I'm old enough to remember the time before personal computers, cell phones and the internet. A time when sending letters overnight by Federal Express was considered a radical idea. The dawn of the 21st century has seen an explosion in technological innovation with home computers, the internet and smart phones coming of age; and there are three new technologies being developed that will be more important than even these and truly change the way the world works. In fact, they will change things so radically that we could change the very nature of our global economy. A post-monetary world; perhaps!
Within the next few years all of us will be impacted by major changes that are developing to the way things are produced and the materials used to produce these things. This is the stuff that not too many years ago would have been considered science fiction, but it is now coming of age and becoming a reality. The impact of these developments will be overwhelming and will impact our lives even with the most important issue - our health and life span. The first of these technologies is what is known as "additive printing" or "3-D printing". This process uses the basic technology of an ink-jet printer to create items in three dimensions. Simply, if you want a new coffee cup, you feed a graphic design into the printer and it "prints" you a new cup. This technology has the ability to change the very nature of consumer goods and the way in which they're produced. Today, factories are set up and "tooled" to produce an item. Changing the design of the item requires re-tooling the factory; this is both time consuming and expensive. 3-D technology allows for design changes to occur virtually so that there is no time or cost related to changing the product produced. So we can envision a manufacturing environment where the creation of some consumer goods is not brought from a remote factory through shipping and distribution systems but rather is manufactured directly in the kitchen. This reduces cost and reduces the need for low end manufacturing labor. Furthermore, research is presently being conducted on using 3-D technology to produce food and other biological things including replacement organs and body parts. This is revolutionary as it will allow for individuals requiring a liver transplant for example, to simply have one printed from their own DNA information. Not only does the problem of "rejection" go away, but the availability and cost of replacement organs changes so dramatically that it will no longer be an economic burden on society to receive an organ transplant.
The second technology that will change the way we live is the explosion in "super-materials". Having discovered a material called Graphene, researchers now are building materials that increase the speed of computers, increase the efficiency of electronics, reduce fuel consumption by reducing the weight of planes and cars, make long-lasting batteries a real possibility and even filter water to such an extent that the oceans become a plentiful supply of fresh water for agriculture and individual consumption. This revolution will increase agricultural output worldwide to help feed our populations and will allow for the development and implementation of so many things it boggles the imagination. For example, all of us who live in the Midwestern part of the United States know what it's like to walk out into a cold snowy day. These new super-materials will allow us to create "smart clothing" that can adapt to our environment thereby keeping us warm on cold days and cool on hot days.
The third technological revolution taking place is in glass, believe it or not. Using the new super-materials researchers are creating glass that is strong enough and smart enough to be truly functional. This new glass will improve efficiency and make natural energy sources like solar power much more usable. Smart-boards and interactive blue-tooth technology will facilitate learning in schools by creating seamless interaction between the teacher, smart-board, curriculum, projects and student.
These new technologies are not dreams anymore but are a reality. Yes they're a few short years away from being so common that we encounter the feeling of "how did we ever live without this", but they are real none-the-less. Not only will these technologies improve our lives considerably, but they will also create investment opportunities on par with the development of the auto industry, micro-computers, the cell phone or even more. Imagine the new agricultural opportunities, the new consumer opportunities, the new energy opportunities and the ability to open up global markets as never before. These revolutionary technologies could even change the very way in which people look at money!