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In what areas are the massive fortunes of the future going to be made?
58 points by Apane on Sept 22, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 99 comments
Let's discuss...

Always hard to predict, but one area where I'm sure there's lots of room is starting startups in industries that didn't previously have them. To use one example of many, LendUp.

The cliche phrase "software is eating the world" doesn't quite do the future justice. "Startups in industries that didn't previously have them" does it much better: that's agriculture (Sourcerly), payments (WePay, Stripe, Balanced, Slidepay, Square), lending (LendUp, Lending Club), startup investing (Anglelist, WeFunder), banking (Palintir, Standard Treasury), insurance (Oscar) fashion (La Tote, Crowdery), and more. So many industries can still be improved with the startup ethos of disruption, growth, efficiency, data, etc.

I assume by "startups", you mean Silicon Valley-style tech startups? If we're taking Eric Ries' definition of startup, then agriculture might be the first industry to ever have startups and thousands of years ago, at that.

Space, Robotics, Desktop Manufacturing, Augmented Reality

I would personally bet on payments, insurance, fashion, and banking over space, robotics, desktop manufacturing, and augmented reality. The former are things that virtually everybody does as part of their daily life. The latter are things that sound very sexy and have had some big wins in specific industries, but aren't related to what people do day-to-day. When pitting reality against dreams, reality usually tends to win out.

The same could have been said about computers fifty years ago. No one used computer as part of their daily life when computers filled entire rooms. I'm glad Steve Jobs and Bill Gates didn't get into insurance.

50 years ago (well, 60-70), a computer was a person - it was a job description. In world war 2 and the decade after, there would be rooms full of young women (they were usually women, because men were off at war) with Marchant calculators computing artillery trajectories and breaking Nazi codes. The first computers were invented to automate this job description. They were not some big pie-in-the-sky research project, they were a very pragmatic (and clumsy) attempt to mechanize away a very labor-intensive process so those workers could be freed up to do other work.

Many of the more successful startups recently follow the same pattern: they work to eliminate one job description. Zillow = real estate agents, Square = cashiers, LendUp = bankers, Yelp = food critics, AirBnB = hoteliers. Heck, the initial apps that made the personal computer successful also had that pattern: Visicalc = accountants, Adobe = print shops. Jobs and Gates got rich because they controlled the infrastructure that these businesses built upon, but the folks who built those apps also got fairly rich as well. Heck, Bill Gates's first programming job was writing a payroll program, and his first business venture was software for traffic counters.

Or in industries that didn't previously exist.

As a co-founder of Tiny Farms[1], we're betting on the growing need for alternative sources of protein. Humanity's current protein supply is inefficient, unsustainable and won't scale to feed the future world.

Our particular domain is edible insects; we wrote this article about why entrepreneurs should get involved:


[1] http://www.tiny-farms.com

I'm very curious about how you're tackling this problem. It's no longer a secret that insects could provide a rich and abundant source or protein, the biggest problem I've seen this far is how to farm them, in other words what is the sustainable input into these farms?

As the other commenter pointed out, black soldier flies are a wonderful output, but from my research I've seen that they need meat for to grow and their larva to hatch.

We're working on a lot of fronts, from designing farming processes through to developing feed and the substrate that the animals occupy.

With regards to sustainability of input: insects have an inherent feed conversion ratio far higher than conventional livestock, meaning they create more body mass per gram of food, but the actual food source varies from species to species. Since many species can consume things that are currently underutilized, like corn husks, there's a lot of potential for capturing wasted energy.

"Tiny Farms is the edible insect company" Future is here. First Soylent and now this. FTW!

What is the best climate for raising crickets in the US? Or does it matter that much?

Crickets thrive in the 80s; their optimal temperature is generally around 86 degrees. They also enjoy around 80% humidity for much of their life-cycle. While there are plenty of US regions amenable to their production, it's fairly easy to keep them at the appropriate temperature in any insulated, climate-controlled environment.

If you're curious about growing crickets in your home state, drop us an email if you'd like to know more: contact@tiny-farms.com

Come to Texas, follow the grackles, bring a broom. you can get crickets by the truckload.

A huge amount of insects eaten worldwide are collected just like this. We wouldn't recommend it, though; they are likely to be contaminated with pesticides, fertilizers and other environmental pollutants.

Black soldier flies and duckweed FTW.

Let's extrapolate from present trends. More robotics and automation means people will work fewer hours but still have disposable income. Medical advances mean people will live longer, healthier lives.

