28 February 2008

Trillion Dollar Enterprises

They are talking about trillion dollar companies over at exciting, brand-new community blog Future Blogger.
The 10 Most Likely $1,000,000,000,000 Industries

1. Artificial Intelligence: Any system that can outsmart the smartest businessman stands a great chance to accumulate enormous value for its owner. Ray Kurzweil has already devised an evolutionary program that does very well at picking stocks. Dick Pelletier points out that this is already a $21 billion industry . With Google, Microsoft and myriad promising start-ups converging on a viable AI, would you bet against this industry?

2. Space Mining: For the for time in history, space is about to open wide to private enterprises. The first company to figure out how to cheaply bring back large quantities of rare metals like uranium, platinum and gold will cash in. But there will be plenty of competition angling to carve up market share and the corresponding asteroids.

3. Human Genetics: Recent stem cell breakthroughs are turning the unimaginable into reality. We’re already selecting embryos for favorable characteristics. Organ cloning looks like a not-too-far-off reality. Barring complications, regulation, and an ethical backlash, the twin prospects of life extension and genetic enhancement will surely get the credits flowing.

4. Non-Human Genetics: We’ve already made glow-in-the-dark goldfish, grown ears from the backs of mice, and possibly created the first ever artificial life form. What custom creatures, designer pets and efficient new beasts of burden are just around the corner?

5. Super-Massive Solar Farms: As efficient solar cells continue to drop in price, somebody’s bound to put them to good use in a big way. The question is, will large industrial solar farms located in desolate, sunny areas pay off big, or will a decentralized model involving millions of private residents win the day. In both cases a central company that combines manufacturing and maintenance would stand to make a great deal of cashola. Of course, the Japanese national effort to install solar cells in space and then beam back the energy could trump both approaches.

6. Robotics: IRobot’s Roombas are storming the living rooms of the world. Farms and factories increasingly rely on industrial robotics. Honda’s robot can identify and navigate stairs with ease. Toyota envisions itself as a robotics rather than a car company in the future. The right robots at the right price could make their owners and manufacturers a great deal of money.

7. New-Fangled, Profitable Social Networks: MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn have attained multi-billion dollar valuations despite the fact that they are difficult to monetize. At some point, somebody’s going to figure out how to rally together a group of people into a super-company or mini-nation, as Philip Rosedale of Second Life labels it, that can more deliberately generate enormous value. Widening bandwidth, advances in processing power, the proliferation of video capture, new content processing models, advanced advertising models, and breakthrough semantic applications are just some of the near-term advances that could significantly increase the value of social networks and their parent companies.

8. Mirror Worlds: Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and numerous others are all busily working on Earth platforms that represent major efficiencies for diverse fields like transportation, real estate, and city planning. As these digital environments get richer, more real-time and merge with social networks, related content and business applications could cause their value to skyrocket.

9. Reliable Traffic Control Networks: As robots, self-driving cars, and short-range aerial vehicles proliferate, they’re going to need a kick-ass and ultra-reliable traffic regulation system to help them , and us, co-exist. Such systems will be critical to unlocking the the economic promise of these technologies and will therefore fetch large sums from the companies, cities and nations that require it.

10. Nano-Fabrication: It’s already possible to print human tissue and carbon nanotubes. The company that produces a reasonably priced molecular assembler will enable the alchemist’s dream of: a machine that can spit out a variety of matter in different shapes and sizes.___FutureBlogger

That is a fascinating list of potential trillion dollar fields. Space mining and space-based energy are bound to hit the $Trillion mark fairly quickly, once seriously engaged. We should make the distinction between $Trillion companies, and $Trillion industries. The sheer scale of global enterprise means that banking, finance, insurance, energy,and investment industries are already over the $Trillion mark, among others.

$Trillion companies are another story. The first $Trillion company may very well be a hum-drum retailer, banking/insurance/financial conglomerate, or industrial supplier based in China or India--where growing markets are already huge and due to grow much more.

But the first "mega-$Trillion" company is likely to be the first one to break into the "open-ended revolutionary" areas of human endeavour. Out of the top ten list above, provided by Vis, "Artificial Intelligence", "Nanofabrication" and "Space Mining" (or space enterprise, including space-based energy) have the explosive potential to take off in a blinding fashion. Those are areas where "all bets are off" once they hit the payload.

Once such an industry is truly launched, it may not take long for $Trillion level companies are the norm, and $Billion level companies are seen as mere $Million level companies are seen today--small business.

Some readers may be puzzled at the contrast between the optimism of this posting, and the pessimism of the previous posts. The answer is simple. Anyone who wants to truly see the future, has to be able to contemplate multiple visions, and play them against each other.

The top ten list above contains entries that may be seen as a bit flippant at best, and naive at worst. It should not be judged too harshly, since projecting the future necessarily involves a type of "brainstorming" or "braindumping." You put the ideas out there and see what happens. Hopefully, the feedback you get will be mainly constructive.

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Blogger Ugh said...

This is very exciting stuff - however - as I am reading this on my brand new Windows Vista controlled PC I can't help but wonder WHEN they are going to start making high technology easier to use. I have spent about 4 days struggling with this new computer just to make it do what my old one does - there are some things that will never work??? And before you think I am technically challenged I assure you I am a high level network technician working on advanced security systems and such - this stuff is my livelihood.

I think companies like Apple in regards to the iPOD and iPHONE are barking up the right tree. Make the stuff competent, elegant and very simple to use. Or at least write good comprehensible documentation!

Thursday, 28 February, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

Good point, Craig. Technology needs to be the means, not the end.

Thursday, 28 February, 2008  
Blogger Bruce Hall said...

Part of education is learning to interact with others in increasingly difficult and competitive environments.

Online studies can certainly transfer information efficiently and, as a last resort alternative, can provide a structured environment for learning. But who is there to challenge ideas or responses to ideas?

I recall how teleconferencing was supposed to be the way businesses would operate... no more travel, hotels, expensive entertaining. Just hook up a camera and speaker phone and handle business. Doesn't work. People need proximity to function well, whether in business or in schools.

I think the concept of using computerize curricula that is updated frequently has merit versus text books that get stale quickly.

Thursday, 28 February, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

Interesting point, Bruce. I think that proximity can take many forms. Current methods of "proximity" are borrowed from 18th century factory methods which clearly are counter-productive. Similarly, current methods of "socialisation" are merely socialising kids into delinquency, drug use, and dysfunctionality--for the most part.

Both proximity and socialisation can take many forms. We need to learn more about the versatility of high quality education.

Thursday, 28 February, 2008  

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