Technologies triumph over commodities. Sometimes.
When high voltage cables become the new pipelines
There was a time when agricultural and mineral commodities were the source of most economic value, and the favourite investment choice. Precious metals, crude oil, coal, and copper were sought after minerals, and actively traded on the spot and futures markets. Bulk commodities like corn, barley and wheat featured on the exchanges, with daily price fixes. Top companies in the S&P500 were in oil, mining, and railways.
But that was before the digital age, and the exponential rise of tech that reinvented every sector. Now the top companies are Microsoft, Apple, Google, Nvidia, and Tesla. And SpaceX. With artificial intelligence supercharging scientific discoveries and bleeding edge technologies, whole industries have been made obsolete. New industries have been created, and every major business is a tech business.
Gold, silver, and titanium have been disrupted by graphene and novel alloys. Aluminium has been superceded by carbon composites, and natural gas is rapidly being displaced by synthetic hydrogen. Former ‘critical minerals’ like lithium and rare earths face competition from graphene oxides and synthesized complex compounds. Why dig up tons of ore for a few grams of cobalt, when you can make something better in the lab?
Solar and battery tech has killed coal and oil. Heat wells are the new source of baseload generation, and Gigawatt conductor cables are the new energy pipelines. Heat pumps are the new boilers and induction ovens the new furnaces. And AI-powered vertical farms produce 400 times more food per acre. Which only goes to show that resource companies that exploit technology get to stay in the game.
One commodity is booming in this high-tech age. Though long displaced by lasers and optical fibers for data transmission, copper is the conductor of choice for everything from electric car motors and chargers to solar farms to grid interconnects. In the new world of electric everything, copper is red gold.
Warning: Hazardous thinking at work
Despite appearances to the contrary, Futureworld cannot and does not predict the future. Our Mindbullets scenarios are fictitious and designed purely to explore possible futures, challenge and stimulate strategic thinking. Use these at your own risk. Any reference to actual people, entities or events is entirely allegorical. Copyright Futureworld International Limited. Reproduction or distribution permitted only with recognition of Copyright and the inclusion of this disclaimer.