Barron's recently predicted that over the next 20 years, "the U.S. economy is likely to grow less than 2% a year, down from 3% or better since World War II."
Citing the work of prominent Northwestern economist Robert J. Gordon, Barron's predicts a long era of slow growth, market turbulence, and - of particular concern - the ongoing displacement of middle class jobs due to technological innovation.
As disturbing as this is from the macroeconomic perspective, there is a silver lining. Savvy investors can snatch profits from the jaws of gloom - if they know where to look.
Because there's one industry that will benefit greatly from the sea changes to come. And that industry is going to turbocharge the U.S. economy and blow all this market doomsday baloney out of the water.
I'm talking about an industry that will add $1.7 trillion to the U.S. economy every single year by 2030...
What Will Drive the U.S. Economy of the Future
To understand how this industry is vital for economic growth - and investing opportunity - take a look at what the McKinsey Global Institute has to say about it.
McKinsey is the economics and policy think tank of the world's premier global consultancy. McKinsey foresees events on the horizon of the U.S. economy that could make you huge profits if you're willing to invest for the long-term.
In July, McKinsey published a report called Game Changers: Five Opportunities for U.S. Growth and Renewal. Inside, its analysts argued that five U.S. opportunities would drive massive gross domestic product (GDP) growth here in the United States.
The first four are familiar to Money Morning readers: shale oil and gas development, big data analytics, next-generation manufacturing, and domestic infrastructure. Each of these four disciplines will add about $250 billion to $600 billion in new GDP growth each year by 2020.
But the biggest driver of economic growth will add more than twice that to the U.S. GDP by 2030...
The game-changing industry I'm talking about is human talent development, which focuses on offering workers the skills they need to reshape the U.S. economy.
Not that it's going to be easy. The United States is currently trying to prepare a nation of schoolchildren for jobs that don't even exist yet.
What's more, we'll need to change the status quo.
Before we can start educating the workforce of tomorrow, the nation must first unshackle itself from the way "things have always been done" and the bureaucracy of top-down government education.
But that's where the opportunity comes in.
The introduction of new technologies like greater networking tools and enhanced entrepreneurial development, as well as a better emphasis on "how" children and adults learn rather than "what" they learn, will unlock a massive boom in American innovation and education.
All we have to do is invest in and ride the intellectual profit wave.
How to Get Your Share of a $1.7 Trillion Bonanza
One possibility for investing in this human talent development focus is a darling of the recent tech boom: LinkedIn (Nasdaq: LNKD).
LinkedIn emphasizes social interaction for the sake of business and human resource development. Each of these interactions can generate real economic activity - immediately or over time. And every small tick in GDP counts.
In the next few years, it's likely LinkedIn will begin to focus on ways to teach workers new skills (similar to Khan Academy) with real-time training seminars. It will emphasize executive education and over time begin a transition to develop the talent market.
But the best opportunity to tap into this massive new opportunity is an area of technological innovation called cognitive computing...
Right now, computer companies are beginning to bridge the gap between the human brain and the machine. The goal is to design smart computers that emulate the way human beings think, perceive, learn, and make decisions, all while using far less energy than traditional machines.
As these machines are adopted, they will poach jobs in information processing, which represents about 65% of employment across the United States. This means machines will displace workers in sectors that include law, secondary and higher education, procurement, and healthcare.
In essence, the U.S. workforce will need to learn new skills to cope with the new innovations and the "jobs of the future" - or else.
Still, humanity has a funny way of adapting after each new wave of innovation, especially as it improves the standard of living. While the machines are busy increasing productivity in jobs where humans are no longer needed, they will also be used to educate and help develop the workforce of tomorrow.
Of course, the transition could be a bit rocky. So, the best way to protect yourself and profit at the same time is to own stock in the companies at the forefront of this trend long before it hits the mainstream.
And the company with the greatest commitment to cognitive computing is none other than Big Blue - International Business Machines (NYSE: IBM).
The company is being honest when it says its goal is to build a "smarter planet."
IBM has staked its future on machines like Watson, a high-powered cognitive machine that took the world by storm after defeating past champions on "Jeopardy!"
IBM has already begun partnering with the smartest people in America from schools like MIT to focus on how this level of computing can help workers learn and interact better with technology, improve overall productivity, and make better business decisions in the future U.S. economy.
By better understanding how machines and the human mind learn and process information, IBM will be better suited to help improve the learning curves in American classrooms, boardrooms, and company training seminars.
As machines are able to map and determine the best way to educate developing minds, we will see shifts in how education is taught. The top-down, all-of-the-above approach will be a thing of the past. The status quo will be turned on its side.
Despite concerns about poaching jobs in information sectors, this kind of computing will allow innovators to create new forms of economic activity and drive growth in the U.S. economy, at the expense of the doomsayers.
After all, human resources and talent development are at the core of all great businesses and innovations.
Remember, it wasn't the wheel that changed humanity. It was the mind that imagined the wheel.
It's true. We can't wait until 2020 or later to start building a U.S. educational system capable of giving workers the skills they need to compete in a 21st century global economy. Here's what needs to be done right now...
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