Ah, to live the life of Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg — billionaires who didn’t build their fortunes through dirty rent seeking, but rather, saw problems or opportunities and seized them. This is the way many in the world’s billionaire class were anointed, and in all likelihood, is going to be the way the next billionaire comes into being as well. The world is full of billion-dollar problems. Those who are willing to put shoulder to the problem? They’re rewarded — assuming they can figure it out.
A billionaire has certain characteristics. They’re usually not stupid or lazy, for example. They like to congregate around other smart, hard-working people, too. But most of all, they’re innovative. They think outside the box. They can come up with creative solutions to complex problems.
And in a world rife with problems, there is a multitude of ways to make that $1 billion. Or even $1 trillion.
Interested in giving it a shot? Here are 12 problems you can start with, a solution to any of which would earn you an incredible pay day.
1. Energy storage
This is the big thing holding back the next revolution in energy. Yes, we can get unlimited clean energy from sources like the sun and wind, but the problem is we don’t have a good way to store it. Scientists and engineers are working on it, and once they figure it out, big changes are in store. You can bet that whoever finally solves the puzzle has an impressive payday coming their way.
2. Asteroid mining
This isn’t so much an invention as it is a process. There are trillions upon trillions of dollars worth of resources floating around in outer space, and there are entrepreneurs who are setting their sites on roping them in and bringing them down. If you can manage to do it, you’ll be very, very rich.
3. Wireless electricity
Imagine a world in which you didn’t have to plug all of your electronics into a wall. We’re getting there with wireless charging, but wireless electricity? That’ll be a game-changer. And what’s even more amazing is that it was already invented. A long time ago. In the form of the Tesla Coil.
The trick is making it applicable and practical in modern America, and not frying everyone to death.
4. Cheap, portable water filtration
One of the biggest issues facing the modern world is a lack of access to clean, fresh water. Climate change is going to exacerbate the issue, and many countries will face even tighter water shortages in coming years. There are technologies out there, but they haven’t been able to solve a worsening issue for billions of people around the world.
5. Superior carbon capture tech
Speaking of climate change, increased environmental regulations are likely in the pipeline for businesses. That means cutting carbon emissions further — which is sure to spark some intense political fights. We have carbon capture technology, but improving upon it, and decreasing costs, will go a long way toward helping businesses curb emissions.
6. Superior fracking tech
Fracking gets people heated. On one hand, it’s led to an energy revolution in the United States, and done real damage to the coal industry. On the other, it leads to some serious environmental issues, and even causes earthquakes. But if we could make the process cleaner and safer? That would change things considerably.
7. Reverse microwave
You probably had this idea back in grade school, but it still applies here: A reverse microwave. Instead of rapidly heating something, how about rapidly cooling? Hot Pocket going to scald the roof of your mouth (they always do, those bastards)? Throw it in the reverse microwave. Don’t want to wait 40 minutes to drink your coffee that is at lava-like temps? Reverse microwave.
A freezer might be the answer. But we all know it’s not the answer we’re looking for.
8. (Good) meatless meat
We eat too much meat, and it causes a lot of problems. It’s environmentally devastating, is a huge contributor to climate change, and is physically killing us. But we won’t stop consuming it. If there were an alternative, many people might be willing to give it up, though.
There are alternatives, yes. But as many people already know, even bringing up the topic of veganism or vegetarianism is a sure-fire way to get some people to fly off the handle. The good news? There are some promising meat alternatives in the works.
9. Scalable desalination
Going back to clean water, we’ll need large-scale desalination and purification techniques if water shortages continue to take hold in coming years. Desalination is a technology that exists, but for several reasons, it’s not very practical. Figuring out a solution will net someone a lot of money.
Yes — space travel. Someone, at some point, will figure out how to get us to the stars. One proposed way to do it is by using antigravity propulsion systems. Read more about how that works on some UFO forums, but scientists are actually trying to figure it out. If they do? It may be the most significant finding in human history.
11. Disease cures
This one is a bit obvious. If you can figure out the cure for cancer, you can bet you’ll be very rich. That goes for a number of other diseases and illnesses as well. You could take the Jonas Salk route, and give it away for free for the good of humankind. Or, you can rake in the billions.
12. A marijuana DUI test kit
One very real problem facing law enforcement and policymakers today is the lack of a noninvasive procedure for testing drivers suspected of driving under the influence of marijuana. There are ideas and prototypes floating around, but nothing solid yet. Current methods of drawing blood don’t solve the problem, and whenever the technology is developed, it’s likely a new billionaire will be christened.
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