Conclusion? There's going to be a lot of energetic, healthy people with time on their hands -- even more than at present. So there will be many future opportunities in the areas of entertainment, computer games and travel.

Also, on the medical front, because psychiatry and psychology are in the midst of a historic meltdown, in the future society will increasingly look to neuroscience for guidance about the issues that psychiatrists and psychologists are mishandling right now. My favorite example showing what the possibilities may be, is the story of a severely depressed woman who didn't respond to the available anti-depression drugs and was finally institutionalized, her life essentially over.

But a new procedure has come out of brain research (not mind research) called deep brain stimulation, that shows great promise for addressing depression's cause, rather than its symptoms (the present treatment approach).

In this specific case, after electrodes were put in place, the neurosurgeon threw a switch that began stimulation of a location of present neurological research called "area 25" that seems to play a role in depression. The woman's depression lifted instantly -- instantly -- something that no other treatment had been able to accomplish.

This is still very experimental, and the procedure is still too risky for everyday use, but if it matures and is made safe, it will revolutionize the treatment of depression. It will also accelerate the present trend away from psychiatry and psychology toward neuroscience.



I disagree about people working fewer hours. Work that used to be performed by humans has already been automated to a large degree.

Rather than a uniform reduction in hours, the result appears to be a swelling class of unemployed and increasing hours worked by those who are employed.

Those who have time do not have money and vice versa.

You are absolutely right. 40 hours/week is the standard that was set more than 100 years ago and is long due for an update. As long as there are groups of people competing against each other to get the bigger part of the pie, it will continue this way until there is a big movement similar to the following:

From wiki:

"The eight-hour day movement or 40-hour week movement, also known as the short-time movement, had its origins in the Industrial Revolution in Britain, where industrial production in large factories transformed working life. The use of child labour was common. The working day could range from 10 to 16 hours for six days a week"

We now need a 4-hour day movement. :)

That's one of the main (first world, admittedly) problems of our time caused by stupid, backward work ethics (long hours == good; work efficiently so you can go home early == bad) and increasing life style expenses accompanying increasing income.

These two aspects make sure the majority of people stays unfree and hence doesn't have enough time at their hands for useful work or projects.

I'd say if we can manage to solve this problem we unleash tremendous potential for improving the human condition and life for everyone.

Yes, that's true, I wasn't extrapolating from present conditions, in which people really do work long hours, in many cases much longer than they need to. I was just imagining that people might suddenly realize they could have a lot more free time than they do now, without a serious decline in standard of living.

But current events certainly argue against this idea -- if anything, on average people are working more hours now that they did in the past.

Need to tackle wealth distribution first. Because that tale of a world mostly free of work has been told so many time, it is not funny anymore. That one man can earn more money in a day that some of us can in a year, makes the horde of consumer a salesman wet dream. Let's face it, we have a finite individual capital, that is kept as low as possible, and still continue to create more wealth as a society.

>>There's going to be a lot of energetic, healthy people with time on their hands -- even more than at present.

To some extent its correct.

But by and large there will be a lot of energetic, healthy people who will want to make more money with that extra time on their hands.

Clinical psychiatry and psychology are areas of neuroscience these days, so I don't quite understand the "historic meltdown" point, any references on that?

lutusp has a bit of a bee in his bonnet about psychology and psychiatry. His approximate view is that if a field can't be held to the same evidentiary standards as experimental physics, it's not a science. Because the two fields are imperfect, they are therefore of course completely and entirely wrong. But fear not! fMRI will save us!

> Because the two fields are imperfect, they are therefore of course completely and entirely wrong.

Wrong? No, just dangerous to children and some especially foolish adults.



> His approximate view is that if a field can't be held to the same evidentiary standards as experimental physics, it's not a science.

That's how any scientist looks at a field that the public trusts to deliver medical care. In fact, because physicists don't have clinics, they are off the hook with respect to this issue, but happen to be far more scientific.


I understand that psychology and psychiatry are imperfect, that they have a checkered history, that observability is difficult, that falsification is often unavailable, that the subject of study is itself tremendously capable of introducing confounding factors and so on and so forth. This is all true.

Physicists have subject domain advantages that psychologists and psychiatrists do not. Quarks do not self-deceive. Atoms will submit to any torture. Photons behave weirdly, but every photon behaves identically to every other photon. Humans are an altogether trickier subject of study and so the full apparatus of science is not always applicable.

