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Technology & Innovation

Introduction: The Future of Capitalism

In the future, we may manufacture the products that we used to buy at the store right in our very own homes. We may also find ourselves buying products that only exist online or on Second Life. When we do purchase an item, we’ll be adding to an infinitely large pool of data that will then be collected, sliced, and analyzed to make products and services that better serve our needs and interests. For better or worse, we will increasingly place our trust in computers and “the cloud.”

But even as technological shifts are making the processes of capitalism ever more fluid and efficient, the recent global economic crisis has exposed weakness in our economic systems. Looking ahead, what can businesses and governments do to better ensure the growth and stability of their capitalist economies? What can be learned from China, as its free market capitalism emerges under the strict guidance of its authoritarian government? And how with technological change affect the way we live?

These are the questions being addressed in Big Think’s newest special series, The Future of Capitalism, which is made by possible by Deep Change. The series features exclusive video interviews with John Mackey (CEO of Whole Foods), Peter Thiel (CEO Clarium Capital), Ruth Porat (CFO of Morgan Stanley), Sheila Blair (Chairman of the FDIC), Lawrence Koh (CEO of Internation Diversified Products), Kip Tindell (CEO of the Container Store) and Doug Rauch (CEO of Trader Joe’s).

Features in the series, set to run daily for the next nine days, include:

  • Will 3D Printing Spur a Home Manufacturing Revolution?
  • Relatively low cost rapid prototyping technology is allowing entrepreneurs to manufacture products directly from computer files. What if this technology were as ubiquitous as the home microwave?

  • Economies In Silica: The Rise of Virtual Currency
  • The U.S. virtual goods market is estimated to grow by 40 percent from $1.6 billion this year to $2.1 billion in 2011. At this pace, the virtual currencies used to pay for these virtual products may soon begin devaluing the world’s real currencies.

  • Welcome to the Data Driven World
  • You’re more likely to buy a weekend rental car after you’ve read an obituary. This is just one example of a trend that business analysts have teased from the endless amount of “data exhaust” that each of us creates on daily basis. Many predict in the coming decades businesses will finally begin to realize what it all means.

  • The China Consensus
  • Since 1978 China’s economy has moved towards free market capitalism, but the government has retained an authoritarian hold, allowing the state to divert resources as it sees fit. As so-called state capitalist-governed nations like China, Brazil, and Russia grow in importance in the next century, a battle is brewing between states and the free market.


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