Last week, we examined four fad-ulous trends for investors a decade into the future, trends that could match the explosive growth of the Internet, as embodied by AOL/Time Warner
- Cord blood storage, bought by new parents, paid for in perpetuity.
- Television on demand.
- The death of the cathode ray tube and the rise of the panel TV.
- And last but not least, the rise of the machines.
As promised, today we'll bring you four more ideas to mull as 2006 begins its run. Let's dive right in, shall we?
Invest with eyes wide open
As you read this column . what are you reading it with? If you're an American, chances are good that before these words reach your brain, they pass through two pairs of lenses. The ones the good Lord gave you, and a pair of polycarbonate spectacles or hydrogel contact lenses. More than 150 million Americans wear the former, and roughly 30 million Americans wear the latter every day. But as we progress through the next decade, those statements will increasingly change from "wear" to "used to wear" as former glasses- and contact-users undergo LASIK surgery.
Since the procedure was first approved for use in the U.S. a little over a decade ago, approximately five million Americans have had their vision corrected by reshaping the corneas of their eyes. Over the next decade, I expect to watch that 150-to-1 ratio of glasses-wearers to LASIK patients equalize; beyond 2016, we'll see the ratio turned on its head.
Several companies stand to profit from this trend. TLC Vision and LCA-Vision
There's money in your mattress
It's time for a restful night's sleep, 2016-style. And where better to rest your weary back than in a high-tech air mattress from Select Comfort
For the latter, you'll have to try the company's bedding to convince yourself that it's more comfortable than the average cotton-sheathed coiled spring. But where convenience is concerned, just ask yourself: the next time you need to rent a U-Haul and upgrade your two-bedroom condo to a five-bedroom home in the country, would you rather lug a 100-lb. mattress along for the trip? Or a bed as light as air?
The future is calling
While you lounge upon your Select Comfort Sleep Number bed, contemplating the riches you've amassed by thinking "2016" when, 10 years ago, the Wall Street Wise myopically saw no further than 2006, perhaps you'll get an itch. An urge to call the parents, your little brother, or your old college chums, and swap investment ideas for 2026. Which brings us to our third (seventh, actually) fad-ulous idea: voice over Internet protocol.
Last century, we were content to live with one infrastructure for phone calls and another for the Internet; one price for local calls and another for long distance. Over the next 10 years, those redundancies will seem more and more anachronistic, and eventually go the way of the dodo. We've already seen Baby Bells first offering long distance, then buying long-distance providers, then moving on to offer Internet and cable TV. In coming years, that convergence will accelerate. As it does, all communications will gradually move toward a single transmission network -- what we currently call the "Internet." In anticipation of this, we're already seeing Internet heavyweights such as Yahoo!
One word: plastic
Of course, even placing phone calls over the Internet isn't free. Nor are eye surgery and beds made of air. Somehow, we'll have to pay for all these things in the future -- I just don't think we'll be paying in cash. Over the next 10 years, we'll truly see the "cashless society" become reality.
Oh, a few eccentrics will continue to pay in coins and greenbacks ("It says right on here that this is legal tender."). But they'll get the same wary looks you'd expect to receive if today you tried to pay for your groceries with Spanish doubloons. Most of us will rely exclusively on payment cards for our day-to-day transactions. Between now and then, we'll see card "maestro" MasterCard join American Express
Write me in 2016 and tell me how it worked out.
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For further futuristic Foolishness, check out more stories on 2016.
Fool contributor Rich Smith has no position in any company mentioned in this article. eBay and Time Warner are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. Select Comfort is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems pick. The Motley Fool is investors writingfor investors.