What a mature scientist does is say, "OK, let's accept the limits of our field and do the best we can". As better observational tools become available, I expect that psychologists and psychiatrists will change their theories to fit the evidence. They've already been doing that for a long time.

> ... that falsification is often unavailable ...

Yes, and the possibility of falsification is required for science. It's not a convenient option.


Quote: "The strength of a scientific theory is related to the diversity of phenomena it can explain, which is measured by its ability to make falsifiable predictions with respect to those phenomena."

No falsifiability, no scientific theories. No scientific theories, no science.

> What a mature scientist does is say, "OK, let's accept the limits of our field and do the best we can".

Yes, in science. Psychology is not a science. You do grasp, don't you, that there is a lower threshold below which it's misleading to call something science? This is why the director of the NIMH recently (and reluctantly) decided to drop support for the DSM.

It hasn't occurred to psychiatrists and psychologists yet, but when the NIMH dropped the DSM, it dropped them too. This fact may require 30 more years to sink in, in much the same way that the changing status of astrology did in Galileo's time. As serious as astrologers sometimes are, astronomy just works better.

These things take time.

> I expect that psychologists and psychiatrists will change their theories to fit the evidence.

1. Psychologists don't have theories, they have hypotheses. A scientific theory must be falsifiable.

2. I expect more fiascoes like Recovered Memory Therapy, in which science and evidence were held in contempt. So do many others.

> Yes, and the possibility of falsification is required for science. It's not a convenient option.

According to Popper's definition. I don't recall him being appointed the universal lawmaker for science. I mostly recall that he created a definition and then insisted, as you do, that everyone accept it wholesale and hurl into the outer darkness anything that didn't fit his square hole.

You're also fond of trying to create false dichotomy between Science, immaculately conceived, ever perfect, and the process of systematically searching for truth to the limits of our ability to observe reality and compound evidence pro and contra which inevitably varies according to subject matter. For example, you pin your hopes to neuroimaging, apparently unaware that subject variability means that eventually that too will rely on (gasp!) large sample studies to produce (oh noes!) statistical results.

I presume that you hope by saying "it's not a science" over and over that people will instead decide that it is utter quackery, astrology, akin to crystal healing and chakra-cleansing. Because you never address, or even acknowledge, the median between strong sciences with experimentally-friendly linear problem domains and utter falsehood.

Your other favourite debating tactic is to select particular very serious failures, reintroduce them over and over, and then to implicitly generalise them to the entire field for all time. By this standard Galen condemns modern medicine and Ptolemy makes physics a joke. You talk about science, but you refuse to entertain the view that psychology and psychiatry change when the evidence becomes sufficiently resolved. You give only one test for what is a science and ignore all the others.

I don't know why you have singled out psychology and psychiatry for this treatment.

>> Yes, and the possibility of falsification is required for science. It's not a convenient option.

> According to Popper's definition.

Karl Popper didn't invent falsifiability, he discovered it. But I see you have a very common belief that falsifiability is optional, and that things can be called science that don't have this essential property. So let's do a thought experiment in which falsifiable theories aren't required -- let's see where this takes us.

Let's say I'm a doctor and I've created a revolutionary cure for the common cold. My cure is to shake a dried gourd over the cold sufferer until he gets better. The cure might take a week, but it always works. My method is repeatable and perfectly reliable, and I've published my cure in a refereed scientific journal (there are now any number of phony refereed scientific journals). And, because (in this thought experiment) science can get along without defining theories, I'm under no obligation to try to explain my cure, or consider alternative explanations for my breakthrough — I only have to describe it, just like a psychologist.

Because I've cured the common cold, and because I've met all the requirements that psychology recognizes for science, I deserve a Nobel Prize. Yes or no?

Ask yourself what's wrong with this picture, and notice that the same thing is wrong with psychology — all description, no explanation, no established principles on which different psychologists agree, no effort to build consensus, and no unifying theories.

> You give only one test for what is a science and ignore all the others.

There is only one test. It's a matter of common sense, philosophy, and law. The definition I gave, and provided references for, is written into the law, for a number of reasons including people's desire to keep religion out of public school classrooms. The Discovery Institute, that hotbed of Creationism, make the same argument you're making -- science isn't strictly defined, it's all a matter of opinion, and Evolution is just a silly idea cooked up by some eggheads.

> I don't know why you have singled out psychology and psychiatry for this treatment.

