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LowDD


Total Posts: 142
Joined: Feb 2009
 
Posted: 2009-11-30 19:24

I think we have had some great technological advances over the past 10-years.  From iPhone/iPod and the associated communications/media revolution to hybrid cars and the new industry of battery tech/energy tech that looks set to grow exponentially.  I noticed this year that FirstSolar broke the $1/watt barrier on solar manufacturing (down from $3/watt in 5 years) and I think that both Lipitor and Viagra (my two favorite pills) come off patent in 2010. 

The next 10-years look good with a huge push right now in energy tech/clean tech, lots of genetics research, and the next legs of computers/mobile/media keeping a brisk pace with the iPhone revolution and the contining massive price drops on all fronts -- processing, storage, and HD display.  I am watching fish farming (blue fin rancher?) and ocean fertilization projects (more nutrients = plankton = carbon sink + increased fish life).  I am watching the fusion project at Livermore Labs and the NIF.

I would be interested to hear what areas of research others are watching.  What do you think are the most important coming technological advances, products, etc? 


NeroTulip


Total Posts: 1013
Joined: May 2004
 
Posted: 2009-11-30 20:11

I had not really thought about it, but fish farming sounds like a great idea. Do you seriously see this as a good investment opportunity?

Personally I am interested in medecine and neuroscience/neuropsychology. This is another area where exciting progress is being made. I just have enough time to scratch the surface though...


Inflatable trader

curvefitter


Total Posts: 124
Joined: Oct 2007
 
Posted: 2009-11-30 21:07
i have indeed seen fish farming stocks recommended in the last year or so -- if memory serves well they were located in asia/oceania and traded in ny.. i can look them up later i think.

me, i am watching not the techs themselves but their second order effects -- longer lifespans, retiree orgies, unbreathable air and so on. Long ionizers!

on a less life changing note: anybody know who makes those glass panels that turn into screens that i saw on bbg tv? i sure would buy one. The only thing i could google is http://www.woehburk.de/ but they're not public. Would love to know if they are just projected on, or if its more advanced than that -- they sure look cool

LowDD


Total Posts: 142
Joined: Feb 2009
 
Posted: 2009-11-30 21:33

@ Nero - I seriously see fish farming as a good investment.  Unfortunately, I do not see it as an attractive public securities investment for a variety of capitalist/market failure reasons.  It seems clear that we will one day "farm the seas" just as we today farm land.  The same progression is happenning.  There are already significant public companies that do atlantic salmon farming.  I think the tuna case is more interesting. Here is a link to a PBS piece called "Farming the Seas / Blue Fin Aquaculture".  It is probably a good overview.

http://www.pbs.org/emptyoceans/fts/tuna/casestudy.html

Actually, it seems that Time magazine has me scooped and named "Breeding Blue Fin in Captivity" the second best invention of 2009.  It is being done by Clean Seas Tuna, a small Australian company run, I believe, by a notable Aussie billionaire.  It also has been done by a small Japanese firm for some time.

http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1934027_1934003_1933946,00.html

One of the most interesting connections, is that many climate researchers point to "fertilizing the sea" as one of the best potential climate sinks.  Basic theory is that most of the sea is like a barren desert because nutrient levels are too low.  But if you add iron you get a great plankton bloom, ideally sinking carbon, and increasing fish life.  Basically you are trying to mimic the effects of the abundant areas of the sea (Baring sea, Grand Banks, etc) similar to having nutrient rich top soil in the abundant farming areas of the middle of the U.S.  One promising idea is that deep ocean water (below 1000 ft) is nutrient rich. With some simple circulation the entire ocean might be made multiples more productive (again, market failure).

 


polysena


Total Posts: 1062
Joined: Nov 2007
 
Posted: 2009-11-30 21:49

hmm re fish farming.. I have seen recently an appalling documentary  where some company in Canada is conceiving genetically modified salmon that look like monsters- enormous an fat, and handicapped (poor fish)... and the risk associated in having a leak and such monsters leaking in the ocean and eliminating  native species...

Other documentaries show that around malta, the dejections of the fish farms pollute the sea in no less a way than traditionnally polluting activities...

I guess one has to dig slightly under the surface... in fish farming.


