I got into (yet another) one of those useless, interesting, unprovable debates on exactly where growth is go to come from.

My colleague sees no US job growth in the near or distant future, much more pessimistic than I. My view is that there are several fields that are potentially big growers, but their best years were not near term.

It would be a good few years before we enjoyed another Cambrian explosion like we did in the 1990s. Recall the full build out of cellular, PCs, semiconductors, software, CPUs (286/386/486) — the explosion of internet websites, and data storage. These were enormous job creators.

Now? I can name 10 niches, most of which have future growth potential, but few that can expand into something truly substantial, rising to the size of any of the giant sectors above.

My top 10 list (in order of biggest near term potential):

1. Nano Technology (Think of the line “Plastics” in The Graduate).

2. Green (low carbon) Energy  (generation)

3. Battery technology  (storage)

4. Genomics/Stem Cell Research

5. Web 2.0/3.0 — smaller, niche companies using increased bandwidth

6. Robotics — the continued replacement of humans by machine, for both labor and judgement

7. Life extension Technologies (not disease cures, but actual extension technology)

8. Bio-Agriculture (GMF, etc.)  Feeding 15 billion people will require some technological breakthroughs.

9. Atmospheric Engineering — modifying Earth’s biosphere to keep it hospitable to Humans in the face of an ice age or global warming;

10. Terra forming/Extra Planetary Colonization (uh-oh, time to go)

You will note that as you work your way down the list, these rapidly becoming highly specialized niches — not broad sectors like internet or semiconductors.


Where do you think the growth is going to come from over the next few decades?

Category: Economy, Science

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

113 Responses to “Where Will Growth Come From ?”

  1. franklin420d says:

    My Uncle Harry is always sharing family secrets, he is cool like that.

    A break out in the indicees will provide a 20% growth for the next few decades.

  2. danm says:

    Health care. Home services.

  3. danm says:

    Converting 1950s schools for boomers into hospitals for boomers.

  4. call me ahab says:

    “Robotics — the continued replacement of humans by machine, for both labor and judgement’

    well- from what i remember from the matrix and terminator- that doesn’t end in our favor-

    “Green (low carbon) Energy (generation)”

    well not sure if we will be the ones setting the standards on that- but-

    one easy move- all municipal, county, state and federal auto fleets converted to natural gas-

    the electric vehicle idea- hmmm . . .

    sounds good and battery power is cool- but – where is the energy coming from to charge the batteries- and- these aren’t the kind of batteries you throw in the trash can-

    creates another dilemma- but if it gets us off of foreign oil- i’m in

  5. impermanence says:

    BR says:

    “I can name 10 niches, most of which have future growth potential, but few that can expand into something truly substantial, rising to the size of any of the giant sectors above.”

    Barry, how could you possible know one way or another what’s going to happen in the future?


    BR: I didn’t say I knew. I said I could identify sectors with “growth potential.”

  6. call me ahab says:


    dude- you are funny- say hey to uncle harry-

    he’s got it down cold-

    to follow his advice is to achieve financial security-

    buy on the dips- and count the $$$

  7. km4 says:

    Well Barry Growth and Jobs are joined at the hip. Without one you don’t get the other.
    Most of your list is science driven….

    How Science Can Create Millions of New Jobs
    Reigniting basic research can repair the broken U.S. business model and put Americans back to work

    Name an industry that can produce 1 million new, high-paying jobs over the next three years. You can’t, because there isn’t one. And that’s the problem.

    America needs good jobs, soon. We need 6.7 million just to replace losses from the current recession, then an additional 10 million to keep up with population growth and to spark demand over the next decade. In the 1990s the U.S. economy created a net 22 million jobs, or 2.2 million a year. But from 2000 to the end of 2007, the rate plunged to 900,000 a year. The pipeline is dry because the U.S. business model is broken.

    Of the roughly 130 million jobs in the U.S., only 20%, or 26 million, pay more than $60,000 a year. The other 80% pay an average of $33,000. That ratio is not a good foundation for a strong middle class and a prosperous society.

    In the past, when the U.S. exported high-paying jobs to low-wage countries, we replaced them with even greater numbers of high-paying jobs in industries whose inception could be traced back to science done decades earlier. The PC, Internet, and cellular industries, born in the 1980s and 1990s, more than offset the loss of high-paying jobs in consumer electronics, steel, and other sectors. But in recent years, outsourced software and manufacturing jobs have largely been replaced by millions of low-wage service jobs in fast-food, retail, and the like.

    The bad news: even if Science could Create Millions of New Jobs we no longer produce these types of graduates today ( and have not done so in significant numbers since the late 1970’s/early 1980’s )

    NET NET: Sorry to say but America is looking FUBAR and most Americans should be recalibrating their dreams


    BR: Science & Technology will create jobs — nothing too radical there!

  8. as an example, this type of ‘bio-Engineering’ — http://www.techbriefs.com/component/content/article/5577
    is much better than the more often heard of ‘gene-splicing’/MON-style..

    and, this — http://www.techbriefs.com/component/content/article/5609 gives rise to the idea that there is, much, ‘old technology’ that seems straight out of Duck Dodgers & the 23rd and a 1/2 C. (thanks BB y Warner Bros.)

    LSS: we’ve a huge problem: an Entrenched status quo that has ‘entranched’ us v. the potential Future, with perspicacity, allowing greater prosperity..
    ht tp://www.thefreedictionary.com/perspicacity

  9. Doc at the Radar Station says:

    How about mundane things? When the dollar devalues radically, domestically produced necessities will wallop the previously artificially cheap imports. Domestic hydrocarbon production/utilities and clothing come to mind immediately. Perhaps former domestic automakers will be busy making train cars and locomotives?

