My colleagues and I have seen and discussed your invention, but we have determined there is no commercial future for it.
This was J Pierpont Morgan's remark to Alexander Graham Bell in reference to his recently patented telephone.
Predicting which trends or inventions might take off and shape the future is never easy. An article published in 1968 entitled '40 years in the future' made some fantastical (at least with hindsight) predictions on what life would be like in 2008:
"...the car accelerates to 150 mph in the city's suburbs, then hits 250 mph in less built-up areas, gliding over the smooth plastic road. You whizz past a string of cities, many of them covered by the new domes that keep them evenly climatised all year round.
People have more time for leisure activities in the year 2008. The average work day is about four hours.
Other predictions showed great foresight and were not too wide of the mark:
Computers not only keep track of money, they make spending it easier. TV-telephone shopping is common… Much of the family shopping is done this way. Instead of being jostled by crowds, shoppers electronically browse through the merchandise of any number of stores.
Money has all but disappeared. Employers deposit salary checks directly into their employees' accounts. Credit cards are used for paying all bills.
One insight from the 1962 Seattle World's Fair was that
...We'll have push-button phones, cordless telephones, and phones that will let you see the person you're talking to.
This has proved spot on and certainly showed more foresight than J P Morgan.
Perhaps the best way to try and determine what the future might look like is to take existing trends and think about how they might develop. We wouldn't hold our breath for flying cars (at least for mass commuting), but more mainstream themes could present opportunities. Below we highlight three broad themes that we believe could bear fruit for investors over the long term:
Please note it is important to choose investments based on your own investment objectives and your attitude to risk.
Technology is an area where the future benefits are unlimited and innovation is constantly being explored. Some of the world's largest and most successful companies are in this sector including Apple, Amazon and Google. Smaller start-up companies can also present opportunities, particularly if their innovations prove disruptive to the incumbents.
Phil Pearson and Anthony Burton, managers of the GLG Technology Equity Fund, believe areas such as smartphones, tablets, virtualisation, and cloud computing will remain attractive investment opportunities. In contrast they expect another difficult year for the already challenged PC vendors, where revenue and profit margin pressures look likely to remain throughout 2013.
Many emerging markets are in better shape than developed Western economies. They have lower, government and consumer debt; younger, hard-working populations; and increasingly modern towns and cities. They are slowly shifting from a reliance on exporting goods to the West, to consumption-led growth.
Adventurous investors seeking broad exposure could consider the First State Global Emerging Market Leaders Fund. Manager Jonathan Asante is currently seeking out multi-national companies with exposure to higher risk emerging markets, rather than those listed there directly. His focus remains on cash-generative companies with defensive qualities such as utilities and telecommunications stocks.
The fragility and volatility of the world's energy supply is a long-term theme. As emerging markets develop they become more energy intensive, while demand from the West shows no sign of slowing. The commercial viability of extracting shale gas in the US is also an exciting development that could benefit many companies.
John Dodd and Richard Hulf, managers of the Artemis Global Energy Fund, believe there are great opportunities for companies which already own resources in the ground, those which seek to find them, and those who develop the technology to extract them. Their fund can invest worldwide in energy companies of all types. It is a concentrated portfolio of holdings which can be diversified across the entire 'energy chain', from oil and gas exploration, energy transmission, utility providers and businesses developing sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels.
All of the highlighted funds above invest in higher risk and potentially volatile areas. More adventurous investors with a long-term horizon might consider adding some exposure to their portfolio. Please ensure you read the individual Key Investor Information Documents for details of the risks involved.
All of the funds mentioned feature on the Wealth 150 list of our favourite funds in each sector.
The value of investments can go down in value as well as up, so you could get back less than you invest. It is therefore important that you understand the risks and commitments. This website is not personal advice based on your circumstances. So you can make informed decisions for yourself we aim to provide you with the best information, best service and best prices. If you are unsure about the suitability of an investment please contact us for advice.