A Pet Theory: The U.S. Economy Will Be About Making Stuff Again

As Yogi Berra said, predictions are hard, especially about the future. But I think we're going away from the kind of economy in which wheeling and dealing on Wall Street is sort of the pinnacle to something that is much more broad-based.  

I have pet theory, which is only a pet theory, but it seems to me that technology is taking another interesting turn. We spent the last 20-plus years in a world where interesting technology was all about essentially virtual stuff.  It was all about finding ways to do clever things with bits and so it was all IT. Of course, IT has continued to advance, but there seems to be a kind of renaissance in stuff that is about the physical world.  

I think about energy.  There are two things that are going on in energy that are really very different.  One is the new extractive techniques, fracking and all of that, in which there is an environmental downside. I'd like to see that handled properly and I'm not sure we will, but the point is we've suddenly found that a very old business, which is the business of extracting hydrocarbons, has been transformed by new technologies. At the opposite end is solar power, which has had dramatic falls in cost.

I think we are seeing the beginnings of at least a moderate renaissance in US manufacturing. We are going at least a little ways back toward becoming a country that actually makes stuff at the same time that we have new technologies that are increasing once again our ability to actually do physical stuff.  So that's where I think there is going to be interesting things and that is something over the next decade or so.

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