Easily explained. Sociologists and astrologers aren't scientific, but they don't have clinics and they don't mislead parents and children, invent imaginary illnesses for them to have. Physicists are scientists, but they don't have clinics and they don't presume to treat your ills. Doctors have clinics, but they're reasonably scientific, and when they're not, they can be sued within an inch of their lives, sometimes even thrown in jail.

Psychiatrists and psychologists are in a class by themselves -- they masquerade as scientists, some ill-educated people think they're scientists, psychiatrists can dispense rather dangerous drugs, but neither they nor psychologists are remotely scientific. And best of all, they don't have to accept adult responsibilities.

Rebecca Riley was diagnosed with bipolar syndrome and ADHD at the age of two, with the encouragement of her parents, who were already making $30,000 per year from Social Security payments for their other children, diagnosed earlier with bogus mental illnesses and already a walking gold mine. But Rebecca was their finest moment, and that of her psychiatrist. Rebecca died at age four from the drugs her parents and psychiatrist encouraged her to take.

Her parents were convicted of murder. Her psychiatrist is still practicing. Sort it out for yourself.


You're still creating a strawman version of psychology which ignores that psychologists and psychiatrists regularly develop studies that disprove or weaken earlier theories (for example, recent research into trust as a confounding factor in the "cookie test" of delayed gratification).

And you're still overgeneralising bad cases onto a whole field. Ordinary doctors commit horrible crimes too. Ordinary doctors misdiagnose because of a pet theory and kill people. Ordinary doctors make simple errors and people die.

You are comparing strawmen to strawmen and unsurprisingly, the negative strawman comes out behind the positive strawman. Then you denounce the negative strawman. A scientist to the last.

> You're still creating a strawman version of psychology which ignores that psychologists and psychiatrists regularly develop studies that disprove or weaken earlier theories ...

Psychology isn't melting down because of what's present, it's melting down because of what's absent -- reliable, unifying, testable, falsifiable principles. Each scientific field is defined by those principles that stand the test of time and evidence. Psychology doesn't have any of those. It's a movable feast that can't stop moving.

> And you're still overgeneralising bad cases onto a whole field.

No, actually, Thomas Insel, director of the NIMH, is doing that. His predecessor at the NIMH, Steve Hyman, is doing that. Allen Frances, editor of DSM-IV, is doing that. If what I say relied on strawman arguments, or if I were the only person saying them, I'm sure these very intelligent people, these leaders in the field, would refuse to say the same things and take the actions they've taken.

It's not every day that you see a field collapsing from the top down.


Quote: "The reification of the D.S.M. might not have been more than a philosophical problem, were it not for the fact that, at least in Hyman and Insel’s view, it was beginning to hamstring research. And, indeed, the D.S.M. has frustrated scientists, who note that the most common symptoms of mental disorder—sadness and worry, for instance, or delusions and hallucinations—appear as criteria for many different diagnoses; that many patients can be diagnosed with more than one disorder; and that the few solid findings about mental illness that have emerged from genetic and neuroscience studies indicate that the D.S.M’s categories simply don’t correspond to biological reality."

Wow. Look at all those straw men.

> Clinical psychiatry and psychology are areas of neuroscience these days ...

Quote false. To a greater degree than in the past, psychiatry and psychology are moving away from science, not toward it. The situation has gotten so extreme and frankly embarrassing for those who want to see more science in mental health, that the director of the NIMH has decided to drop support for the new DSM (DSM-5), arguing that the mentally ill "deserve better":


Quote: " While DSM has been described as a “Bible” for the field, it is, at best, a dictionary, creating a set of labels and defining each. The strength of each of the editions of DSM has been “reliability” – each edition has ensured that clinicians use the same terms in the same ways. The weakness is its lack of validity."

There's more. The editor of the previous DSM, DSM-IV, Allen Frances, watched the process that led to DSM-5 with increasing amazement and dismay. He now strongly recommends that professionals avoid the DSM entirely -- he recommends that people not teach it or use it:


How important is this? The DSM is to psychiatry and psychology what the Standard Model is to physics -- to a large extent it defines the field and it is the leading reference for theory and practice. And it has gotten so embarrassing that the most influential psychiatrist in the country (the NIMH director) is abandoning it, choosing to move in a more scientific direction.

> ... so I don't quite understand the "historic meltdown" point, any references on that?

See above. And read what others are saying:


Quote: "[Psychiatrist and writer] Greenberg is repeating a common criticism of contemporary psychiatry, which is that the profession is creating ever more expansive criteria for mental illness that end up labelling as sick people who are just different—a phenomenon that has consequences for the insurance system, the justice system, the administration of social welfare, and the cost of health care."

