The Future is Cheap

March 27 2008 / by juldrich
Category: Business & Work   Year: 2020   Rating: 12 Hot

By Jack Uldrich

Cross-posted from

With oil over a $100 a barrel and some analysts predicting it’ll go as high as $300, it is easy to think that the future will be more expensive than today. I, however, have a decidedly different take on the future, I believe it is going to be cheap—very cheap.

For example, today’s Wall Street Journal is reporting that there is already a price war breaking out in the nascent space-tourism business. You might recall that Charles Simonyi and Iranian-billionaire, Anousheh Ansari, both flew into space in 2007 for an estimated $23 million. Now XCOR Areospace is hoping to fly passengers into space for a mere $100,000. As space flight technology continues to improve and the industry achieves some economies of scale that figure should drop even more.

On another front, Applied Bioscience recently reported that it sequenced the genome of a Nigerian man for $60,000. It was only a few years ago that Craig Venter sequenced his genome at a cost of $70 million and, last year, James Watson spent $2 million sequencing his genome. In the not-so-distant future, there is an excellent chance we will all have our genomes sequenced for less than $1000.

I have also written before about nanotechnology’s ability to transform the diamond industry. If company’s such as Apollo Diamond and Gemesis are already growing two-carat diamonds for less than $100, it is not hard to envision how the price of diamonds might continue to drop as ever more equipment comes online and as the public begins to better understand the environmental and humanitarian benefits of man-made diamonds. (To wit, the earth is not being ripped up and no human labor is exploited in the creation of synthetic diamonds.)

Lastly, and on a slightly more practical note, I’d like to bring to your attention this article from TechCrunch. It profiles Redfin a new real-estate company that is cutting out the real estate agent. The article reports that, on average, the company is saving home buyers in Seattle and San Francisco over $15,000.

If you’re building a new home, don’t despair because you could also see your costs drop in the future – especially if robotic technology such as this plays out and robots are able to build homes. (I especially like this quote from Dr. Behrokh Khoshnevis, who is helping to develop the robotic technology: “Your shoes, clothes and car are already made automatically, but your house is built by hand and it doesn’t make sense.”)

I agree – it doesn’t make sense – and as technology continues to progress on an accelerating basis and advances in nanotechnology, robotics and information sciences continue to squeeze out market inefficiencies, the prices of a great many products should drop substantially.

Comment Thread (1 Response)

  1. I’m excited for all these new technologies to provide people products and services for a lower cost. But I’m curious what will the middlemen do? As automation and web 2.0 services gain market share, and effectively eliminate industries, how will those people make a living? Especially those that may have little to no education outside of their profession?

    Posted by: Venessa Posavec   March 26, 2008
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