  10. call me ahab says:

    “When the dollar devalues radically, domestically produced necessities will wallop the previously artificially cheap imports.’

    maybe that’s the plan?

  11. Onlooker from Troy says:

    Life extension Technologies

    That one honestly creates more problems economically than anything. Really. Especially if you can’t delay the onset of quality of life degrading conditions and keep people productive and active on a basis similar to the life time extension. That’s more problematic I believe.

  12. rmasand says:

    >You will note that as you work your way down the list, these rapidly becoming highly specialized niches — not broad sectors like internet or semiconductors.

    The internet and semiconductors did not start off as broad sectors. They were both, very much tiny niches for a number of years before their full potential was realized.

    Your point however is a very good one. Where growth will come from is the most important question in today’s economy. Everyone is assuming that we will exit this recession in a normal manner as we’ve done from earlier cylical recessions. No one seems to realize that without a new growth driver we will, at best ,wallow in the mire for a long long time.

  13. It goes without saying that if you can identify the sectors in advance that will flourish, it presents opportunities for:

    1) students to study/enter these fields study and improve job opportunity;
    2) Private Equity/VC investments (as the early stage funders of the sectors);
    3) Public investing (as the later stage funders of the sectors);

  14. some_guy_in_a_cube says:

    The most significant job generator that will exist in 10 years is completely unrecognizable today.

    Same as it ever was.

  15. km4 says:

    You missed this very BIG growth industry ;)

    The Big Business of Keeping America Fat

  16. “these aren’t the kind of batteries you throw in the trash can..”


    that illuminates, well, the “Greens” incomprehension of the thing they say they care most deeply about– The Environment.

    btw, there are No batteries that should be ‘thrown in the trash can’..

    this: “one easy move- all municipal, county, state and federal auto fleets converted to natural gas- “, though, is, in my estimation (especially if one added Class 8 trucks) the perfect Rohrsach Test for said ‘Greens’ — one that, sadly, too many Fail.

    Remember, most “Greens” are Watermelons, Red on the Inside.

    +”6. Oil and gas are the primary fuels used for transportation and heating. U.S. dependence on oil and gas has driven an unparalleled assault on the global environment and on human rights in many nations. We call for major reductions in fuel consumption as we prepare for a fuel system based on clean hydrogen production and the use of fuel cells. ..”

    of course, let us forget we have enough NattyGas, Domestically, to run the whole Economy..might suck for the Petro$, but, then, we could get back to Ag$, you know, like in the Constitution — not the Manifesto (see: Marx, Karl).

  17. Simon says:

    There is always the possability a marvelous energy storage device appearing. This would allow the transformation of our economy from a fossil fuel based one to an electricity based one. This would require a lot of work and create a lot of jobs.

    Something like what eestor is proposing


    Apart from that I see a reversal of the whole urban drift thing of the 70′s 80′s 90′s etc. More people will be required to work on farms. I see deep sea fish farming. Whole communities based around aquaculture living on floating islands.

  18. tradeking13 says:

    LV-426 has been colonized Terraformers for 20 years now — 60 to 70 families.

  19. hop says:

    How about the American tourism industry! I will likely be much cheaper for the Chinese, et al, to come visit this next decade.

    @snapshot should try my companies eco-friendly lawn alternative – Earth Turf – http://www.earthturfco.com/

  20. investorinpa says:

    I’ll go with a 2 picks for the price of 1..

    1) Water & related infrastructure- there are so many aging water systems and this is something in dire need of being addressed.

    2) Agriculture, both bio and the good ole fashion food industry as we keep having more mouths to feed.

  21. JasRas says:

    I have believed for a number of years that the theme is “past is prologue” the mundane and unvalued become valued and fresh again. Just as “stuff” stocks and the commodity trade became relevant as a trendy idea as emerging markets need “stuff”, if the world’s pop. is truly going to double at least one or two more times before descent we need innovation in food production, land utilization, resource utilization. There simply is no escaping it. Either that, or we need a massive pandemic or war or famine induce by shortage/imbalance/misuse. I prefer the solution via innovation rather through devastation.

    If one truly believes that empires are built then the baton is passed to new empires, and that we are in one of those key transitional stages—then basic building blocks of humanity and civilazation are where the innovation will happen–food, resource utilization solutions will be imperative—looking for the next Tang, Velcro, Liquid Crystal display, Corningware (all innovations of space travel) are minutia….

    We have woefully unspent in the r&d of mass disease and sadly overspent in what would be considered “end of life” disease, life extender, life enhancing novel therapies. The lack of spending in preparation for a pandemic type disease will catch up with us. The lack of encouraging developing nations to be attention to basic infrastructure issues like human waste disposal, industrial waste disposal, and general environmental care are creating wonderful breeding grounds for diseases that go through multiple evolutionary changes each year… and where are we at keeping up with that???? We are too busy ensuring an erection that lasts up to four hours and growing hair for balding men. We are too busy trying to cure diseases that generally occur at periods beyond “mid-life”… And now we have something like H1N1 that is generally affecting younger cohorts… Great future planning.

    Crisis breeds innovation. God willing, the crisis’ will not be so be as to overwhelm so we can truly innovate.

  22. beaufou says:

    read first

    I think it is important to remember that financial growth is also a factor in population growth.
    I don’t know who could possibly control it, but it is scary when you consider how fast our environment is deteriorating due to overcrowding and number 6 in your list BR:
    “6. Robotics — the continued replacement of humans by machine, for both labor and judgement”
    A growing population continuously replaced by machines.

    I give you 11, armed people and the military industry.

