Jack Uldrich
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Get the Skinny on the Future

Posted in Health Care

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This morning as my daughter was leaving for school she asked if she could watch the “fat, chunky” movie this weekend. I gave her a perplexed look and replied that I’d never heard of it. I probed a little further and although it took me a few moments to determine what she was talking about, I eventually understood that she wanted to know if she could watch a VHS-format movie.

This incident, along with another this past weekened where she gazed unknowingly at a record player that was for sale at a garage sale, has gotten me to thinking about what else might seem “fat and chunky” to her in the future.

Already televisions, phones and iPods are impressively thin and are likely to grow more so in the future. Alas, it won’t stop there.

A few months back, I wrote about solar energy’s long-term potential and one reason I’m so optimistic about its potential is that I believe thin-film photovoltaics are only going to grow more efficient and cost-effective over time. Among other things this implies that today’s bulky silicon solar cells are likely to fade away.

The field of nanotechnology is also leading to thinner and more effective materials. Therefore, walls made out of aerogels; car panels constructed of new nanocomposites; and automobile batteries (which utilize various nanomaterials) should also become thinner. As will lights which will take advantage of advances in organic light emitting diodes.

Next, as flexible electronics grow more mature and as more people grow comfortable reading information from such flexible displays, there is good reason to believe that books and newspapers will also become thinner. (In fact, they will become so “thin” that their digital content will simply be displayed in atom-sized pixels on the electronic substrate.)

Finally, as I highlighted last week in this piece, obesity – due to advances in genomics—could soon be addressed. In other words, it is entirely possible that we humans (especially Americans) will become less, well, “fat and chunky.”

Of course, just as “boom boxes” staged a surprising counter-trend in the late 1980’s and gigantic wearable clocks became all the rage, I am open to the idea that some products might become larger in the future but, in general, I think “thin” will definitely be “in” in the future.



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