Believe me when I tell you, I could produce scores of similar criticisms from within the field, by people who are mental health professionals but who are incensed by what's happening to the field.

I have to say that anyone in the field of mental health who doesn't see fundamental changes coming, hasn't been keeping up with current events.

Brain technology. Eventually 'wireheading' is going to stop being science fiction and start being science fact. The people who commercialize that technology first are going to swim in oceans of money.

Since developed countries are experiencing population aging, I would guess if someone could help women prolong their window of having healthy births.

I say this because if you look at the last ten years, the rate of births in the age ranges of < 18, 18-35 have been decreasing while the age of women getting pregnant in the 35+ range has been increasing.

The birth rate of the United States is only as high as is now largely because of the immigrant population.

As more women in developed countries choose to have careers and go through higher education, the median age of pregnancies will continue to rise.


An aging industry, small margins for the older economic structure of small/medium holdings, little existing use of new technologies at scale.

As the industry demographic shifts and as 'new' technologies such as drones, robotics, remote sensing, pervasive wireless data, vat-grown meat and mixed land/marine farming are adopted there will be a lot of money to be made feeding the world.

In some sense you're right, but you shouldn't underestimate either the innovation that is going on or the intelligence of farmers.

There's a word for a stupid or wasteful farmer, and that word is "broke". You can't make it in agriculture unless you can make it against fierce global competition.

Ten years ago there was a lot of apocalyptic talk about the opposition of organic vs. GMO crops but the truth is that organic and GMO crops have both thrived. GMO crops are getting better, yet organic methods are advancing too and are being cherry-picked by conventional farmers when they are competitive. Robotic tractors are a reality today.

Most people won't see it when it first appears. Eventually you'll notice it when it's too late.

Perhaps the most astute observation in here. Lost count the number of times I've missed the 'the next big thing' when it was right in my face. Each time I tell myself that I'll pay more attention next time. But we all know the definition of crazy.

Read Asimov. It's all there. It comes down to space travel.

Presumably, the ultimate propulsion will be nuclear-boiled water ejected out of a nozzle as steam. I suppose you could do something similar with other low molecular weight (stable bonds), low atomic weight (plentiful in post-stellar debris) fluids, but water's on a sweet spot in terms of caloric density. Hydrocarbons would probably be good, so I suppose you could mine the atmospheres of the gas giants for those. Interstellar travel will involve strapping a reactor to a large iceberg lassoed from the Ort belt and accelerating for one half of the trip, then decelerating for the other half.

Space travel will require space mining (uranium, water, gold, titanium, lithium, etc)

Think of all the things involved: mining equipment, (robots) depots, transport, refueling stations, distribution. SpaceX has already shown vast industries are going to be largely robotic. But people will go to the same places as the mining, because something will always go wrong with something, and those will be the well-developed trade routes.

Those people will have all the same issues they have here. Governance, gambling, hepatitis, surgery. But there will be new issues as well. There will likely be founder effect: segments of humanity will venture off to planets many light years away. It will take decades to get there. How do you maintain the concept of "humanity" if they land on a planet with slightly more gravity, slightly colder, slightly less oxygen, so everyone becomes what we would consider a furry dwarf with an IQ of 170?

Synthetic genomics will be big in all sorts of ways, some related to the founder effects of space travel.

We will not travel faster than the speed of light and hibernation is a fiction. Our bodies just aren't made for that. I think this is a thing people haven't started really planning for very well. Interstellar travel is going to involve very large vessels.

but once we do Mars and the asteroid belt, there's not much left in this system.

>We will not travel faster than the speed of light and hibernation is a fiction.

How many people thought the sound barrier couldn't be broken?

Alternatively, people might give up on space travel if simulated worlds become too enticing.

That has already happened, if the absence of a moon base is any indication.

Small fortunes:

Marijuana, online privacy, personal defense weapons, batteries, patent law.

Big fortunes:

Ocean mining, fuel and energy, long-distance wireless communications, medicines, education.

If the rapid obsolescence cycle of chip fabs end (ie, Moore's law ends and process nodes stop getting smaller so there's no reason to change processes), it will kick off a golden age of ASICs and a Cambrian explosion of chip diversity and software design tool progress.

You can produce fully custom chips now but at any reasonable cost you have to use decade-old gate sizes making it hard to compete with general purpose parts. The lack of a busy market feeds back into itself making every step of the process more tricky and expensive than it needs to be.