  23. funkalunatic says:

    Can only hope that (10) happens before self-replicating (1) gets unleashed. See Bill Joy’s article “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us”

  24. investorinpa,

    It is, Always, Wise to begin at the beginning..

    also, as Simon points out, http://clusty.com/search?input-form=clusty-simple&v%3Asources=webplus&query=super+capacitors hold great promise, and, as we speak, can be, as well, widely deployed for substantial Economic y Financial benefits..

    as well, snapshot frames a curious neurosis of ours — the tremendouus waste of Resources poured into the pursuit of Green (the color) Lawns..

  25. manhattanguy says:

    Here are my comments

    Top 10 list (in order of biggest near term potential) – with my comments

    1. Nano Technology (Think of the line “Plastics” in The Graduate). – Already Exploited, currently used in semiconductors industry

    2. Green (low carbon) Energy (generation) – Solar, Wind Power (First Solar and a ton of other Chinese, German solar companies)

    3. Battery technology (storage) – Better Place (Israeli start-up)

    4. Genomics/Stem Cell Research – Already in progress (Stemcell)

    5. Web 2.0/3.0 — smaller, niche companies using increased bandwidth – Google, Cloud Computing Raxspace, Amazon

    6. Robotics — the continued replacement of humans by machine, for both labor and judgement – Already exploited, Intuitive Surgical (less invasive robotic surgeries), iRobot (Roomba)

    7. Life extension Technologies (not disease cures, but actual extension technology) – Not exploited yet

    8. Bio-Agriculture (GMF, etc.) Feeding 15 billion people will require some technological breakthroughs. – Already explored by Mosaic, Potash and the likes

    9. Atmospheric Engineering — modifying Earth’s biosphere to keep it hospitable to Humans in the face of an ice age or global warming; – Not exploited yet

    10. Terra forming/Extra Planetary Colonization (uh-oh, time to go) – Not exploited yet

  26. call me ahab says:

    “Atmospheric Engineering — modifying Earth’s biosphere to keep it hospitable to Humans in the face of an ice age or global warming;”

    now . . . who the fuck are we really- is it all about what makes us feel comfortable- does challenge and perserverence increase the ability of a species to survive-

    or- are we ready to make the earth into a theme park- a place where humans are comfortable- and- entertained- by-

    other species- in zoos- or in confined areas so we can view and be amused or entertained-

    are these other creatures on this planet for our amusement- to live and die at our discretion?

    sad excuse of intelligent life we are- if in fact- we create a giant HVAC for our comfort at the expense of other living things

  27. Intuition says:

    beaufou beat me to it. The single biggest driver of ‘growth’ in the next decade will be the industry of armed conflict.

  28. manhattanguy says:

    well said ahab. But whether you and I like it or not, this is what is going to happen to us in the near future…too late to save the planet imo.

  29. Pretty much everything you say plus:

    Smarter, safer much more fuel efficient housing.

    Re-engineered transportation/travel systems

    And like the internet has already started, a complete revamp of learning and teaching methods that includes the adult population and not just the kiddies

    And maybe, but this would take a lot of human maturity and I don’t know if we have it. Maybe a shift to a much more spiritually based society that is closer to our potential as human beings. I don’t know if there are enough people of that mindset to push us in the right direction though. It could just end with a lot of bloody noses

    The first three can be capitalized on. The fourth could invite a lot of charlatanism if people try to capitalize on it because it is antithetical to financial gain

    And something along the lines of entertainment. I’m thinking of the increasing meld between video games and TV/movies. Almost like a matrix like construct or the holodeck on star trek.

  30. 09_grad says:

    Firstly, computers and the internet were NOT job creators. They were productivity enhancers.

    Future technological advances will lead to additional increases in productivity and efficiency… but NOT MORE JOBS.

    We are graduating an order of magnitude more engineers than there are jobs for (ESPECIALLY in biomedical/biological engineering). Incredibly qualified students from top tier programs are moving back in with their parents without the slightest hope of a career in their field.

  31. Avl Dao says:

    I’d love to see an archival document from Fall 1989 predicting what the big job creators of the 1990s will be. I’d like to see what the ‘consensus’ was…who was close…who missed by a light-year.

    I’d like to see the above repeated with archival prognosticating docs, reflecting ‘a consensus’ from Fall 1999 on the 2000s (yes, the decade with zero net job growth).
    Again, who was close…who missed by a light-year.

    After drinking that ‘Anti’ Spiked Kool-Aid, I’d be sufficiently sobered up to play the forecasting game for the next decade.

  32. PPM says:

    I work in stem cells and I would say not much employment gain here. This will change biomedical industries some, increase employment some, but not earth shaking changes. And don’t hold your breath, it will be years yet. Not that I don’t hope…

    What I think will change is a side of biotech we don’t hear about much but is poised for major changes. This is industrial biotech. Specifically fermentation of cellulosic plant material into first ethanol and later into advanced chemical products. Currently, nearly every car on the road can take 10% ethanol as a fuel. Many take up to 85% ethanol. The need for this ethanol is met in stupid ways by taking corn syrup out of Coke and putting into fermenters. But this is technology we’ve had for 10,000 years more or less. We are poised to take the corn stalks (stover) and turn it into ethanol. This has to happen in relatively small (compared to oil refinery) plants that are distributed across the country. These will be basically Budweiser plants with a still at the end.

    Assume that we double the output of beer (fuel ethanol is fermented in a product called “beer” and then distilled). According to bls we employ 10.8M people at mean income of $42k in “separating, filtering and clarifying” in the beverage industry. Making fuel ethanol is more complicated and we haven’t yet learned efficiencies of scale, but roughly you might need 10.8M more people to run these plants. (I’m not an expert in reading these tables but it seems that the industry makes about 200M barrels of mostly Bud per year, that would be 7M gal/d, about 15% of the demand if 100% of fuel were 10% ethanol. I think.)

