There’s a good reason they call it the “Invisible Economy.” Most of the raw materials and sub-assemblies are too small to be seen with the naked eye. And whole factories can reside in a test tube.
But like computer processors, the smaller things get, the more powerful they become. Now the virtually invisible economy of nanotechnology and molecular machines is dominating industrial processes and ‘manufacturing’ from Shanghai to Silicon Valley.
It’s just so much easier, and cheaper, to build things from atoms and molecules, that old-style 20th Century industries have gone to the wall. Everything from aircraft parts to TV screens can be grown or printed on the spot, right where you need them.
Which means that all those warehouses full of inventory have also disappeared; so this new economy is more invisible than ever, even as it booms beyond all expectation.
Next thing you know, it will be like turning on a tap to get food or beer; all you need is a pipeline of molecules to your home or office. And if you need an extra room or desk, that can be built out of atoms too!
So if we can make anything we need, as we need it, is there really any industry left? Or have we finally reached the stage where economics are irrelevant, as well as invisible?