Imagine the change from massive recording studio engineering to 'a laptop with pro tools' only in silicon instead of music.

I think this as well, but i'm also keeping my eye on graphene transistors. And then there is the quantum computer stuff which is beyond my ken.

Package delivery using drones. A DPS (Drone Parcel Service) base truck could roll into a neighborhood and a swarm of drones would fly out with packages under a certain weight and deliver them, while the base truck delivers any packages too heavy. The drones keep informed of where the truck is so they can return (even when the truck is in motion) to recharge until the next neighborhood.

With county budgets being stressed and more areas considering converting paved roads to gravel roads, any kind of delivery system that can avoid roads will be a benefit.

Oil & Gas

I'm with a startup called PetroFeed and we're looking to tap into the huge potential in the industry[1]. Most startups in the O&G industry are concerned with building better drilling technologies, or finding new resource pockets; leaving lots of room for companies like ours. ;)


I hope not. I would much prefer a future that relies more heavily on a sustainable form of energy.

3d printing. I saw someone saying that 3d printers are the beginnings of replicators from Star Trek, and that really struck home for me. I think we'll see a lot of physical goods get redesigned to be made via single-material extrusion, and 3d printers will get smarter about how to manipulate that single material (some kind of plastic) to achieve a variety of qualities (texture, strength, color, etc.).

Drones - Drone first responders for accidents, for emergency coverage remote telepresence assistance as well as news recording. Drones replacing photographers, meter maids, small package delivery and distribution especially stuff that bike and car couriers are doing now. Crop dusting (already happening), site inspections. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the marriage of flying drone and telepresence rolling robots where the drone lands out in your driveway folds up and rolls in the front door.

Everyone connected and addressed via internet. Eventually everyone personally will have an internet "address" that would combine voice, email etc. when you fill out forms and apply for credit, etc that will be part of your personal identification as well as the primary way to contact you.

Self driving long-haul delivery trucks, probably be accepted quicker than personal cars. Still will be manned initially to handle problems and to dissuade looters, or drive in hard to navigate areas.

3D Printing (a nearly infinite number of knock-on effects). Legal drugs (prohibition is once again losing its sway). Care for people who are 80+ years old. Autonomous vehicles.

Space travel - I'd love to predict fortunes in it, but it's still a wildcard and a dream.

Healthcare: Cancer treatments and cancer drugs for fixing cancer and improving the patient's life. Sometimes, Chemio can be devastating.

Self-treatments on demand: someday, you wont need to go in a doctor office for diagnoses, medical check-ups and treatments.

Online educational videos.

99.99% of online educational videos suck. For example, watching the video is so painful that all I can think about is "how do I get out of here?". (Possibly I am spoiled from watching too many popular vlogs on YouTube.)

The other 0.01% of online educational videos that don't suck prove that it is possible to make such videos. The best examples I can find are RailsCasts and "Math Antics" (the first is for grownups, the second is aimed more at children, but I would watch something like Math Antics that had more advanced content).

Anything that is currently controlled or regulated by governments will get decentralised to the net by private enterprise.

Education, Medicine, Law, Jobs, Banking, Sins (Most already there), Importation (3d printers).

My guess.

Military, mass behavioural control & surveillance technology.

If I have to choose 4 things came to my mind:

Health, Space, Robotics and Food imho.

Health, to produce better treatments agaisnt sickness, cure for cancer and other applications like regenerative i guess will be the ones who will coin a lot of dollars, specially from labs.

Space and robotics to produce better transportation, manufacturing and other hardware potential advancements.

Food. The food industry will work for sure o new sintetic food, to mass produce as well to produce safe transgenic meat.

-Food (agriculture, livestock, protein from insects, lab grown meat, etc.)

-Transportation (if you can find a way to decrease fuel costs)

-Disruptive medicine (traditional drug companies will be making less and less money, but companies that develop cheaper cures to common world-wide ailments will be extremely successful)

Basically, things that are necessities for living. Media/entertainment will become an increasingly zero-sum game.

There is an increasing interest in life extension, so I think we'll also see wide demand for an interim solution to the whole death thing. E.g. brain plastination, cryonics, sufficiently detailed brain scans... whoever makes one of these scalable and effective at preserving a person (information-theoretically) will rake in like $O(10^9).

Big O notation with a constant amount? If so, that's the same as O(1) or is that another notation I'm not familiar with?