    Those will be factory workers. Agricultural workers will also be required. But fermentation is very input dependent (what is the feedstock this week?). The bugs will need to be tailored to the input. Here in upstate NY it will be corn stover in the fall and winter, willow in the spring. In the central valley of CA it will be rice straw. Managing this will take people with PhD-level biology and chem E backgrounds. How many jobs? I don’t know. But many. (And Bush killed the appropriate training programs.) All these jobs are jobs here in the US, distributed throughout the country wherever there is plant waste and cars (not manhattan, sorry).

    A lot of people scoff at bio fuels. Go ahead. The petroleum industry really hopes nothing happens in the field and there is enormous amounts of bad (deliberately bad?) information out there. The biology and the bioengineering is well developed. Yes, its not quite ready. But its very close.

    Ethanol is the first step. Remember that plastics are a side product of petroleum refining. Petroleum was a major fuel by WWII, plastics came of age with the Graduate (ok, earlier). We don’t know exactly what the side products will be from fermentation of cellulose. The first ones will remain fuels, better fuels than ethanol. There will be a side biz in pharmaceutical manufacture. But later ones will be bioplastics or something entirely different.

    If I knew finance, I’d be in deep and long. But, for the moment, I’m trying to cure disease not make a killing.

  33. gloppie says:

    “Where do you think the growth is going to come from over the next few decades?”

    The war machine. It’s not going to end peacefully.

  34. Matt SF says:

    I agree, but I think it’s more specific: robotics (both visible and nanotech), genetic engineering (medical and agricultural), and stem cell tissue engineering.

    Good video from TED for the curious: http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/juan_enriquez_shares_mindboggling_new_science.html

    Not exactly sure that green tech is going to be as much as a growth industry as expected considering the huge lobbying efforts that the carbon producers can rally (and drag their heels).

  35. Carlos says:

    Even though i like your 10 industries listed, these are all highly specialized fields and more importantly they deal for the most part with a lot of mathematics and science and as far i know those are subjects america’s youth and most of the unemployed didn’t do to well in.

  36. Chief Tomahawk says:

    “I got into (yet another) one of those useless, interesting, unprovable debates …”

    HA! All the signs of someone bound for a bar stool at the local Irish pub! May I recommend Murphy’s on King St. in Alexandria, VA? 1989 prices in the heart of the historic area. Mrs. B-P would enjoy the shopping (just a hunch) up and down the strip (about 1 mile in length.) Then there are the $5 tickets for Nationals’ games (see your team on the road for cheap!) put on sale 2.5 hrs. prior to gametime and available at the stadium box office. Park on the street 3 blocks away for free. Then wander up to The Hill in the morning to complain in a Congressional members’ office (one should see & hear the staff handle the calls from “constituents”; the junior senator from New York has a gal who stands every few minutes and wanders about on a cordless headset seemingly saying “you’re driving me nuts!!!” while talking politely with a caller.)

    By the way, for #11 on the list: virtual porn.

  37. CTB says:

    Growth may also come from:
    – High speed rail transportation
    – The science of education, using technology to bring the best educators to a wider audience
    – Preservation of cultural/historical artifacts
    – Rising tourism due to increasing leisure class
    – Vertical farming – bringing fresh vegetables to city centers
    – Harnessing technology to avert natural disasters (hurricanes, earthquakes, asteroids)
    – Desalinization technologies that will be followed by increases in arable land.

  38. PPM says:

    Oops, wrong number from bls. 176,000 ttl in beverage manufacturing (I think). Not 1oM. Big difference. Sorry.

    But running the other numbers, probably need to increase total fermented product by ~5 fold to match 10% of 2003 gasoline use. So maybe fermenter employment goes up by nearly 1M. Construction of facilities, making the stainless fermenters, transport of feedstock and waste (fertilizer), engineering the bugs, etc. another 250k employed?

  39. NiNM says:

    I’m not so sure about genomics. There are plenty of companies out there that excel at draining VC money pretending to be the industry leaders of “hot science” of the moment, ie the “genomics” company that in the span of ten years reinvents itself multiple times as being focused on proteomics, metabolomics, pharmaceuticals, computational biology, the latest being alternative/green biotech.

    I think How the Common Man Sees It has a good guess in entertainment. My parents generation planned to retire and drive around in a motor home and play lots of golf. My peers think playing video games is a great retirement activity.

    I think there will be breakthroughs & growth in technologies we already have related to commodity extraction, ie ways to “re-mine” old mines and to squeeze more oil from old wells, etc.

  40. zebov says:

    So what you’re saying is I should invest in a company using nano-robots to perform stem cell research which they hope to use to create high-density energy storage for use with solar cells?

  41. constantnormal says:

    growth comes from demand.

    where is the demand going to come from?

  42. PrahaPartizan says:

    Oddly enough, BR, you haven’t included much of anything on the list which exploits space applications. We’ve invested a ton of money in this country into NASA and have learned quite a bit, even if it hasn’t really generated any economic return. We probably need to seriously look at using some of the space technologies we’ve developed to tackle some of the ecological and energy problems we have globally. That big booster we’re working on to shoot a manned mission to the moon probably would be better directed at placing large solar panel arrays in orbit with the energy generated being beamed back to earth. Zero-g environments might even prove useful for furthering fusion energy research, even though a large fusion reactor is parked only a few million miles from Earth.

  43. huxrules says:

    Here is where I’m looking at:

    Bandwidth bandwith bandwith – to me it looks like cable tv will die and most “television” will eventually be streamed through the internet. This will require much more cheap bandwith. Right now hulu and netflix have a version of this service. I predict that within ten years streaming HD feeds off the internet will become commonplace.

    As for energy the first to figure out fusion will reap a century of insane growth.

    Also in computers- expect harddrives to die in 5 years. Everything will go to SSDs.

