Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Next Big Thing

I'm weary of hearing all these pundits lecturing on how This or That will bring our economy out of the "slump" and back to Greatness. There is only ONE event, IMHO, that will actually do something for us. We can't create jobs out of nothing the way they did in the 1930s because the government has spent all the money it could print on foreign wars and homeland security, and people are too scared to drive the economy by spending what little they have.

But! What has always boosted the economy before?

The Next Big Thing.

The last really big Next Big Thing, I think, was the cell phone. It got a somewhat slow start, but once people realized they could have free long distance and dump all those special-code long-distance plans, and they could be in touch from ANYwhere, suddenly the cell phone was the accessory of choice. Texting and 'net connection came along, and cross-breeds like iPhones and CrackBerries jumped into play. The cell phone is now replacing the landline in many households. The worst thing that can happen to most people is losing that phone and its list of contacts. (No one knows their own phone numbers any more, let alone the boss's and Mom's.)

The GPS has also done this on a smaller scale. Many people now either have a standalone GPS in the car or a portable unit, or their cell phones have this capability. Yellow pages and maps that fold into origami cranes in the glove compartment have fallen by the wayside, and good riddance. Most travel can be better with that little voice saying, "Make a legal U-turn at the next opportunity."

E-readers are taking over from paper books and reference materials, at least with the under-50 crowd. We are seeing many people re-buying their entire libraries in e-form. This is such a coup it's comparable to the conversion from vinyl to CD to MP3, or the videotape to the DVD to the Blu-Ray. This is a way for content providers to re-sell new versions of all the old stuff PLUS all the new stuff. Score!

We've had a steady stream of good-sized Next Big Things, I would claim. The iPad or Android Tablet is the newest. Before that, though, the MP3 player/iPod single-handedly took down the monolithic music industry and all the great old record labels. Now people don't keep a houseful of CDs or vinyl records. They have a huge hard drive or memory stick, and they swap in and out their iTunes libraries and playlists as they feel ready to. Before that, everyone had to get a laptop to replace the old desktop clunker (which was a really HUUUGE Next Big Thing that changed business forever.)

So, anyway, I claim that we will not be able to climb out of the hole we're falling into by electing any particular person or party, or by creating jobs out of nothing, or by having more foreign wars. I claim that somebody will have to create the Next Big Doodad.

Why "doodad"? It needs to be something that all of a sudden EVERYONE *HAS* to have. Something like a portable teleporter, mind-reading device, time travel doohickey, flying car, or whatnot. (Let's leave aside the horrific chaos and end-of-world stuff that would occur if everyone could suddenly read everyone else's minds or teleport in a blink to any of various teleportation stations set up around the world. We know that fistfights would break out on the street as people had a passing thought about what a big booty the woman in front of them had, and that criminals would flash in, steal stuff, and then flash far away in an instant.)

Science fiction never expected the personal computer and cell phone and so forth in their present forms, and promised us instead that we'd have robots (to clean house, to do guard duty, for all kinds of tasks) and flying cars by now. We don't have the personal rocket jet pack, but we have all kinds of doodads that we now feel we could never live without. That's what we need now.

You see, when NBD comes along, it will create jobs! People will be needed to sell the item, stores will be rented or built to have customers come in and browse models and features, help desks or customer service phone lines have to be staffed, marketing and advertising types will be there to publicize and compete, factories full of people who run the factory builds of the item will flourish, websites will be designed and browsed, a bureaucracy will build up around it all, someone will write the documentation and then that "For Dummies" version as a book . . . wow! Employment! Selling! And thus people will get jobs and have disposable income that they will go out and spend, and suddenly every sector will be rollin' again until some other crappy war or whatnot comes along to burst the bubble.

What will the Next Big Doodad be? I couldn't guess. Something to do with health would really rock, such as the Star Trek healing probes and so forth. Or maybe something to do with robotics. Where is my Rosie the Robot to do my cleaning, cooking, and household stuff? The doodad can't be TOO big and expensive, though. We will have early adopters who'll pay a thousand just to be able to have the doodad first, but soon the price will drop to $700 and then $500 as more people decide to splurge or charge it. The price will hit $250 and a Wal-Mart version will come along. Then the prices on the street will go lower than that, and everyone will have a Doodad [TM]. Get one today! All your friends have one! It's the Next Big Thing!

Anyhow . . . get to work, scientists and engineers. I think we really, really NEED the NBT to come along, and hurry its butt while it's at it. We don't need to slip-slide even further away.

Meanwhile, buy one of my books. It's good for you.

"Nine out of ten doctors recommend my books. The tenth is a quack."

No comments:

Post a Comment