaporize the entire planet in seconds?
  • Nanotechnology. While most of the world will be thinking big, some scientists are working as we speak to make sure we’ll all soon have little machines floating around our bodies keeping our organs working optimally. You can actually find plenty of nanotechnology investment opportunities now, though most of them are research-oriented. In fifty years, getting your yearly shot of microbots will be as commonplace as getting a flu shot is today.
  • Leisure, mid-21st-century style. Hopefully the year 2050 will bring entertainment options more exciting than drinking moon beer from a rocket keg. Whether it’s honeymooning on the International Space Station, spending the day at the local holographic recreational center, or taking the kids to Epcot Center (which will be converted to an antique museum), people will need a place to unwind after a grueling 140-hour work week. Having fun five decades from now may be more expensive, and operating those high-tech entertainment venues may not be within the skill range of any high school drop-out satisfied with making minimum wage.
  • Super-duper internet. I’m hoping that will be the official name for it, but whatever you call it, our world will be so full of information in fifty years that you’ll be able to feel it in the air. Who knows what form the information super-highway of the future may take? Will we have vast fields of servers as big as Rhode Island? Or will data just exist in a virtual aether all around us? I’m sure if you can come up with the answer to these questions (before a certain other company does), you may very well own the world of the future … or at least all of its information.

Of course, these are just my guesses. Sorry, but I was just kidding about my alcohol-induced fortune-telling abilities. Drinking will not improve your economic forecasting skills, so please keep your imbibing to a minimum … at least until they come out with a robotic liver.

No comments yet.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.