What we anticipate seldom occurs: but what we least expect generally happens." D'israeli

prophet
Banned

Total Posts: 149
Joined: Oct 2004
 
Posted: 2009-11-30 22:01
Two big areas of innovation I am involved in include millimeter wave imaging radar and machine vision algorithms. Both address a range of applications including robots, manufacturing, medicine, security, construction, transportation, entertainment and warfighting. I can safely say current machine vision algorithms are in the stone age compared to what's coming.

I often look at other industries and I can't really find such a disparity between what's commercialized and what's in R&D. Otherwise I'd be there. The only other example was search engines and all the other well-integrated internet technologies before Google. The big problem with internet technologies is trying to profit from them. Even without the open source movement and Google, copying of ideas and concepts is so aggressive that profit margins have been mostly destroyed.

EDIT: LowDD, to properly answer your question, here are some of my experiences in evaluating tech R&D:

1) The most valuable tech research with good profit potential is kept highly secret. Takes a bit of networking to find. Forget about science labs or published information to reveal it.

2) Profit margins and standards of profitability vary so wildly across industries to the point of insanity. This happens because most engineers don't act rationally because they don't understand business. Engineers will flock to a popular industry (eg Google Inc or iTunes App Store) like sheep.

3) Most successful/profitable tech innovation involves perfecting an existing well-known concept (iPod, Google Search), not creating a whole new concept.

4) Most tech R&D consists of solutions-looking-for-problems or solutions-looking-for-popularity. Businesses just can't figure out to let demand drive i.e. talk to customers and understand where the profit margins are.

5) The most visible long-term profitable tech companies have some kind of infrastructure-based monopololy.

jslade


Total Posts: 1136
Joined: Feb 2007
 
Posted: 2009-11-30 22:40
What do you think are the most important coming technological advances, products, etc?

Honestly, I don't think there are any. I also don't think the last 10 years have produced the types of technological breakthroughs which can grow an economy, which is why the economy hasn't grown. iphones are great, but they're toys. They don't increase productivity any more than video games do. Solar power is silly; solar radiation is diffuse, and there isn't any in the nighttime. Viagra: a comfort to my old age, though considering my personal life, I think I'll prefer whiskey by then. Fish farming is already a big deal in Asia; most of the fish I buy at 99 Ranch comes from fish farms.

Networked computing really did make a lot of new stuff possible. There is nothing like that waiting in the wings. Biotech will come up with some fancy new drugs, but at best those just improve quality of life: they don't really increase human productivity -not that there isn't money to be made here, but it's not economy changing kinds of money. Nanotech, of course, is a joke. There could be a breakthrough in something like quantum computing which makes new things possible, but considering the navel gazing research directions that field has taken, I doubt it.

New economic activity will come from unexploited ideas in computer networking, and in exploiting the cost differentials in BRIC versus Europe and North America. There will also be a lot of industry destruction and decentralization to come: legacy media is mostly doomed, telephone companies will eventually have to change their business models, etc.

"Learning, n. The kind of ignorance distinguishing the studious."

prophet
Banned

Total Posts: 149
Joined: Oct 2004
 
Posted: 2009-11-30 23:04
I also don't think the last 10 years have produced the types of technological breakthroughs which can grow an economy

Agreed. I personally believe the US economy is in trouble due to an increasingly uncompetitive and inefficient workforce. No technological breakthrough short of vastly improved education will fundamentally fix the US economy. Many tech breakthroughs in the hands of the majority actually worsen workforce efficiency.

Yes modern advances have less impact than the invention of the automobile and indoor plumbing. Technology has been asymptotically approaching the limits of physics for thousands of years. Computing technology seems to be furthest from that limit currently. In fact its possibly even unbounded in a way because the energy cost of computation is so low.

LowDD


Total Posts: 142
Joined: Feb 2009
 
Posted: 2009-11-30 23:39

Jslade/Prophet - Thanks. 

As an optimist, I disagree with the tone of both your posts.  Prophet, I think there are some amazing things in R&D in energy tech, clean tech for example in battery storage and continuing solar development.  I think Kleiner Perkins has moved their entire focus to that space.  They are hard to bet against over 5-10 years.  Jslade, maybe you work at Clarium as that is Peter Thiel's line - "No innovation last 10 years".  I disagree.  You seem to overlook that simple EMAIL is an enormous human productivity tool on par with pencil and paper.  It beats meetings, phones, and memos by 10x.  And so having it with me everywhere in a rich-media format is pretty powerful.  Email itself has only become universal in the past 10-years, mobile in the past 5-yrs.

