…as it always has been.

I haven’t read any really great predictions for 2009. What will the web see next? I have some ideas, and it’s one of those times when what I think is going to happen is also what I want to happen. That, I suppose, is the definition of optimism.

I predict that in 2009, the next economies to move to the web will be professional services like medicine, law, pharmacy, engineering, and business consultancy. While of course people in these markets already find each other on the internet, I think that our changing circumstances will begin to make it cost effective and reliable to conduct these services – legal counsel, healthcare, and other informational services that require very skilled, even licensed practitioners – online and with a maximum of automation and generalization.

One of the reasons I think this is likely to happen so soon is that it is already beginning to happen, peripherally, in the form of online health records, college classes, investing sites (especially those already offering financial planning advice), and so on. I think the main drivers for this trend will be a generation of Americans slowly coming into adulthood that is able to trust the internet, a changing healthcare system in the US, and exponential growth in developing markets in countries that have fewer skilled professionals but a growing middle class able to purchase professional services over a more ubiquitous internet.

This isn’t a very bold statement – sorry – but we hope that economic downturns inspire new levels of efficiency, and I’m thinking it could be the catalyst we need to move the remainder of our information services online.

I also think that the first real entirely online careers will be created – while many service jobs become automated, telepresence positions (eg. controlling a fruit-picking robot from a computer in another place or doing data entry) will become more commonplace as the manufacturing and installation of those systems plus remote labor costs falls below the local labor cost for those outsourceable but non-automatable jobs. I think it’s likely that 2009 and 2010 will see a taste of this, like maybe increased use of Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. The constantly falling price of computers and internet access would really be a telling factor here, I think.

Here’s hoping 2009 is a good year for technology and prosperity everywhere in the world.