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The Future of Arthur C. Clarke


by Glen Emerson Morris


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In late 1999, Arthur C. Clarke, scientist and author of 2001: A Space Odyssey, wrote an article predicting a number of major scientific developments likely to happen over the next century. Given his previous track record, Arthur C. Clarkes's predictions are not to be taken lightly. After all, it was Clarke who both predicted, and explained in detail, how the satellite communications system we now depend on would work.

To summarize Clarke's predictions, by the year 2100 almost every product or service people buy today will be something they can make for themselves at home, for close to nothing. Clarke believes that a free energy source will be marketed in 2002, and that the equivalent of a Star Trek replicator will be commercially available by 2040. Given that Arthur C. Clarke's predictions for the next ten years alone, if they come true, would leave us with a profoundly different kind of economy, it might be worth considering what the effects of these developments on the advertising industry might be.

The losers in this scientific revolution will be the producers of energy; the oil, coal, and gas industries, and the public utilities. The winners will be the consumers of energy, or to put it simply, everyone else. Less money spent on energy means more disposable income for both business and consumers.

What kind of growth opportunities will be available? Well, to begin with, the brakes would be off any industry that depended heavily on energy, including manufacturing, heavy construction, transportation, and tourism.

Free energy would mean manufactured goods would be cheaper to make, and cheaper to ship to consumers. The retail price of nearly every product on the market would drop, just as manufacturers had extra cash to pay for advertising campaigns. Since manufacturers would be competing in a market flooded with both products, and affluent buyers, they'd need to do a lot of advertising.

Industries with high transportation and/or heating costs would also benefit from free energy technology. It would become economically feasible to grow crops in heated greenhouses in mid-winter, anywhere. Seasonal crops will become a thing of the past. Year round crop production, combined with cheap shipping, would solve the world's food shortage.

The ski industry would also boom, especially in states like Colorado, because it would be cheaper for people to get to the mountains, and it would be much cheaper to keep them warm once they arrived. Cold fusion would solve the biggest Catch-22 of the ski industry; the heavy snowfall needed for good skiing also makes it difficult for skiers to get to the ski resorts. It would be economically feasible to lay cold fusion powered heating systems beneath the major roads and airport runways, keeping them snow free, providing a constant stream of consumers, even in the worst blizzards.

Free energy would be a major boost for the tourism industry, since tourists frequently spend more to get to their favorite vacation spot than they actually do while they're there. Lower travel costs would leave tourists free to spend more with local businesses on things like hotels, food, souvenirs, sightseeing, and car rentals. Local advertisers would have more to spend on advertising, and they'd need to, as the increase in tourism would draw more competition into the market.

Taking ocean cruises would become commonplace, since the cost of ocean cruises would drop by a third to a half. It would even be possible to build ships designed to provide permanent residences, in effect floating condominiums, that roamed the ocean in search of the perfect vacation port, without ever tanking up. (In a great irony, some of the first floating condo's will probably be converted oil tankers.) All of these new maritime enterprises would need to advertise, helping to make up for the missing advertising dollars of the recently deceased petroleum industry.

The automobile industry would also need to advertise heavily if cold fusion worked. The idea of a car that never needed gas would be a winner in any economy, especially one that could be used to power the house when it wasn't on the road, but these qualities would only sell the consumer on the "concept" of the car. It would be up to advertising to convince the consumer which "brand" of fuel-free car to buy.

The Japanese car industry would probably be the first to market a cold fusion powered car, since the Japanese have been funding Pons and Fleichman, the team Clarke believes will be the first to develop cold fusion power systems. Japan has few energy resources, so they have a compelling national interest to develop energy free technology, and to market it on a global scale.

If the Japanese were the first to market a cold fusion powered car, the economic damage they'd cause Detroit would make Pearl Harbor look like a fender bender. The American automobile industry would have to advertise pretty heavily to make a comeback, but they probably could, assuming the Europeans didn't team up too closely with the Japanese (one has to remember previous German-Japanese alliances.)

Well, we've recovered from surprise attacks before, and won. The practice may come in handy in the next few years. Arthur C. Clarke predicts that economic earthquakes will follow the marketing of cold fusion power systems, and that may be the understatement of his life. Will the advertising industry survive? It's a reasonable assumption. It's true not every industry will survive in the future of Arthur C. Clarke, but one thing is certain. If they go down, they'll go down advertising.

Copyright 1994 - 2010 by Glen Emerson Morris All Rights Reserved

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