What will be the next big growth industry?

I don’t know, but it will happen sooner or later, count on it. The 80s were the PC, the 90s extended that to the Internet. What technology might explode with innovation in the decades ahead? Maybe computers will keep on groov’n, artificial intelligence or voice rec. Given the state of large oil and gas reservoirs, it could well be solar energy, thin films, applied like paint out of a can, or fusion, or maybe some source completely out of left field. Then again regenerative medicine looks hopeful, new organs, new eyes, substantial increase in life expectancy beyond the cruel natural limits imposed by nature. But I’ll take a guess for the next big thing, below the fold.

I’m going with bots and I don’t mean toys. Sophisticated autonomous cybernetic machines, as advanced over our current clunky prototypes as an iPhone is over UNIVAC. Bots as small as dragonflies, faster than cheetahs, larger than houses, self driving cars or planes, and everyone of them more nimble than a hammered yoga master.

What if robots became so sophisticated that they could take over every job, from their own manufacture and maintainance, to the extraction and production of raw materials through to finished product and repair, wouldn’t that reduce the cost of, well, everything, a hell of a lot? Talk about an economic revolution, when the number of man hours it takes to build a house or a Ferrari equals the number of man hours it takes to sharpen a pencil, wouldn’t houses and Ferrari’s drop a great deal in cost? What do you think?


  1. says

    Yeah, I could see that. If they ever actually figure out nanotech…

    I can see that some things (like Ferraris) will continue to be hand made and that will make them even more expensive. (Made by Real People(tm) not like the knock-off Furaris.)

    But I would bet that the next big thing is going to be something like a Personal Assistant… not like a mini-tablet or a smart-phone, but a (large) bit of cross-platform software that resides on the cloud and can follow you from computer to computer (tablet, smartphone, etc). It will help you manage your calendar, act as a personal RSS feed (and find things that interest you instead of you having to look for them), and many, many other tasks.

    Keep in mind that I’m not talking about just showing you your appointments and your flight schedule, but actually making them for you. “I have an appointment in New York on the 23rd with Jim in Finance.” Your PA sets everything up (earliest morning flight, aisle seat, room reservations at the Hyatt (here’s the rewards member number), reservations at a local italian place, schedule the meeting notes to print at the Hyatt that morning and deliver to the room by 7:30 AM).

  2. says

    I’m a tad pessimistic. We’ve had advances that should have revolutionized society already. We made huge advancements in MPG for engines, so we built bigger, heavier cars and trucks to keep on pouring out CO2. We made stunning discoveries in medicine, so we worked diligently to ensure nobody could afford access. We had an new agricultural revolution that skyrocketed food production, so people spit out kids with gatling-like vaginas until millions are once again starving to death.

    When they make robots that can do our jobs for us, I predict they will lay us all off and not think twice about it. A select few will be pampered while a larger few show off the robot they’re paying half their annual income for and the rest of us are scrounging by on what little i-mana falls from the automated heavens and being told our cries of dystopian realization are unpatriotic and Nazi-like.

    Or, Anonymous might let them build their machines, hack them, steal them, and bring about such a global revolution of thought, rather than (more probably in addition to, though) blood, that human civilization undergoes a Gouldian punctuation and leaps to an imperfect but sensible and peaceful, egalitarian and sustainable harmony.

    Avoiding the excluded middle fallacy by acknowledging these are two of infinite possibilities, I know which one I find more likely, and to which end the true future will trend toward.

  3. stevegerrard says

    “I have an appointment in New York on the 23rd with Jim in Finance.”

    More likely followed by:

    “No need; his PA and I have arranged a video conference.”

    “What? When?”

    “Now. Just tap the WebEx icon on your iPad.”

    “How do I look? Should I comb my hair first?”

    “Jim is in his pajamas. You’ll be fine.”

  4. says

    Or better yet, “No, just stay in bed, I already arranged the next year’s budget for you. BTW: There’s a line item for a processor upgrade. Thanks… boss.”

  5. The Lorax says

    I actually see our future progress toward a Star Trekian future; economics of the future will indeed be destroyed as technology reaches a point where everything we want is near-instantly delivered to us. Viewscreens will eventually hit the limit for human eyesight, processors will hit the limit of human frames-per-second perception, organs will be re-grown or repaired without surgery, nanobots will repair leaks and tears in existing machinery… what use is there for goods and services if we can produce a bolt or a burger from the same machine?

    It won’t be a pretty transition, but I think evolution will sort it out in the end, and we will end up in a Star Trekian society, where humans work to better themselves, and not for petty gains… mainly because those petty gains will no longer exist.

    Anyway, that’s my opinion.

  6. herp says

    We can hope for a Star Trek-like future. I would put my money on a Terminator-like future though. Robots that can repair and build more of themselves just reeks of getting out of control. What happens when governments start weaponizing robots to kill their enemies(more so than they do now that is)? Getting fired because a robot does our job will be the least of our worries.

    I think the only way that we can get to a Star Trek universe is through advancement in technology that would be hard, or harder, to bastardize into a weapon.

    Maybe Bladerunner would be a good compromise for a future?

  7. says

    Just due to the nature (and history) of humans, I have a great deal of difficulty believing in a utopian future. I’m much more likely to see a disutopian future.

    Great, we have powerful robots that can build anything (including any food or anything else given raw materials)… how much would those systems cost? There would probably be internal code inserted by the manufacturer to prevent copying the system itself (von Neuman style). And I would be willing to bet that the ‘infinite’ copy button would be greyed out too.