    I think location based services will take off a bit. Recent demonstrations of “enhanced reality” have caught my eye. GPS has never been called out as a government program that led to economic expansion- but it absolutely has. The european GPS system is said to have some ability to work indoors- if they can get that to work expect to see more location based tech take off. A-GPS (which uses cell towers) might improve also with 4G technology.

    Of course most of the job growth will come from using this lull to develop better existing products. Even in boring industries. I guess it goes without saying. It’s a great time to pull the rug out from your competitors.

  44. constantnormal says:

    @PrahaPartizan 12:32 am

    “We’ve invested a ton of money in this country into NASA and have learned quite a bit, even if it hasn’t really generated any economic return”

    Actually, there have been a number of developments that NASA (or the military missile defense programs, take your pick) have been early markets for. When you can’t lift vacuum tube amplifiers or even discrete transistor electronics into orbit, large scale integration is the perfect technology for that application. Making things smaller was driven in large part by the needs of the space program, along with electronics technology that is parsimonious on its energy demands. Same thing with the photovoltaic industry. If not for the space program, there would be no growing solar (PV) electric industry today.

  45. PrahaPartizan says:

    Also, I would place a bet on distributed manufacturing. With high data transfer capability, it means that the templates for a “manufactured” item can be stored in one location and transferred almost instantaneously to a location for fabrication into the finished product. That would be the real Holy Grail of nanotechnology. The industry would be the manufacture of the “fabricators” and the raw materials which would be used in the “fabricators” (gases and powdered materials). That way we would not have to ship finished products from half-way across the planet. It would also mean customized products could be produced for each and every one of us. The real skill would reside in the creation of the “templates” which would used by the “fabricators.” We’ll need to do this sooner than we think because shipping crap from the Pac Rim made cheaply there and shipped dearly here will be unsustainable in the long run.

  46. constantnormal says:

    @BR — Polywell fusion has a decent shot at attaining practicality — certainly moreso than the Tokamak white elephants.

    Also, I would counter your item #8 with #11 — advanced weaponry — smart weapons of mass destruction will negate the need to feed 15 billion people by eliminating several billion of them. Hopefully we will be among the ones remaining, but with economic energy and vigor moving from the debt-laden Western economies to the up-and-coming emerging nations, I think we can safely assume that, as they move up the economic ladder, there will be a lot of innovation coming from nations other than the United States of Bananamerica.

  47. godly says:

    Has anyone looked at the latest release of data from the chinese ? Unlike analysts who think this is recovery, I believe we are seeing an incredible shift in global economics and International relationships.

    Read it here.
    The chinese killer punch

    Fund Manager

  48. constantnormal says:


    “expect harddrives to die in 5 years. Everything will go to SSDs”

    I trust you’ll let me know when there are terabyte SSDs that are cheaper than my current several-terabyte disk array (used as a media server, feeding the HDTV). Hard drives are currently running less than a dollar a gigabyte. Once you start using large amounts of storage, nothing beats a spinning hard drive.

    Maybe when we get down to using molecular memory elements we can put the spinning platters out to pasture, but SSDs are not going to do the job. All they will do is rearrange the boundaries between spinning platters and solid state storage.

  49. constantnormal says:

    A more interesting question would be what are the nearest disruptive technologies and what industries will be disrupted?

  50. bkold3000 says:

    This one is so obvious you won’t believe you didn’t think of it first:

    Coal-powered solar panels.

    I call them “coalar panels.”

    Even better yet, the panels could have a hydroponic substrate – “groalar panels.” VCs feel free to email me – I need cash flow to continue my research…

  51. spencerh says:

    Barry: are there any existing or upcoming ETFs for the things in your list (except Green/clean tech, these seem pretty easy to come by these days)? If not, perhaps someone would be inclined to open them :-)

  52. constantnormal says:

    @constantnormal 12:27 am

    “where will the demand come from?”

    Answer: China. Just as the Japanese had all the really neat hi-tech toys in the latter part of the last century, the Chinese will be where all the neat new tech is deployed — after all, that’s where are the jobs (and hence the consumers who have the disposable income to buy them) will be.

    I’m not spewing sour grapes here — it’s just a logical consequence of our destruction of our middle class and assumption of mind-boggling amounts of debt. Anyone contemplating getting rich exporting to China had better figure out how to convince the Chinese government to not impose trade barriers once their domestic population grows into its own consumer marketplace.

    Even if our 1% that owns and runs everything uses robots to build the products, they will still face a problem convincing the Chinese government to allow imports to take the jobs from local workers.

  53. constantnormal says:

    @constantnormal 1:11 am

    “… what are the nearest disruptive technologies and what industries will be disrupted?”


    does away with the need to upgrade the electrical grid by storing locally produced electricity near where it is used.

    electric utilities are the obvious casualties, with ripple effects through the places that live off the income from utility bonds

  54. brazzer says:

    Call me crazy

    Does is seem like many of these “advancements” would follow in the style of job growth of the 90′s. Job growth for a decade or two during research and deployment phase that multiplies productivity gains. Which in the long run reduce the need for employees later on in the cycle and permanently going forward.
    Are we destined to have bubbles and busts in one form or another due to technological advances?

  55. Trainwreck says:

    Damn good question.

    Healthcare: doesn’t create long term wealth for our nation unless we can figure out how to export healthcare to the rest of the world and import dollars
    Hi-tech industries such as robotics and computer sciences are a possible avanue, unfortunattly innovations in these fields are easily copied and cheaper employees in other nations will be a persistent and continuing nag on our economy.
    Specialization in those fields might be the cure, for our youngest generations. But the gutting of our existing generations in the workforce will continue for times to come. Sure we can train engineers, but so can China and India cheeper.

