What’s the ‘Next New Thing’ to Solve the Jobs Crisis?

BY Business Desk  November 17, 2009 at 1:46 PM EDT

question marks; file photo

Question: Hi Paul. If it’s going to take a “new thing,” a la the Internet, to pull us out of the unemployment funk, what do you think it is ?

Paul Solman: When I receive a query like this, Hunter, I think to myself: Why don’t I become an entrepreneur, push some alluring version of the “new thing,” and cash in on my sem-quasi-celebrity? Then I remember that: 1) It would be wrong; 2) It probably wouldn’t work; and, in answer to your question, 3) I have no idea what the Next New Thing will be and wouldn’t be good at either developing or bringing it to market if I did.

Happily, there are uncountable numbers of people out there trying to invent the NNT even as I write. Many are in the alternative energy business, like a Frenchman I met a few weeks back at the B&B we frequented in Lisbon. Wood pellets (made of sawdust) for home heating is his game. Says it works wonders at his stove in Paris, and from what I saw of his family, they certainly seemed to have been well heated. You can even control the temperature by remote control, he alleges.

For all I know, there may have been an alternative energy entrepreneur checking into every hostelry in Europe that day. Or a biotech pioneer. Perhaps even a space travel visionary like Howard Bloom, author of the intriguing new book, Genius of the Beast. (Okay, there can’t be that many astro-preneurs out there, but you get the point.)

In short, who knows the nature of the NNT? But you can be sure there are plenty of folks working on it. Will it usher in a new wave of prosperity? They forbid the following sentence on TV news, because it was already a cliche decades ago, but that’s because it was always so apt: Time will tell.