Smaller, faster, better.

Smaller, faster, better.

All together now: Smaller, faster, better.

That's the mantra of the growth investor. When you're investing for the really long run, peering deep into the future -- as we're doing with our New Year's 2016 series -- it's the mantra you cannot afford to forget.

Speaking of which, why 2016? Because it's 10 years. You can remember what your life was like 10 years ago, can't you? It was your freshman year of high school. Or the year you graduated college. Or that first time you (and, coincidentally, 2016 other guys) got the title "vice president" stapled to your cubicle wall at the bank.

If you can remember what life was like 10 years ago, then chances are, you've got a good shot at predicting what life might be 10 years from now. If not, I'll give you a hint: It'll be ...

Smaller, faster, better
At the tail end of 1995, I was returning stateside from my first long-term trip abroad. And I was in absolute culture shock. After living in drab grey Eastern Europe, my return to the world of Technicolor capitalism left me reeling -- and left indelible impressions of America circa 1995.

Take the "Internet," for example. Not too many people knew what it was yet, but it already had some fans. A little penny stock company by the name of AOL seemed to have a lock on the thing, but between its service outages and its staff of flip-flop wearing college kids, the company seemed doomed to fail.

Fast-forward six years, and this upstart penny stock was joining media giant Time Warner (NYSE:TWX). A year later, its stock collapsed. Come forward the full 10 years, and AOL looks likely to become independent again. Over its lifetime, AOL made the whole world "smaller, faster, and better," helping to blaze the trail for companies like Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and (NASDAQ:AMZN). Companies that shrank entire libraries and shopping centers to the size of a mousepad, and reduced research and shopping time to the speed of a click.

Anybody interested in a 640% profit?
That's the amount that a single share of AOL stock, circa December 1995, has appreciated through today's date. The stock now sits 81% below its Dec. 13, 1999, high -- but it's still managed to beat the S&P 500 index by 533%. Which shows the power of catching a trend early and riding it through completion. Even if you don't jump off at the top, you can still crush the averages by thinking ahead of the Wall Street pack.

Sign me up
With that objective in mind, I've been looking around the world of 2005, trying to identify which ridiculous ideas of today could dominate the economy of 2016. I've found a handful, and today I'll introduce you to four fabulous fads that could leave you wallowing in riches in 10 years time. (Next week, I'll be back with four more.)

Do you want to live forever?
Groundbreaking advances in biotech are making this central tenet of science fiction if not certain, then at least plausible. Forget about advances in pharmaceuticals -- penicillin is so 20th-century. Today, the hot "fad" is stem cells. The technology is still in its infancy, but one day, you may be able to manufacture replacement parts from your very own cells.

The trick is to have compatible stem cells available when (a) you need them and (b) the technology has been perfected. Two public companies have come up with a solution to this dilemma: collect a baby's stem-cell-rich cord blood at birth, and preserve it for future use. The smaller of the two, Cryo-Cell, trades only on the over-the-counter market. Larger ViaCell trades on the Nasdaq. Both companies operate cord blood storage facilities; ViaCell also researches the use of cord blood in treating diseases. In 2005, neither company is yet a household name, but if you're a new or expectant parent, chances are you've received mailings from at least one of these companies. By 2016, I expect many more parents will be using their services than not.

If you do live forever, what will you do with all the time?
If you're an American, chances are you'll spend a good deal of that time watching TV. And only TV -- meaning no commercials, thank you very much.

Even we immortals of the year 2016 won't have time to waste watching unwanted pitches for Corporate America's wares. Already, you're seeing cable customers discover the wonders of the digital video recorder, with its ability to skip commercials on one hand and "pause live TV" on the other. TiVo (NASDAQ:TIVO) helped pioneer the DVR, and companies such as Scientific Atlanta (soon to become part of Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO)) have made it available to the masses. In future years, expect "live TV" (paused or otherwise) to give way to television "on demand." Cisco and TiVo, or one of their competitors, will still make the hardware. Meanwhile, look for a plot twist as Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) or Amazon offers to organize and sell the programming online.

And what will you watch TV on?
Well, you certainly won't be watching a cathode ray tube set (that's the 150-lb. behemoth sitting in your living room right now). The laws of smaller, faster, better forbid this outcome. They demand that, within the next 10 years, you upgrade to a "flat panel" television. One that, screen inch for screen inch, weighs about a third as much as the average 20th-century viewing appliance.

I know what you're thinking: Sure, who wouldn't love to replace their "tube" with an LCD or plasma set -- but the things cost a fortune! And that's true. But remember 1995? Back then, DVD players cost $500. Today, you can pick up a name brand DVD player for under $50. Trust me -- within a decade, flat-panel TVs will be in every home, and very few of them will retail for $1,000. Whether it will be an LCD, plasma, or some newfangled LED gizmo from Universal Display hanging from your wall, I cannot say. But for darn sure, whatever it is will be smaller and better than what's taking up space in your living room today.

But who's doing the work while you watch TV all day?
The robots, of course. By 2016, we'll learn that Isaac Asimov called it right, as robots take on more and more of the grunt work of daily life. We've seen the beginnings of this trend in upstarts such as iRobot and Intuitive Surgical (NASDAQ:ISRG), who are automating the tedious tasks of vacuuming and brain surgery, respectively. But the real leader in this field will come from the same place that builds our cars: Japan. Toyota's droids will automate the pension-busting business of building automobiles. Meanwhile, on the home front, the next generation versions of Honda's anthropomorphic ASIMO robot will do our laundry and nuke our TV dinners.

Thus ends Part 1 of our preview of the world of 2016. You've seen four present-day fads and the companies behind them. Four ideas for how to profit as today's fads evolve into tomorrow's market dominators. Next week, I'll return with four more.

In the meantime, take a look at a few of the fast-moving companies that are making history today. Since inception, recommendations from the Motley Fool Rule Breakers portfolio have beaten the S&P 500 average by a margin 13% -- and counting. While you're waiting for the next installment of four trends for 2016, feel free to peruse our list of market beaters. You'll need to take a free trial to do so, but heck -- it is free. What can you lose?

Happy New Year! The Motley Fool takes a look in its crystal ball to bring you the future today. Click here to read more about New Year's 2016!

Intuitive Surgical is a Rule Breakers pick. TiVo, Netflix, Time Warner, and Amazon are all Stock Advisor recommendations.

Fool contributor Rich Smith has no position in any company mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.