Think of this as Volume 16, Number 51 of A-Clue.com, the online newsletter I've written since 1997. Enjoy.
The economy is going to grow, and faster than we expect, for two main reasons:
A thumb down on energy prices.
The automation of just about everything.
But the events of 2012 show this isn't true. U.S. oil production is now expected to exceed that of Saudi Arabia in 2020. The U.S. boom in solar energy is not slowing down, it's accelerating. A new study indicates the world's electric grids could be entirely on renewables by 2030.
Just as important, people aren't taking this opportunity to get wasteful, either. The CAFE standards imposed by the Administration last year are going to put a permanent brake on transportation fuel demand, not just here but everywhere. When you double mileage, as we will, you either double the miles driven or you see a reduction in demand.
What happens when a permanent reduction in demand hits a rising tide of supply? It won't be obvious next year, but it is getting harder every month for energy producers to keep prices high. They're heading downward. More of our supply is going to be renewable. We've turned a corner, and faster than even I expected.
3D printing, which will make it cheaper to produce custom parts than mass production costs.
The Internet of Things, placing networked intelligence inside all kinds of objects, from your heart monitor to your car.
The Laboratory Economy, in which value comes from discovery, not from the manipulation of virtual goods but the transformation of real things.
There are advantages here for any society with a large creative class, one that's highly educated. Our kids have spent this recession getting educated. They're the most educated cohort we've had ever. America's free capital and intellectual environments continue to attract the best-and-brightest from around the world, even from China and India and Brazil, the countries that are supposed to be beating us.
The movement of our economy's center from the office tower to the campus also has very important implications for growth. It means we're going to have higher density in our cities, spreading out from campuses, and lower density at the edge, where the commuters sleep in between office visits. This will create capital that can be used for construction and infrastructure, because a campus lifestyle is not something you can limit to nine-to-five. Discovery happens best within tight groups. It's not something you turn off at night.
Fortunately we have an army of young workers ready for the challenge. We have the capital to create these new companies. We have a lid on energy prices. We have an Administration willing to acknowledge the reality of global warming and act on that understanding. It doesn't look like it, but peace is about to break out.
This won't all happen in 2013. I'm talking about a trend that will go through the decade, a new age of abundance that will put today into the shade. A lot of things will happen that appear to contradict what I've written here. That's always the case – nothing goes in a straight line.
But the trends are set. We'll be better off at the end of next year than we are now, and we'll have a better understanding that things can be better still. That's an important psychological change that can have powerful implications going forward, that can actually become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The challenges facing us are immense. The globe is still warming, evolution is still running backward, and we're all getting older. But we have the tools to deal with all of it, and next year we'll start doing just that.