Ah sorry... I was just being sloppy, what I wrote doesn't make sense. What I meant was "order of magnitude", but I'm not sure how to write that; Big Theta says two functions grow within a constant factor of each other, which is vaguely similar to the notion of order of magnitude. Maybe it should have been "$~10^9$" or just "$10^9$".

(By the way, my reasoning was 10^4 for current cryonics prices, times 10^7 or 10^8 people, times 10^-2 or 10^-3 assuming a fee of 1% to 0.1%.)

Marketplaces will become more and more common. Because Customer/Company/Employee is much more cumbersome (legally, administrativaly) than Customer/Maketplace(with reviews)/Independant Contractors. Robotic automation will take more jobs because they continue to do more and more cheaper.

I think robotics. We'll eventually see robotic transportation, construction, supply chains, agriculture, and cooking.

Much the home will be automated, includes search and storage and cleaning. It will get smaller, lose the need for a garage, and be easier to lease out, reconfigure, move, replicate.

Energy is probably the largest industry in the world - our civilization runs on abundant energy.

The world energy industry needs to be very substantially reworked otherwise there's a high chance that many (most) of us (or subsequent generations) will die.

There are massive fossil incumbents who will be displaced.

I'd say energy.

Personal decision support. I simply don't have time to search for the cheapest energy supplier/insurance provider/credit card/mortgage each month but I'm sure I could be saving money. The people who can demonstrably do so on my behalf have my interest.

I think the biggest issue there is trust. Who do I trust with all my financial information?

Absolutely, trust is a massive part of this. Many people have accountants so trust can be be given. Perhaps accounting institutes would be in a good place to do something like this. I'm probably going to be giving the organisation a limited Power of Attorney so they will need some serious credentials. Don't forget that your financial information will have real value which you may be willing to trade for the benefit of better deals i.e. they don't charge actual money for the service but get access to your spending pattern.

Lots of issues but the point I was making was simply that a) I want the best deal possible b) I'm lazy. I reckon I'm not alone either.

I would say one of them could be in making the utility (electricity, gas, water) more user friendly. Transparency hardly exists and there are seldom interactions between companies and subscribers. Focusing on user experience in this area could be an opportunity...

Your post implies that rare interactions with the utility are somehow a problem - IMHO a perfect true utility would get even fewer interactions, ideally 0; just bill my account for what I owe for water and ensure that water always works...

In an ideal world should have exactly 1 interaction with my utility ever - when I move in, give them my details and sign an agreement. If they need a second interaction, then that's likely due to some problem or failure.

So long as the power doesn't go out and the price is reasonable, why do I care if my utility company has a nice website?

For many people utility bills are a large expenditure, not an insignificant one. A company that can make it easier for folks to budget, plan, predict, etc could potentially reap rewards as they can take on lower income or risky utility customers who historically have high default rates and lower the default rate through proactive management. Furthermore a regular person might appreciate a utility company that bends over backwards to ensure there are no surprises on the monthly utility bill.

The roughly 17 million people who are unbanked are the target market: http://www.theatlanticcities.com/jobs-and-economy/2013/09/wh...

That doesn't just go for electric power but other things as well like mobile phones, cable TV, internet, etc. I'm not optimistic that the Congress will get their shit together in the near future and force last-mile monopolies to provide access again like the FCC required for a while. But if they do, look out!

Artificial Wombs

Artificial/in vitro food

I always thought that the anti-abortion crowd was missing out on an angle that could be taken advantage by science-types. The whole "no abortion for X weeks" is based on the age that it's plausible that a fetus can live outside of the womb.

If the anti-abortion folk are so serious about their beliefs, they should fund a massive research project to create artificial wombs that very early babies can be placed into to finish their development.

If anyone wants to work on the tech, that's the benefactors you should go after!

There are considerable efforts


But i wasn't thinking of the abortion crowd, just a more safe way to grow people.

Space / asteroid mining


"Space is where the first trillionaires will be made"

Wouldn't it make more sense to dig deeper into the crust first? When it comes to minerals mine-able from an asteroid.

We have already been doing that. This is potentially a long discussion, but basically there are a few factors.

Heat. It gets really hot the deeper you go. There are a lot of mines already where it's very difficult for humans to exist for very long.

Also, availability. There's a lot of stuff in the earth. But after 4 billion years gravity happened. All elements have different densities. Turns out a lot of the metals that are really, really useful also turn out to be pretty dense. Think uranium and platinum as examples. Most of these elements have sank into the deep mantle and the core over time. The bits we find left over aren't even a taste of how much is collectively in the earth but can't get to. On a side note, it's been theorized that the massive amounts of uranium that sank to the core has been powering the earth for billions of years. Basically, the earth is a giant fission reactor.