I think both of you overlook how the "spark" that creates technological activity is not always some grand research thing.  Electricity distribution was put in place to create light (not washers, dryers, TVs, elevators, factories, etc).  Running water is not exciting, but oh so nice.  The renaissance boom was driven by the "spice trade"... which was really the adoption of peppercorn and ground pepper into european food.  Pepper!  I cannot imagine life without it.  Google is similar, it is fundamentally an advertising company and it is revolutionary in recognizing that contextually driven text ads, sold pay-per-click would become a dominant better ad paradigm.  Then it wraps that delivery in technology (search, maps, voice, etc).  But the beating heart is essentially a better method for advertisers to attract customers.  The best technology investments are often simpler technologies (AAPL, GMCR for ex).

So the basic idea here, is that the technology often starts out simple (pepper, running water, electric light, calculators, web search, hybrid cars, solar cels) but as soon as you create a simple viable product then the efforts of hundreds of capitalist companies innovate to create incremental improvements and symbotic relationships.  Over time this yields enormous complexity and higher order value the original simple innovation could not predict.  Basic evolution.

I do agree that the topics of "why/how" certain industries and innovations attract talented people and become absurdly profitable while other languish is fascinating and important.  It seems to have alot to do with the symbiotic confluence of many companies working together.  And some of it is just fundamental to the speed of innovation and commericalization versus our patent/copyright regime.  And some of it is unique contributions of a few individuals. It often occurs to me that advances in base molecular chemistry / nuclear probably have significant low-hanging fruit with massive benefits to all mankind.  But the market fails in these areas due to regulation, capital requirements, pace of commercialization, etc.  Clean tech, fish farming, and ocean tech are similar areas of market failure (so far) for some obvious reasons.

 


jslade


Total Posts: 1136
Joined: Feb 2007
 
Posted: 2009-12-01 06:44
LowDD: I don't disagree with you that networked computer technology is important, and likely to be one of the things we can squeeze more value out of as the years progress. However, I do think the low hanging fruit is picked. Email is a good example of this. It probably took until the early 00's to make it as seamless with other applications as it is now, but that's done.

Nope: I don't work for Theil (Ronin), and didn't realize he said this. Consider his perspective; I think he's also a VC, or at least heavily involved in VC circles. He made his pile at Paypal: a real innovation: electric cash you could originally send using a palm pilot! Kind of murdered in its sleep and turned into a glorified credit card verifier, but the original idea was super revolutionary. Most internet VC is now chasing silly "web 2.0" leisure crap like facebook or twitter, or unmonetizable stuff like Bit torrent.

I wish it wasn't, but alternative energy is a crock. Thermodynamics hasn't changed since the turn of the last century, and it ain't going to any time soon. Example: the most efficient internal combustion engines there are (big, slow turning diesels like the Man or Atlas) were designed in the 1930s. No matter how many microchips and laser sensors you glue on your high tech motor, you can't beat a big giant iron piston that turns at 25rpm. No matter how fancy a battery you make, you can't beat a gallon of diesel fuel for megajoules per kilogram. It's depressing I know, but it's also true.

I also agree with Prophet that America's workforce is terrible on all kinds of levels, and I'll add that tort law, corruption and insane regulation makes business difficult. On the other hand, if I knew an obviously better place to make money by starting a business, I'd emigrate.

"Learning, n. The kind of ignorance distinguishing the studious."

FDAXHunter
Founding Member

Total Posts: 8362
Joined: Mar 2004
 
Posted: 2009-12-01 08:51
I think in the next 10 years (more in the second half than in the first) we will start to see an increasing proliferation of robotics. There's a fairly big push to get some autonomous vehicles and other basic machinery into some sort of production cycle.

Of course at the moment we have gimmicky things like robot vacuum cleaners and lawn mowers.
But those will become better over the coming years and before you know it, we have autonomously moving beds in hospitals, industrial strength cleaning robots (that can clean offices, super markets and hospitals) and other basic helpers.
I don't think we'll have anything really clever and complex (like self-driving cars & buses, a robot bitch that brings you beer or some other sci-fi conception) in the next decade, but hey, one step at a time.

Anyway, this is pure speculation (it's nice to speculate). The one thing I know is that predicting the future of society and technology ten years out is pretty futile. People can't even predict where their own speciality field is going ("640K of memory is enough for everyone"). Good luck trying to predict the general direction of technology at large.

