It would be great to travel back in time and reap a fortune by applying knowledge of future events. Lacking that, I think there are some things that are shockingly predictable and the only question is when they will happen. If you knew the future, what would you do? Could you capitalize on it? Could you lay the groundwork ahead of time to profit from it? Call it future hindsight.
Here is my list of some things I think are nearly certain long term bets. When they happen, they shouldn’t really be a surprise because you could see them coming. Some of these are a bit out there, but just wait and see.
- End of oil and gasoline as we know it.
Someday, it will all be gone or perhaps just irrelevant. What will happen to every corner gas station, every storage facility and every refinery? What about international shipping and idled oil tankers? Middle East governments?
- Proof of Intelligent Extraterrestrials
First, I don’t think little green men are dropping by Earth for beer runs or that an alien spaceship is in Area 51. However, scientists are getting better every day at detecting smaller items in the universe. One day, they will detect the interstellar equivalent of a Great Wall of China. It will be something obviously created by intelligent life. Maybe it’s just a speck of a space highway or the remains of some teenage alien kid who spelled his initials in asteroids. They’ll probably be so far away that we’ll never make contact, but it will be virtually impossible to deny that we are not alone. Will people say “so what” or will it transform the world? Will it impact religion and politics? Will it jump-start the next space race? What funny T-shirts will be best sellers?
- End of U.S. Embargo against Cuba
One day, the Castro brothers will expire or cede power or the U.S. will just decide to end restrictions on travel and business. Do you have a business plan and the connections made for when that day happens? If Cuba is open to it, there will be a huge gold rush.
- Your Wired Brain on the Internet
We will all be wired in the future with a brain-computer interface. It may creep some people out, but in the future it will just make sense. There may be a mid-term phase of external devices, but eventually the brain code will be cracked. There have already been experiments to help the blind see. If they can “see” a computer image from a camera, they can “see” a Web page or a video, too. There have even been experiments to train monkeys to control computers with their minds. What will this mean for the Web? For social interactions? For the biotech industry? For politics? For Final Jeopardy challenges?
- Legal Gay Marriage
The legal objections to this are falling by the wayside. Why? Generally, Americans dislike laws that treat one class of people different from another. While people will long object on religious grounds and some churches will never get on board, governments will end up recognizing marriage between consenting same-sex adults because they won’t have a constitutional reason to not do so. How will politics, religion and government forms change?
Bonus Big Love Prediction: Watch for whether polygamists use the same justifications as gay marriage advocates to push for legal plural marriage (e.g. loving relationships, consenting adults, no harm to others).
- Universal Health Care
We will eventually determine that a minimum level of health care is a right and not a privilege. No one will have to end up in an uninsured gap. Who wins and who loses? Who pays for it? How will innovation be boosted and the labor pool change when no one has to stick with a job for healthcare benefits?
- Holographic TV
The new 3D TVs are nothing. Just wait until your TV is replaced by a tabletop device that is a mini-stage for 3D plays. I’m saying it won’t use the illusion of three dimensions, I’m saying it really will have physical depth to the picture. (This won’t really be a hologram, but that’s the label that got applied back in Star Wars and stuck.)
- Monitored Cars
If you don’t like red light cameras and photo radar, you’re going to hate it when law enforcement monitors every vehicle 24/7. They’ll know when you are speeding, when you run a red light, when you text and drive, and even when you weave out of your lane. The technology is there and proponents will have public safety and law obedience on their side, so they’ll eventually trump the privacy advocates. Of course, it won’t matter much when cars drive themselves and built-in limits.