    Ok, you have the nanotech robots and paid a pretty penny for it. Now what? Well, you’ll have corporations patenting the code for prime rib, spot prawns, truffles, and Ferraris. I’m willing to bet that a one-use code for 1 pound of spot prawns would cost about the same as 1 pound of spot prawns. An unlimited license (say for a restaurant) would cost millions.

    There would be a bittorrent for foods. Of course, you’d have to have special virus protection software or part of the product might be an actual virus. What to kill you enemy? Hack their nanofactory and insert a botulism bacteria into their morning starbucks(tm) coffee.

    You’d still have the corporate, profit, and other issues that we have now, just as software for stuff instead of the actual stuff.

    OTOH, I do think that once the code and such get out, groups would hack them and try to make them freely available. Or even just hacking to release the ‘copy’ function. If your nanofactory could disassemble something and store it, then you could get as many copies as you want. Which would be great for recycling purposes.

    I still have a very cynical view of the future. The rich will continue to get richer and the rest of us will still be screwed. We’ll just have Star Trek levels of tech. Heck, a holodeck… $300 per 15 minutes… minimum.

  8. Stevarious says

    “…And in other news, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of Carhart vs Louisiana, ironically on the 2nd year anniversary of Norma Carhart’s death.” The pretty blonde reporter spoke with a steady, bright tone, perfect for the morning news. Ads flashed below her image on the screen for a number of hair care and beauty products. Other images – subliminal messaging – flashed too quickly to be fully comprehended; this early, it was probably just the standard sunshine and rainbows and Jesus pics that the network liked to run.
    “The eyes of America are on this case as it finally makes it to what must be it’s final arbitration. The dispute, over whether Carhart’s considerable collection of food, medicine, and product replicode patents will be released as ‘open source’ as stated in Carhart’s will, could very well change the fabric of America as we know it.”
    The screen cut to an image of a red-haired woman, perhaps in her mid-thirties, in a conservative blouse and skirt. “Soon, my mother’s dream will be realized. Her collection of patents, designed for the replication system that she invented, will mean the end to world hunger.” The caption at the bottom of the screen identified her as Leslie Carhart – the subliminal messaging painted a caricature of the woman as a bloated ghoul, skin cracked and bleeding, blood trickling from her lips and hands. Most of the viewers, after months of conditioning, already reacted to this woman with disgust and rage, but it couldn’t hurt to be thorough.
    “No longer will children die because their town-corporations cannot afford clean water replicodes. No longer will whole families be wiped out because they have no access to simple anti-biotics replicodes for their family Replicationators. When the court rules correctly on this issue, this technology will finally see it’s true potential realized. We can return Americans to the standard of living our grandparents enjoyed.”
    The image abruptly changed. A white-haired man in a suit and tie appeared at a podium, before a packed room of reporters. The caption identified him as Governor Albert Lansing, CEO of Louisiana, Inc. Subliminal messaging identified him as powerful and extremely masculine, with a ten inch member and the virility to satisfy a dozen women.
    “While no one is disputing Miss Carhart’s right to release her own custom replicodes as open source upon her death, the State’s position on this matter has always been very clear. The release of so many replicodes, especially the replicode for pure water, infringes on the Louisiana’s ownership of the patent for the Replicationator. Norma Carhart may have invented the device, but ownership of the patent fell to the state upon her death as per the Protecting Intellectual Property Act of 2043. It’s a question of the entire technology being reverse engineered from these replicodes, thus making our patent for the Replicationator worthless.” If you were really paying attention, you could just see the pictures of rats and feces that flashed on the screen every time the name Carhart was spoken.
    There was a few shouts from the crowd and Lansing pointed at one of the reporters. “Governor Lansing. Isn’t it true that the replicodes are publicly available in Canada and most Eurozones?”
    “Yes, it is true that software terrorists have released these replicodes on the Outernet, in defiance of the law. We are recommending that no one overseas use these illegal replicodes, as the FBI reports that the terrorists have spiked some of the replicodes with various poisonous additives.” For a tenth of a second, an image of bloated corpses of children surrounding a well in some African village flashed across the screen.
    Another burst of sound as the reporters vied for his attention. “Governor Lansing. Some Americans have demanded that the American Internet be reconnected to the Outernet. How do you respond to this?”
    “My position has not changed – only a criminal or…” and here the governor’s voice dripped with contempt, “a… pornographer would want access to that filthy network of thieves and depravity.” For a single frame, a naked woman with a hideous grinning skull for a face appeared. “Here in America, our internet is clean and wholesome, to protect our children from that sort of thing.”
    The image flipped back to the blonde reporter. “A raid on a suburban home in Michigan ended in a bloodbath last night as police officers stormed a cell of the terrorist group Anonymous.” A picture of the ubiquitous white mask the group was well known for appeared on the screen, with the red splash across it that the network typically ran when any of them got themselves killed. “17 terrorists were killed and 3 arrested after being treated for their wounds.”
    The picture changed again, and a man in a black uniform appeared. The screen identified him as Chief John Pike. The subliminal messaging identified him as a cross between Captain America and Superman. “The terrorists were given the opportunity to surrender, but as typical for this sort of fanatic, they refused and demanded a lawyer. Of course, the blanket warrant issued for the building revoked the citizenship of everyone inside, and as they were being completely noncompliant we had no choice but to open fire. I’m not risking any of my men to bring in filthy non-American terrorists.”
    The blonde reporter reappeared. “There is no word yet on whether these terrorists were involved in the alleged death of a Brunswick family, who obtained a replicode last month from an illegal connection to the Outernet that apparently contained arsenic instead of sugar.”

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