Posted by: danielharan | July 5, 2007

Drivers of the next 20 years

Someone on LinkedIn asked what the most disruptive or influential factors would be for the next 5, 10 and 20 years. I spend a lot of time thinking about this, and am starting to form more coherent answers. Here’s what I wrote on LinkedIn:

Energy:
-Construction cost and time to market as well as uranium prices and the ‘energy internet’ will together make nuclear absolutely impractical.
-Peak oil is a certainty. Its effect on prices isn’t so certain, especially given energy efficiency measures people will take, and policies that will be put in place to promote it.
-Solar and Wind will keep growing at very high rates, doubling every 2 – 2.5 years. (Each doubling lowers prices; it may take until 2010-2015 for them to be cost-competitive with the cheapest fossil fuels. Building-integrated photo-voltaics and thin-panels, maybe nano, are the main things I’d watch).

Some things I’m not so sure about but that I’m watching:

2015 could mark the end of relatively low interest as more people retire.

The rise of militant atheism could marginalize religious extremists, including in the US, leading to a new political landscape.

We may push deserts back on a massive scale. Worldchanging.com has published some interesting stories:
http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/006617.html
http://www.worldchanging.com/archives//006060.html
http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/006987.html

After micro-credit, the next thing to watch may be social enterprise, with groups like Acumen Fund doing some of the most interesting work. This can be highly disruptive in many economic sectors.

Finally, health. The soft always overcomes the hard. Public health has saved more lives than surgical interventions. I think sensors will save more lives than genetic advances, even if they never get as much publicity or funding.

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