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Preparing to Live in That Unknown Country: The Future

The recent New York Ideas 2013 conference, sponsored by The Aspen Institute and The Atlantic magazine, brought together about 600 New York and national thought leaders.

Among the many participants were people such as: Robert K. Steel (New York City Deputy Mayor for Economic Development), John Borthwick (Founder and CEO, Betaworks), Eric Schmidt (Executive Chairman, Google), Alexa Von Tobel (Founder and CEO, Learnvest), and Katherine Oliver (Commissioner, New York City Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting). The discussions were excellent, but mainly around technologies, policies and business innovations that shaped the past five years, and might shape the next three to five years.

In the 1950s, Detroit's population peaked at around two million; by 2010, its population had declined to 700,000. Detroit became a byword for urban collapse, because it failed to respond to the latter 20th century's changes (primarily the long-term implosion of America's auto industry). Its citizens paid a heavy price. With Detroit's example in mind, it's worth asking what changes the 21st Century might bring, and how they might impact the global, U.S. and New York City economies.

Below are some themes that I believe might shape the next 50 years, and need to be addressed. With each, consider what new product opportunities (if any) might be created, the challenges and opportunities for the global and U.S. economies/political systems, and the implications for entrepreneurs.