    USA’s workforce is overpaid compared to the rest of the world.
    USA’s workforce has labor promises that other countries don’t extend to their employees (I’m all for them, progress means making life better overall, but can the federation compete with the cutthrought Klingons?)

    Unfortunately USA does not protect their workforce in order to maintain jobs like other countries such as Japan, Germany, France, etc. USA views labor as a commodity to be exploited.

  56. Trainwreck says:

    Right now the only protected industry in the USA is defense, might be something to think about when investing. Of course that could end up under the knife. Related industry Aerospace, or any other potentially industry restricted by ITAR (guns?)

  57. Whammer says:

    Couple of things I haven’t seen mentioned — cloud computing, whatever that turns out to be. Relates to the “bandwidth, bandwidth, bandwidth” comment above.

    Another relatively simple thing that still needs to play out — the digital home/living room How do you get movies, TV shows, games, etc., delivered to every room in the house, without needing a geek to rig it for you.

  58. the0ther says:

    prostitution and mercenaries. that’s about all the job growth we’re going to see for a long time.

  59. WaveCatcher says:

    My #1 would be Green/low carbon energy… Cheap Energy is what makes the world go around.

    Nuclear has the lowest $$$cost/KwH for the next 20 years, so that will be where the majority of energy investment goes. Eventually solar may be able to compete with Nuclear on cost. Wind and tide energy will never be dominant, but together might supply 10-20% of our total energy needs.

  60. Trainwreck says:

    I actually agree that nuclear is a good play. How to play it is another question, really fraught with political issues, how do you actually invest in it, and the NMBY crowd will always be around. Better then oil, but worse then what? Are there actually better investments in wind, solar, hydro, etc?

  61. Seattle Chill says:

    There’s no need to wait for commercial fusion technology (which, as the joke goes, has been “merely a decade away” for more than fifty years now.) We could begin to revolutionize the US economy tomorrow by building modern fast-breeder reactors. But first, Americans need to grow up and get over their irrational fear of the other N-word. Countries across the globe are already developing these technologies right now, but the US hasn’t planned a new reactor in decades. If we don’t begin to act soon, the rest of the world is going to leave us behind in the dark ages.

  62. Seattle Chill says:

    Trainwreck, you beat me to it. You are of course right about the NIMBYers, and nuclear plants have such high capital costs that government involvment is required, so there goes the support of all the Reaganite “government IS the problem” Republicans. Something tells me it’s going to take oil at $150 again before we see any real movement on this issue.

  63. Jimmy Doolittle says:

    Personal Security Systems – see ‘Argentina’

  64. In a previous comment someone said, “Growth comes from demand. Where is the demand going to come from?” It ignites thoughts but ultimately we will be confronted with the fact that we simply do not know yet. For the intermediate term I have the following strategy, and I’m going to explain why:

    During the dot-com bubble everyone was hypnotized about anything concerning technology. The general public had a vision and bought it. Eventually it awakened and realized that there was not much more behind even though fundamentals did back up the visions to a certain extent. During the following years a process of separating the wheat from the chaff was going on and only those companies who had the right management/strategy/products strived. Apple had a huge run, as did Google or RIM. Yahoo and Microsoft on the other hand were dumped. Still remember Digital Lightwave or Internet Capital Group?

    Recently we had a “bubble” in solar technology, China, banks, housing et al. I suggest focusing on such groups that had grand visions believed by the crowd. When the dust settles, certain companies will be striving again and this is where growth and demand will come from. Unless we ignite another grand vision for the general public, this is perhaps the way to go for now.

  65. Mike in Nola says:


    You left out nuclear blackmail. I think that may be our best chance to make money.

    Hay, all. Been out of commission the past week. Manipulated markets ain’t worth talking about.
    Would love to see Geithner put his money where his mouth is and remove support for financials. Then it might get interesting. Of course, BB will still keep up his CFC (Cash for Crap) programs.

    Constantnormal had it about right when he said that for growth you need demand. And where is demand going to come from? The Chinese won’t buy from anyone and they have all the money. They will just steal the tech.

    Some of this stuff is pie in the sky:

    Web 2.0 — a promoter’s dream. Facebook? What’s the business model? Selling ads. For what? The viewers need actual money to buy things.

    Stem cells? Republicans are set to regain strength in Congress and block anything thanks to a pansy President. They presented him with a perfect opening to call them all out the other night when that ahole yelled out “liar” in the middle of the speech. Perfect class war opening. Instead we get an apology. And on Larry King, even McCain gets away with saying Obama’s remarks on Palin’s lies about death panels are “gratuitious.” You can’t even call a lie a lie anymore on the MSM; have to be “bigpartisan.” Cheney is no doubt smiling about all he got away with. This country will have to go through a lot more pain before any real change comes. And by then the real innovators will be in the Far East where they have real money and not just printing presses.

  66. Mike in Nola says:

    oops – meant “bipartisan.”

  67. VennData says:

    America is an Entertainment Economy

  68. Patrick Neid says:

    Local, state and Federal government as folks continue to flee the risks of the quasi free market. Best wages, gold plated benefits, yearly raises and tenured status. We are in the process of society being turned inside out.

  69. Swedish Lex says:

    Most, if not all, of points 1-10 will require government intervention, e.g. tax incentives, on a significant scale soon in order to become drivers of growth of any significance.

  70. Bruce in Tn says:

    Oh, I like the Cambrian reference…

    10 is out…too many Benjamins.

  71. Bruce in Tn says:

    A little off topic, but since it is 9/11…I saw a man who participated in the Utah Beach landings at D-Day yesterday in the salt mine…quite a treat…very humble…he’s going to a reunion next week of old veterans and the reunion is “held” on an old LST from WW2 that was involved in D-Day. Unfortunately there are only 2 vets from the actual D- Day experience who are going (this gentleman was 17) all the rest are older veterans….he was a delight to talk to…still had a good firm handshake..

