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The rise of the world’s next great superpower

Melburnians dressed as superheroes participate in a Guinness World Record attempt for the most number of people dressed in superhero costume at Federation Square on May 29, 2010 in Melbourne, Australia. The event was organised to mark the 75th anniversary
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We're at an inflection point in history where innovation is solving many of the world's problems. And it's the entrepreneurs, not nations, that are poised to be the future's superpowers.

Education, space exploration, health care and renewable energy were issues once tackled by nations. Now Silicon Valley is using the latest technologies to solve all of these problems.

Consider space exploration. For many years NASA didn't design affordable or reusable rockets, because cost was never an issue. Elon Musk's SpaceX lowered the cost of a rocket from $200 million to $300 million, down to $60 million to $70 million, by using vertically integrated technologies. Last year Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin successfully launched and landed its own reusable rocket.

Later this year, my company Moon Express will land on the moon. We are the only company that has permission to leave Earth's orbit. When we land on the moon, we become the first private company ever to do so. Only superpowers like the United States and Russia have completed similar goals. Does that make us the next superpower?

The marginal cost of our mission to the moon costs well under $10 million. By contrast, the Apollo program, in today's dollars, costs more than $100 billion. Moon Express is able to bring costs down because we think like software engineers, not rocket scientists.

Just as Uber is impacting notions of driving and Udacity has liberated education from location constraints, entrepreneurs are nimble and free to find solutions in ways that governments can't. Tesla is doing more for the environment by reducing our dependence on fossil fuel and creating renewable energy than any nation has done by signing various climate change treaties.

Take health care as an example. Today's health-care system is obsolete and needs overwhelming reforms.

But what if health care meant preventing illness before it happens? Viome, my newly launched company, uses cutting-edge technology first developed for the national security at the Los Alamos National Lab. We start with the premise, based on multiple scientific studies, that analyzing our gut microorganisms and biochemistry of our body offers a true picture of our health. Taking charge of our gut health can lead not just to better overall health but it can make chronic diseases a matter of choice and not a matter of bad luck.

The new global order

Another important point to note is that entrepreneurs, as leaders of their companies, are held accountable every day, not just every election cycle. For example, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was forced to resign from a presidential advisory council after the "Delete Uber" campaign gained traction with thousands of his customers. Start-ups have to keep delivering or they risk going out of business. This results in a natural urgency toward innovation, as opposed to the inertia prompted by layers of bureaucracy and entrenched government politics.

Entrepreneurs, unlike nation-states, are not limited by boundaries. They will turn to anyone that can help them solve their particular problem, whether it's design talent in Europe or coders in India. Entrepreneurs view problems in the aggregate and will source labor to the best available minds, independent of where people are physically. Nation-states tend to limit themselves to the talent within their own country.

Lastly, capital is not patriotic, and it flows where it's most needed. As fleets of mobile workers break down borders, similarly, investment money hones in on the strongest companies to invest in. The companies of the near future will have investors from around the world.

We are presently in the fledgling stages of a fourth industrial revolution. By 2050 I believe that innovations just being discovered today will utterly transform the Earth and beyond.

As a species, we have always feared the worst, but let me assure you that we are living in the most innovative time in the human history. There is only hope ahead.

Consider for a moment how much life has changed since 1950 — and for the better. In 2050 — a mere 33 years down the road — I believe humanity will look back at the seeds we're sowing today, just as we do of those who envisioned the future in 1950, with the same appreciation for the optimism and sense of wonder that made it all possible.

And that's what makes technology entrepreneurship so exciting — and hopeful.

— By Naveen Jain, founder of MoonExpress, Viome, Intelius and InfoSpace. He is on the board of Singularity University and Xprize Foundation.

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