So the one bet that I have is that whatever you guys come up with... is not going to happen Big Smile

The Figs Protocol.

prophet
Banned

Total Posts: 149
Joined: Oct 2004
 
Posted: 2009-12-01 16:08
Great discussion here.

First a nitpick:
You seem to overlook that simple EMAIL is an enormous human productivity tool on par with pencil and paper. It beats meetings, phones, and memos by 10x.

For some applications yes. For others no. If I could type as fast as I write I'd agree with you. I also love my iPhone but want to ditch it because my wife's LG Xenon is 3x faster for typing email with 3x battery life, which represents 95% of what I need in a phone. Why can't Apple figure this out?

I am also an optimist. I'm just very critical of popular technology dogma. Jslade is right about alternative energy. The least cost, greenest and most overlooked solution to energy problems has always been efficiency improvements. One of my interest areas is a novel form of expanded polyethylene foam that could offer triple insulation value at nearly zero materials cost and is non-toxic. Solar panels will someday be competitive with wind but that's a harder bet to make when solar thermal (sterling engine) is already more efficient, can process any thermal source (biomass/wood chip burning). It only lacks the economy of scale and to overcome the fact that most people don't actually understand why a stirling engine is fundamentally more efficient than solar PV. No PV panel can process all wavelength photons. A thermal engine processes all photonic/thermal energy.

Here's another example of tech dogma being proven wrong

certain industries and innovations attract talented people and become absurdly profitable

I often see the opposite. Labor and education have huge lags and can't keep up with innovation. Parts of the tech industry have attracted so many talented people they've become oversupplied and unprofitable. Other industries are ignored and become hugely profitable for those who remain.

I think in the next 10 years (more in the second half than in the first) we will start to see an increasing proliferation of robotics.

There is huge industry demand for smarter/better automation. Its not being served because talking to factories and business owners isn't as glamorous to the average engineer as is writing the next iPhone app.

gutenberg


Total Posts: 163
Joined: May 2006
 
Posted: 2009-12-01 17:39
"I also don't think the last 10 years have produced the types of technological breakthroughs which can grow an economy"


Here is an interesting article on technological breakthroughs of the past 50 years:

http://spectrum.ieee.org/robotics/robotics-software/singular-simplicity


Martinghoul


Total Posts: 866
Joined: Oct 2008
 
Posted: 2009-12-01 17:43
Slightly off-topic, perhaps, but I would also highly recommend this fascinating look at Moore's Law:
Was Moore's Law inevitable?

Insofar as I may be heard by anything, which may or may not care what I say, I ask, if it matters, that you be forgiven for anything you may have done or failed to do which requires forgiveness...

gutenberg


Total Posts: 163
Joined: May 2006
 
Posted: 2009-12-01 17:44
"The one thing I know is that predicting the future of society and technology ten years out is pretty futile. People can't even predict where their own speciality field is going ("640K of memory is enough for everyone"). "


It's impossible to predict specific technologies but aggregate trends (like moores law) show tremendous predictability.


edt: x-posted with martinghoul

tristanreid


Total Posts: 1677
Joined: Aug 2005
 
Posted: 2009-12-01 18:47
I think video and audio search is within a decade or so, the kind of thing where you could describe a scene in words, and be presented a relevant video. The present keyword-based search is only the beginning.

I'm not sure of all the implications, but If a computer can be trained to recognize and contextualize video and audio outside of a controlled environment, the robots and 'enhanced reality' applications have a big future. I don't want to be the first guy to wear contact lenses that tell me what I'm looking at, but I'd certainly get a pair after they come out of beta.

Imagine someone is coming to your house. you tell them to subscribe to your visual feed and make it look as though fireworks and a huge light-pillar were coming from your house. They can find it from miles away. This kind of thing doesn't require goggles or lenses, it could just be that you hold up your phone and look through it. This kind of thing is already starting to happen. Your phone already knows approximately where in the world it is and how to get other places.

Or your friend lost -
"How do I get to your house from here?!?", you sigh and shut your eyes: "Show me where you are." You are now looking through their eyes. You say "turn left at that street, it's down there". "Which one?" You reach out in front of you and draw a circle in the air "that one", and they can see the circle you drew.