  72. Bruce in Tn says:

    I should say later veterans not older…but you know what I mean…

    technology for government observation of the population will be a growth industry…like stop lights that give tickets automatically and possibly more malignant versions…not necessarily the USA, but that will happen too…some of this occurs when population densities rise and we are no longer farmers but crowded into urban spaces….more and better 7/11 cameras, listening devices, etc…


  73. crazyjerrygarcialover says:

    Because I feel it is premature to discuss from whence growth will come in the next few years until our economy demonstrates that it can grow organically (without Fed government parabolic deficits), my reply focuses on what is almost certain to grow over the next few years. In order:

    1) US Federal government budget deficits

    2) US national debt

    3) Goldman Sachs profits (tough not to grow a lot when you can have as much free taxpayer money as you want, your primary regulator allows you to use your own models to set leverage/VAR limits, and the Supreme Court stands ready to allow you to contribute as much money as you want to election campaigns)

    4) The average US citizen’s tax burden

    5) Poverty in the US

    6) Ultra-wealth in the US (higher concentration in fewer hands)

    Now that I’ve dispensed that bit of hope and sunshine, I wish each of you a great Friday and weekend.

  74. danm says:

    The best returns usually come from the less sexy areas of the economy. As sooon as something looks promising and the barriers to entry are low, you get a flood of players.

    All the stuff I am interested in right now does not exist unless I create my own firm. If it does exist, it is privately owned.

    Most of the stuff on public markets is overvalued have beens which get a liq

  75. danm says:

    Sorry I clicked the wrong button.

    Most of the large stocks on the public markets are capital intensive, overvalued have beens which get a liquidity premium because most investors do not have the time to do proper research. Most of those publicly traded stocks should only move up with the increase in money supply and M&A boosts. Leverage usually keeps the game going until they reach that 60-70% debt to equity ratio.

    You can get growth industries, yet get crappy returns.

  76. danm says:

    they reach that 60-70% debt to equity ratio

    Should have been debt-to-capital.

  77. jc says:

    NYT -Small investors edge back into market.Just in time for…guess what!

  78. danm says:

    Are we destined to have bubbles and busts in one form or another due to technological advances?
    Since human beings are made to live in small communities, tend to think linearly while the economy is not, my guess is that the larger the economy, the more difficult it gets to control.

    So yes, I would think we are destined to get bigger bubbles.

  79. danm says:

    6. Robotics — the continued replacement of humans by machine, for both labor and judgement”
    A growing population continuously replaced by machines
    Dependency ratio going from 5 to 1 to 2/1 over next couple of decades. Chances are we’ll need those machines to satisfy demand.

    For example, a friend of mine, a nurse, quit nursing and went into programming. Her job was to develop a software which would help monitor the vitals of patients at home. Nurses and doctors could monitor these off site. Cuts down on trips to the hospital.

  80. danm says:

    Food for thought…

    Most of the people I know who’ve made the most money over the last 2 decades (excluding those in the financial industry) did not have much education.

  81. Greg0658 says:

    Think of the line “Plastics” in The Graduate .. um “Its a Wonderful Life” heehaw

    “if you can identify the sectors in advance that will flourish” .. higher education is so specialized these days so little time to get going on the right path .. maybe need to get business to sponcer a student at high school

    “always the possability a marvelous energy storage device appearing …. electricity based one”
    happening already but would like to see less interstate transmission and small generator sollutions and plentifull refill stations

    “invested a ton of money in this country into NASA and have learned quite a bit, even if it hasn’t really generated any economic return” .. huh – intercontinental security rocketry, global instant communications, gps1.0 & gps2.0

    “Trainwreck” .. thats what I expect out of this system .. have a nice Patriot Day and weekend

  82. torrie-amos says:

    pc’s, cell phones and such were designed in late 1950′s, mid 1970′s first functional device, 20 years later cost on a feature benefit hit mass markets, that was worldwide demand………..we have life cycles and S curves to deal with…………..now my specialty in college in 79 was alternative energy, ie, solar and nuclear……….now we have known how solar works since mid 60′s, let’s take 2000 as a date for solar as finally getting too first functional stage, the cost is high, 9 years later solar farms are viable when looked at over life cycle costs of 50-100 years……same with wind…….right now it would cost 35k to put solar on an average house, when it get’s down too 15k, which means panel costs must plummet 80% because labor is fairly cheap and easy………you have a product that is viable for every home, mass market………most of the items listed are eons away from mass market………it’s mass market where the money is………..worlwide it’s roads, hospitals, schools, electrifying, which leads to ability to compete for capital because you have security of labor and access for the future………….here in the usa, the cost of capital is astronomical compared too return in emergin markets, do we need more hospital, roads, schools etc. not really………Michael Porters “Competitive Advantage of Nations” is a very enlightening book, what is our competitive advantage, well IMHO, we were the richest, the best, the most powerful, we had moral authroity and a desire for others too be like us, in 8 years worldwide trust was squandered, who the heck trusts us when we papered the world with bad financial products and started a war ill designed……we use 25 barrels of oil per person, europe 15, emerging markets 4, our country was built on cheap energy, higher energy costs will really hurt us, so in summary jobs will come from energy efficiency because this will always be a constant forever, to live we need cheap energy, we’ve got the rest of the stuff figured out

  83. Mikhail Sergeyevich says:

    My predictions:

    1) Prisons/Workcamps

    2) Police/Military (mostly private)

    3) Government/National Security

    4) Luxury goods (for elite)

    5) Personal services (for elite)

    6) Biotech enhancement (life extension technologies applied to elite)

    7) Construction of high-tech enclaves in and around current edge cities (to house the elite)

    8) Militia/Gangs/Death Squads (for the non-elite outside of the enclaves).

