Memo from the department of dangerous predictions

By Jim Manzi

Fortune has an article up saying that "economists and executives believe that this time tech won't lead the country out of its slump", the way Fortune says it did in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. Why not?  Because:


...they don't see a single big idea - no semiconductors or PCs - to prime the pump. Funding for even the most promising technologies has dried up. And the country's rate of spending on new gadgets is slowing.

 

Well, let's put aside the point that apparently they think tech = IT, and are ignoring potential biology-based, rather than physics-based, tech, when biology is likely to be the more fundamental economic driver in this century.  But look at their view of new digital technologies on the horizon:


In 2009, after almost 30 years of continuous growth, tech spending as a percentage of GDP is expected to fall. The next new things - software delivered as a service over the Internet, software for mobile devices - are promising, but they are not necessarily the kinds of businesses that produce thousands of net new jobs or generate billions in new revenue overnight.

 

Execpt that there are already billion-dollar Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) companies with thousdands of employees.  Ignore the point that Google is software delivered as a service, and consider just one new SaaS company, salaesforce.com, that already has a billion dollars of revenue and employs thousands of people.  I don't know for a fact what, if any, technologies will have similar effects to that of the PC in 80s or the Internet in the 90s, but I do know that lots of experts dismissed the size of the market opportunity for both.

 

Oh, and total venture funding in the US in 2008 was about $28 billion, or just about exactly twice the roughly $14 billion in 1998, which in turn was more than a 75% increase versus prior years.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2009/02/memo-from-the-department-of-dangerous-predictions/309/