Maybe my guess of the implementation is off, but the technology already exists to capture this sequence of events, albeit not yet reliably.

Do these kinds of things enhance productivity? Maybe not so much if you work in an office. But that's not really where all work gets done. I think the cell phone was an amazing improvement for contractors and certain types of entrepreneurs.

Anyway, my head is in the clouds, as usual.

-t.

the only reason it would be easier to program in C is that you can't easily express complex problems in C, so you don't. -comp.lang.lisp

AndyM


Total Posts: 2330
Joined: Mar 2004
 
Posted: 2009-12-01 18:53
TR, I'm sure you're right, and as usual, it will be the porn industry that drives innovation in that area Big Smile

A quant is someone who will assume anything except responsibility.

tristanreid


Total Posts: 1677
Joined: Aug 2005
 
Posted: 2009-12-01 19:06
Applause
Video games will lead to higher quality, porn will drive widespread adoption. 'Actual' business will be the very last thing through the door.

-t.

the only reason it would be easier to program in C is that you can't easily express complex problems in C, so you don't. -comp.lang.lisp

Martinghoul


Total Posts: 866
Joined: Oct 2008
 
Posted: 2009-12-02 10:16
Totally agree with AndyM... Having been indirectly involved with the media technologies used by pron providers, I can say that they are the cutting edge and they, by and large, drive innovation in the field.

Insofar as I may be heard by anything, which may or may not care what I say, I ask, if it matters, that you be forgiven for anything you may have done or failed to do which requires forgiveness...

FDAXHunter
Founding Member

Total Posts: 8362
Joined: Mar 2004
 
Posted: 2009-12-02 10:42
One thing that is going to arrive in the next 5 years or so are instantly rechargeable batteries (well, instant, as in "30 seconds"). That'll enable a whole host of new mobile applications.

The Figs Protocol.

nikol


Total Posts: 520
Joined: Jun 2005
 
Posted: 2009-12-02 11:43

Agree about robotics. In addition there will be great development of mechanical extentions to empower body capabilities, like this:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/29/science/29brain.html

this will make possible individual wing-flying for example...

Another topic is additional memory chips and processing power connected to brain. It will have great social effect . For example people will put chips into their brains to get better job. It will have 'arm races' effect and will create super-elite eventually. At the same time chip in the brain has control function over a person (i.e. voter..).


ast4


Total Posts: 390
Joined: Aug 2007
 
Posted: 2009-12-02 11:51
While the technology is there, I don't believe it has really been implemented much is smart grid technology. IIRC much of grid design nowadays is still based on century old technology, this just seems to be the next natural step.

"Mathematicians are machines for turning coffee into theorems!"

tristanreid


Total Posts: 1677
Joined: Aug 2005
 
Posted: 2009-12-02 15:15
Nikol, I read that article you posted about brain-controlled prosthetics. I think that technology has been "just-around-the-corner" for about 30 years, but it's still fascinating.

I think the moment that it really takes off will be when it becomes available for home-based tinkering. When some guy with a garage decides to soup up his artificial legs.

If you could get a set of artificial legs that were superior to human (able to run 30mph and jump over 3 meters straight up), would you do it, with the understanding that you can never go back?

Again, I wouldn't try the beta.

-t.

the only reason it would be easier to program in C is that you can't easily express complex problems in C, so you don't. -comp.lang.lisp

filthy


Total Posts: 1259
Joined: Jun 2004
 
Posted: 2009-12-02 15:46

so let's say we correctly predict the new technology (and here i think i agree with jslade that most "new" technology is just old technology that is smaller, or has wider saturation and also with FDax that this is really just a guessing game...). now what? it isn't obvious how to make money from this. often the people who make the money are one or two steps along from the radical new technology. eg when the industrial revolution transformed england, it wasn't the makers of steam engines that got rich, it was the men who used then to drive their cotton mills.

 


"Game's the same, just got more fierce"

tristanreid


Total Posts: 1677
Joined: Aug 2005
 
Posted: 2009-12-02 17:24
I couldn't agree more, filthy. For me it's mostly just an amusing exercise. The only part that I take as remotely practical is that if you're optimistic on new technology, it can affect your macro views. As noted above, though, it's not a sure thing that technology drives productivity forward.

-t.

the only reason it would be easier to program in C is that you can't easily express complex problems in C, so you don't. -comp.lang.lisp
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