The 20th century was the “oil century”. The development of oil as a cheap and reliable fuel played a key role in just about every historical development over that 100 year period. From cars, to suburbia, to war, and on and on.
Because oil plays such a pivotal role in our lives, we find it hard to imagine it becoming less significant. And yes, back in the early 20th century, one might have said the same thing about horses. But here we are, waiting for the cost of electricity generation and storage from solar and other sources to fall below what we pay now for fossil fuels. And Goldman Sachs thinks we are nearly there. How far will these prices fall? It is not possible to tell yet, but that is one of the most important questions of the century. But one can imagine folks from the 22d century shaking their heads in disbelief when they look back at how dirty the energy business was … errr … back in the primitive early 21st century.
And one more trend that we know about but don’t think about that often. We tend to think of our latest computing gadgets as pretty advanced. And they are, compared to the crap we used to think was pretty cool too. So will this pace of innovation continue to accelerate? Well, it is getting harder and harder to squeeze more transistors onto silicon wafers. But quantum computing is already here. And it appears that quantum computing power will make our puny gadgets look pretty silly.
So — two trends to watch in the 21st century. The dawn of the age of incredibly cheap renewable power and an explosion of computing power that will exponentially enhance our learning capacity. Hold on to your hat!