We are running out of resources fast.

We are running out of resources fast. Source: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20120618-global-resources-stock-check

We have to stop building businesses, and start solving for scarcity. Our planet is running out of natural resources like titanium, silver and copper at an alarming rate.  Antimony, a product used in many batteries, will be exhausted from known mines within 7 years. Meanwhile the global population continues to soar; we will reach 8 billion people by 2024, and 9 billion by 2040. Scarcity will become the global norm within the next decade, so entrepreneurs should build businesses that cope with scarcity.

There’s money in solving for scarcity. Zipcar, Spotify, and AirBNB (my three favorite web-enabled services of the past decade) have all proven that a) access is more important than ownership, b) people are willing to share resources, and c) founders of these companies can become extremely wealthy.

Most of us are doing the opposite. Instead helping humans thrive despite scarcity, most human enterprise is dedicated to accelerating scarcity. I’m constantly disappointed by fresh entrepreneurs who are building products for yesterday’s economy instead of for tomorrow’s reality.

I’ve written about products that will work in a darker version of the future here. But I think there’s also opportunity in building a brighter future: communal housing, schooling and child-raising; indoor, vertical, and underground farming; insects as a food source; 100% online advanced degrees and clinical research; consumer products that test the safety of our air, food and water.

Read fiction for more business ideas. Sci-fi is my go-to genre for inspiration about what the future will look like and what kinds of products we might expect.  I heartily recommend the hilarious, heartwarming, and insightful book Super Sad True Love Story as one such example.

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  • http://www.PeterKimFrank.com/ Peter Frank

    I couldn’t agree more. On the one hand, I really think that collective consumption (ZipCar, AirBNB, CitiBike, et. al.) is in it’s infancy. These “consumer”-sided will help alleviate the effects you’re describing, but they’re far from a silver bullet. As scarcity increases (somewhat mind-bending wordplay), there will be increasing opportunities in the space, which will hopefully incentivize investment and creativity.

    But I fear that the macro-focus is lost on the vast majority of the world. We are burning through non-renewable resources (not just fossil fuels, but precious metals, etc.) at totally reckless and short-sighted rates. I wrote about this once in one of my very-few blog posts (http://peterkimfrank.com/2013/01/14/the-world-in-hyperspeed/), but I fear that we’ll find ourselves “victims of velocity.”

    To me, it seems there are only two realistic outcomes for the next 500-1000 years:
    1) We have really, really screwed up. Blinded by short-term comfort and expansion, we’ll simply have screwed the pooch: squandered our resources, and humanity won’t fulfill it’s potential — the human race will die out.
    OR
    2) We find some pie-in-the-sky solution (thorium reactors, singularity, what have you) that effectively guarantees our longterm survival and intergalactic potential.

    I worry that we’re hurtling towards that divergent point faster than anybody realizes or appreciates.

  • ArshadGC

    Hi Peter!

    Great points. Though things will get much worse before they get better, population experts agree that having more educated women worldwide is leading to fewer kids. Shortly after we hit the 9 billion mark, we will likely see a dramatic fall in human population.

    At the same time, there are some factors – like self-aware computers – that could alter the entire field. Much of our problems as a species have to do with fair and reasonable allocation of resources; a centralized computer might be able allocate resources more fairly and sustainably than our politicians and business people..

    I recommend checking out The Coming Population Crash for more on our falling numbers.

    Here’s a link:
    http://www.amazon.com/Coming-Population-Crash-Surprising-ebook/dp/B004U6CWF6/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1381343777&sr=1-1&keywords=The+coming+population+crash