I recently attended a small business entrepreneur event where the speaker asked the audience this question:

“Do you feel the next generation of Americans will be better off than your generation?”

The answer from the audience was a resounding “No.”  Out of a couple hundred people, I was one of only a couple dozen who raised a hand for “better off.”

So, why do I feel America has a brighter future where my kids will be better off?

1 – Healthcare.  In the past decade, we’ve seen great advances in longevity and medical treatment, but what we’ve not seen yet, but will soon, is disruptive technology revolutionize the healthcare industry. 

Diagnostics through your smart phone, checkups with your iPad, virtual access to experts, and genome mapping are all going to be common place within the next decade. And one of the many benefits will be $100s of billions in annual savings.

In fact, no other area of technology may be more economically impactful than the replacement of today’s antiquated healthcare delivery model.

A recent study concluded that almost half of all healthcare visits don’t require the patient to actually be in the doctor’s office. Within the next 10 years, these appointments will be conducted virtually. Waiting in an office for anything other than a hands-on issue should soon be a thing of the past.

The existing healthcare model is about to be crushed.

Your phone combined with applied wearable technology will soon be the most effective means of monitoring your health.  Scanners and monitors that charge hundreds of dollars per use today will  soon be replaced by wearables that will be able to do the job at a fraction of the cost.

Mapping your genome was a $200,000 expense just a few years ago – today it’s less than $2,000, and in a few years the cost could be less than $200. The information from the genome of tens of millions of us combined will soon allow medicine to be customized. No more taking a medication that won’t work for you, no more standard dosing, and a lot less random guessing.  You’ll know what your medical weak points are and have ways to address them.

Changes in healthcare are happening at an amazing rate and in the next decade, healthcare as we know it will make a greater leap forward than at any time in history.

2 – Energy. Energy has always been the key to economic development, and today, the U.S. is in the best energy position of any country on the planet.  If we want to, we could be energy independent in just a few years.

In the past decade, the U.S. has become the world’s largest natural gas producer and one of the largest oil producers. These accomplishments were a pie-in-the-sky dream just 15 years ago.

Energy independence will create tens of thousands of permanent high paying jobs, and allow us to secure a reliable energy supply for generations to come.

Natural gas and oil are where the greatest gains have been made thus far, but conservation and smart use are making great strides, and numerous other alternatives have tremendous potential in the longer term.

3 – Manufacturing.  With 3-D printing and robotic technology improving at a very fast pace, we are on the doorstep of a dramatic change. Within the next 10 years, the U.S. should once again be the world’s leading manufacturer, as the race becomes much more dependent on great technology rather than cheap labor.

Small-scale local manufacturing will be the mechanism of the future, and a nation’s consumer health will dictate the strength of its manufacturing base.

The multi-decade megatrend of moving manufacturing abroad is about to shift more quickly than most people realize. During this transition, U.S. dominance in technology and consumer demand should ensure significant economic gains.

4 – Infrastructure.  The bad news is that we have not invested nearly enough in new and improved infrastructure.  But the good news is that the number of jobs that are going to have to be created and sustained to catch up to the demand will be unlike anything this nation has seen since the great infrastructure build-out of the mid-20th century.

And unlike the wasteful spending so frequently seen in Washington, an investment in infrastructure likely will reap decades of healthy returns.

5 – Small Business.  Today small-business people are under a lot of unnecessary pressure. Politicians are much to blame as they impede this crucial segment of our economy in favor of their benefactors – big business and big government.

The problems are serious but they’re largely policy-inflicted. As such, they can be resolved more easily than if they were systemic.

6 – Transformative Innovation. Even though examples of transformative innovation are all around us, we sometimes need a moment of reflection to take it all in. Consider the tremendous changes we’ve recently seen in offices that have gone paperless.

First, the file cabinets that lined the halls disappeared.  Then, as they changed the way they processed information, faxes were eliminated, snail mail was reduced, hard-copy forms vanished, printing was cut dramatically, and signatures were digitized.

Eventually, people realized they no longer needed to be tethered to the office, since data could now be managed from almost anywhere.

Organizations can now grow more safely and easily than ever, as space for employees is not as vital. Support staff can be in one city and the front office easily in another. Commuting becomes voluntary, office space can be reconfigured or removed all together, and in the end productivity can increase dramatically.

That’s just one example of transformative innovation – and it all started with a seemingly minor change – going paperless.

Today, technology is advancing so rapidly that we sometimes don’t even recognize the change until it has already passed us. We’ve come a long way in 20 years of the Internet, but the future rate of change  will continue exponentially, leading to changes that are almost unimaginable.

So, what does it all mean? 

In the next 15 years, advances in healthcare, energy, and technology should translate to a higher standard of living throughout the world. And fortunately, much of the change appears likely to benefit the U.S. more than any other nation.

Clearly, there are a lot of problems in the world today, and things could get worse before they get better, but in the long-term, the future looks promising.

All and all, the U.S. appears to be on the cusp of significant prosperity, and there is a very strong case to be made that the next generation will be much better off than ours.