Given California’s harsh business climate, it’s remarkable that entrepreneurs still flock to Silicon Valley, Sonia Arrison wryly observes. She’s a Pacific Research Institute scholar with a reputation for being a high-tech prophetess. “It’s a trade-off,” she says. “If you leave the Valley, you lose a lot.” The cost of doing business in the state is rising, but outside the Valley, it remains more difficult to find venture capital and recruit brilliant students.
Will competitors displace Silicon Valley? “There is pervasive fear of Chinese competition,” Arrison notes, but China lacks the Valley’s global appeal and “will not become a melting pot—at least not in the near future.” Where does she see the next revolution taking place? “Smartphones are hot,” she says, “and tablets are as hot as microprocessors were a generation ago. The next big thing could be cloud computing, and farther out, three-dimensional printers ” (which would be able to create objects in three dimensions, starting with basic plastic devices). Whatever the next innovation is, though, Arrison thinks that it will happen in the Valley.