The third point is that there's a lot more stuff up there than down here. If you had to pick a direction to mine, in the long term it's going to be easier and more profitable to mine the stuff in space than to dig deeper into the ground.

TIL "heat from radioactive decay contributes about half of Earth’s total heat flux."



Security fences Armoured cars Autonomous armed guard killer robots

I sometimes look here for ideas: http://www.futuretimeline.net/

Healthcare Managing the automated transition of ageing populations with increasingly more automation and less budget per patient.

Electric vehicles & associated infrastructure. Very high speed transportation air and ground transportation.

Civilian-use drones and virtual reality culminating in the functional equivalents of androids and holodecks.

driverless cars.

I think google is years ahead of everyone else here, and it will be a product that will be high price, high margin. And the market is huge.

I really don't see how google could walk away from that one without gobs of cash in their pockets.

It's not legal. The technology is being introduced slowly by the current manufactures as well. Assisted parking. Enhanced cruise control. automatic braking. If they can manage to get it legalized quickly Google has a chance to disrupt the market. But the car companies are introducing products to market that people are buying.

In China obviously. It is already the case.

Predictive analytics that works.

nano technology, alternative energy, space travel R&D

food production, healthcare




Computing and telecom are obvious. By 2050 it's fairly likely that a majority of the entire population of the Earth will own a computer (e.g. smartphone, tablet, or pc/laptop), which is pretty profound if you think about it.

Fulfillment will be a place for fortunes to be made, as it always has been. Amazon has been executing exceedingly well in this area but it's not as though everyone else has been sitting on their ass. Over the next decades the sort of smart, high-tech, low latency fulfillment that we've come to associate with Amazon will be the worldwide standard anywhere and everywhere. Also look for infrastructural improvements along those lines. It used to be that people had visions of pneumatic tubes running everywhere. But consider some variations on that theme, a fully automated delivery system that could route standard sized containers across cities, continents, or maybe even the world. Maybe autonomous vehicles could play into that, but it seems as though building custom infrastructure would also provide a substantial RoI. Imagine how different the world would be if every housing structure had a 1m^3 "mail box" that you could receive packages in or send packages from which would immediately deliver them anywhere in the system 24/7 without human intervention. Economics changes a lot, consumerism changes a lot, industry changes a lot, and so on.

Fully automated manufacturing and configurable manufacturing. These may not replace all manufacturing but they seem likely to me to become a "big deal", and people will make a lot of money off them. Imagine if you could go to a web page upload a bunch of plans (3D models, wiring diagrams, etc.) and place an order for a factory to manufacture something you've designed. This is more than just the home manufacturing (3D printing et al) revolution, it's something on an entirely different scale. Imagine how this sort of thing would affect the cost of production of material goods. Imagine how it would affect the iteration speed as well. And think about how it would affect the mass production society we've grown accustomed to. What happens when a designer can produce a batch of a few hundred or a few thousand custom designed smartphones or what-have-you? Instead of everyone buying from a small pool of mass produced goods does the market change to focus more on boutique versions of such things? Do people start buying things that are more customized in functionality? What happens when you create factories that can effectively replicate themselves?

Education is slated to change dramatically over the next decades. Much of the world today lives in areas where formal education is not the norm. As those areas become developed there are education opportunities other than the traditional ones, especially when you consider the widespread abundance of computing devices in the future (see above). There is a huge market for learning software, on a multi-billion dollar per year scale, but a hell of a lot of work will have to go into creating all of that software to make it effective and practical.

Space will be big business too but that can be a bit hard to predict. Through the 21st century the cost of launching things into space will drop by at least a factor of 10 if not a factor of 100 or more. That will cause an exponential increase in the amount of stuff and people we put in orbit which will create substantial off-Earth economic activity which will gain momentum due to positive feedback effects. By 2100 I'd expect millions of people to be living off-Earth and trillions of dollars in revenue to be involved in off-Earth commerce and industry. This starts to get really interesting when you consider what sort of potential advantages building things in space might have. Obviously it makes it easier to test spacecraft, of course, since you have access to the environment they'll operate in right there. But there are also some other interesting aspects. Vacuum is abundant and easy to get at. As is zero-g or nearly any level of g-forces you desire. A lot of manufacturing processes would be very different if vacuum conditions were cheap and easy to get at.

Broadly speaking, biology.


data mining

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