Investing is a tough sport. Any number of factors can send the market tumbling. Bubbles burst; the Federal Reserve either acts or it doesn't; hurricanes hit; terrorists strike; or hedge fund managers, rogue traders, bankers, and politicians act in ways that defy logic -- bringing the entire financial system to the brink of disaster.
My advice: Relax and enjoy the ride.
In the immortal and slightly paraphrased words of somebody: "Stuff happens." But this "stuff" isn't always terrifying, it can often be exhilarating. What's more, from my perch where I watch the world of emerging technologies, there are -- even amid today's economic turmoil -- many reasons to feel exhilarated about the future.
One billion millionaires
Last fall, The Futurist magazine released its top 10 forecasts for the future. Included was this eye-catcher: "The world will have a billion millionaires by 2025."
Now, I understand that $1 million sometime in the future won't hold the same value as $1 million today, but being a millionaire at any time sure beats the alternative. To improve your odds of being one of the 1 billion millionaires, here are five technology trends you can invest in to help you achieve that goal.
Trend No. 1: Nanotechnology
Lux Research, a leading emerging-technologies research firm, estimated that sales of products that incorporate nanotechnology will reach $2.6 trillion by 2015. Within the past year, Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) , General Motors (NYSE: GM ) , and Nokia (NYSE: NOK ) have all introduced commercial nanotech products.
More impressive still, The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies recently revealed that the number of nanotechnology-enabled products skyrocketed from 200 to more than 600 in just the past year.
Trend No. 2: Robotics
No less of an authority than Bill Gates predicted in a 2006 Scientific American essay that robotics "could make the same kind of quantum leap that the PC industry made 30 years ago." He cited the Japanese Robot Association prediction that robotics will be a $50 billion global industry by 2025. Add to this prediction the number of new and helpful devices that Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation Intuitive Surgical and other leading robotic companies are adding to their product lines, and this, too, appears to be a promising niche for investors.
Trend No. 3: Synthetic biology
Earlier this spring, Craig Venter, one of the scientists responsible for sequencing the human genome, gave a speech discussing the progress his new company, Synthetic Genomics, was making in creating "designer bacteria" to produce new biofuels. If you have time to watch his entire talk, pay special attention to his discussion of creating a "fourth-generation fuel," which might someday "replace the petrochemical industry." It is an audacious goal, to be sure, but BP (NYSE: BP ) is already an investor in the company.
Trend No. 4: Rapid prototype manufacturing
In February, Gartner Research announced that it expects rapid prototype manufacturing (RPM) -- which is essentially the ability to print physical objects in 3-D -- to grow a hundredfold by 2012. Now, I don't know about you, but a hundredfold growth gets my attention. If this prediction is to be believed, then the manufacturers of RPM equipment -- companies such as Stratasys -- should see sales increase substantially.
Trend No. 5: Cleantech
Legendary venture capitalist John Doerr claimed clean energy technologies will be "the biggest economic opportunity of the century." And they very well could be. The long-term forecast for solar energy is bright, but advances in everything from geothermal power -- which Chevron (NYSE: CVX ) , Calpine (NYSE: CPN ) , and Ormat Technologies (NYSE: ORA ) are pursuing aggressively -- to wave power could also see rapid growth. Look for the development cycles for these technologies to accelerate if Congress agrees to stronger carbon dioxide emission restrictions.
Go forth and prosper
The global economy has prospered in the past, and it will again. And it is innovation that has, is, and will continue to drive the economy forward.
Learning more about and investing in the five trends above is one way to harness that innovation in your portfolio, but I also encourage you to study biotechnology, stem cell research, radio frequency identification (RFID), Web 2.0 platforms, and "cloud" computing -- all of which offer similar long-term potential.
After all, emerging technologies have the potential to create a great deal of wealth for investors with the foresight to understand how they will transform the future. At Rule Breakers, Fool co-founder David Gardner and team focus on identifying these trends before the broader market does. That's how David spotted the aforementioned Intuitive Surgical more than three years ago, and it's returned more than 500% for our subscribers.
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Jack Uldrich believes the future will be bright, but he still doesn't always wear shades. He has written many books on emerging technologies. His latest is Jump the Curve: 50 Essential Strategies to Help Your Company Stay Ahead of Emerging Technologies. He owns shares of Intuitive Surgical and Stratasys. The Fool has a strict disclosure policy.