  84. jc says:

    Green energy/smart grid is getting US grants and going commercial. Smart, 2 way meters allow better match of supply/demand – and immediate savings from reduced overgeneration. Marginal gen like photovoltaic can be fed back into the grid.

  85. prostitution and mercenaries. that’s about all the job growth we’re going to see for a long time.

    And don’t forget consultants to figure out which is which

  86. Onlooker from Troy says:

    Nuclear could really take off if we could find a truly satisfactory answer for the disposal of spent nuclear material other than sticking it in expensive holes in the ground in NV. The other concerns are real in people (melt down; the 3 mile island scenario) but could be overcome with some good education of the safety record since that incident.

  87. IdahoSpud says:

    I am investing in Soylent Green, LLC. Goldman is handling the IPO.

  88. emmanuel117 says:



    (Makes crap money with an “IT” degree)

  89. cacerolo says:

    Not enough new jobs in the future. Humans will have to come back to basics. One income per family. One will have to take care of family the other one to provide food and clothing. That has been human history for the last 10,000 years but some greedy smart men thought that if more people worked they could sell more stuff . Then another smarter gay thought that if there would be no trade barriers they could sell even more stuff and with a higher profit ( producing in the chepest place and selling in the richest market). The problem was that everyboy bought that thinking and rushed to act in the same way. No one asked how the richest could keep being the richest without producing anything, but then financial smart gay had the solution, give them credit so they keep thinking they are even richer. This experiment has worked for a while but 30 years is nothing compared with human history. With increasing population + increasing productivity there is too much capacity of producing anything but common sense. We will learn in the hard way, no one is smarter than nature.

  90. Graveltongue says:

    Excellent @ How the common man sees it 9.10.
    Can someone please explain to me how we maintain sustained economic growth with diminishing levels of blue collar employment. Do economists and financial folk ever read the science journals? Are they aware of the tech that’s waiting in the wings? Human labour is future irrelevant. We need to start making plans to phase ourselves out.

  91. Deflator Mouse says:

    3. Batteries (energy storage in general) is the key to any “green” energy production- wind and solar are great, but cannot be counted on as base load supplies- unless we can store huge amounts of energy to be supplied on-demand. This one is a lock.

    8. Bio-agriculture- this, I presume, includes biofuels. Less enthusiast about food-for-fuel, (from an energy balance/best use poibt-of-view) but its the law!

  92. randy says:


    Two things that should be on your list: Energy and Water.

    (You have “green energy”, but I think that the growth sector is bigger than that.)

    High tech requires energy. I’m bullish on most energy companies, including growth in oil and gas. I don’t expect any of the alternatives (solar, nuclear, geothermal, wind, waves, etc.) to hit a home run with a game-changing breakthrough. So it is a question of incrementally reducing the price-point where each becomes viable. That process that will take years.

    Nuclear seems to be starting a mini-boom. If those folks can prove their safety I think they will have a decent amount of growth. I know that there is a huge issue in waste fuel disposal, but that is a trailing problem. I think as energy costs increase people will be more willing to ignore the trailing problem.

    I’m no expert on the other alternative technologies, but solar and wind seem closest to getting their cost per watt down to a competitive level. When they do that they will boom. Or rather, whichever one does that first will experience a good boom.

    There is a ton of money and (a Noble prize) awaiting the genius who develops a good solution to the waste nuclear fuel problem. I expect to see a solution to that in my lifetime. If that happens before solar or wind reach their tipping point, then they are dead.

    Water. Water purification/reclamation. Water desalinization. Water pipelines. Irrigation. There are still technology improvements needed and possible here. But the big growth will be in blue collar jobs to lay the pipes and build the pumps.

  93. Groty says:

    Those are all potential growth fields, but I don’t know why you think the U.S. will exploit them. Your heros Stiglitz and Krugman have already declared capitalism failed. Venture capital investment is declining. Innovation and risk taking are now uncool. Americans are all about more regulation, big government, Keynesianism, and dependency on the state. It’s like we’re living in 1930s America all over again.

    6000 years of civilizatin, but the rate with which humans have depleted the planet’s resources went parabolic in the past 150 years. The future winners will be those that make big investments in intellectual capital to exploit the resources that remain. The Chinese graduate more PhDs per year than the U.S. confers bachelors degrees. The Chinese encourge capital formation and risk taking with 0% capital gains taxes, while the U.S will soon be taxing everything that moves to feed our bloated, socialist government.

    You can bet on the U.S. Socialists, where healthcare for all will soon be a “right”, and where those who have managed to avoid the grim reaper for 65 years are rewarded with a monthly stipend and given almost free healthcare.

    I’ll bet on the Chinese communists.

  94. [...] Whence Growth?: On his Big Picture blog, Barry Ritholtz wonders where growth might come from. “My view is that there are several fields that are potentially big growers, but their best years were not near term. It would be a good few years before we enjoyed another Cambrian explosion like we did in the 1990s. Recall the full build out of cellular, PCs, semiconductors, software, CPUs (286/386/486) — the explosion of internet websites, and data storage. These were enormous job creators. Now? I can name 10 niches, most of which have future growth potential, but few that can expand into something truly substantial, rising to the size of any of the giant sectors above.” [...]

  95. Graveltongue says:

    For new battery tech you need to check out the St Andrews Air Battery (Stair Battery). Clever stuff, ready for market in 4 to 5 years.


  96. njtking says:


    Your colleuge is correct. The growth prospects you listed will generate laughibly few if any jobs. Structurally high unemployment is the new norm. Welcome to the Great Depression 2.0.