By: Keenan Brugh Issue: Vision Section: Book Review
The Future Is Much Better Than You Think
Doom and gloom is seen all over the news and can be heard in daily conversations. However, this dominant pessimistic narrative ignores the possibilities of the future. Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think is an excitingly optimistic new book by Steven Kotler and Peter Diamandis, chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation that introduces a refreshingly new change in perspective.
Abundance introduces the famed inventor Ray Kurzweil and the Singularity University whose curriculum focuses on advancing the state of technologies such as biotechnology, computational systems, networks and sensors, artificial intelligence, robotics, digital manufacturing, medicine, and nanotechnology. Kurzweil’s writings describe how technologies are improving at an exponential rate, and understanding what that means for the future.
Sometimes people have difficulty wrapping their heads around the concept of exponential growth—like in the case of linear growth—30 steps will come out to over a billion. It is the reason why the cell phone in your pocket is a million times cheaper, a million times smaller, and a thousand times more powerful than a $60 million super computer was in the sixties. That’s a billion-fold increase in price and performance and miniaturization. Interestingly, the most dramatic increases in an exponential growth curve are in the last few steps.
Similar improvements in other technologies, such as those being studied at the Singularity University, will reshape industry and impact billions of lives. With this book, Diamandis and Kotler present compelling research and expert interviews designed to educate and inspire. Providing humanity with abundance is a great challenge, and Abundance outlines how.
“Scarcity is often contextual,” they pose to the reader. While people are overwhelmed by the scarcity they observe in their day-to-day lives, there also exists a broader historical perspective. Consider this example; Napoleon had offered his most honored guests utensils made of aluminum, while his other guests had to make due with gold. The context of scarcity changes because technology is a resource-liberating mechanism.
Besides the concept of exponential growth in technologies, the book examines how these technologies are and will change the lives of people globally in the near to intermediate future. In fact, they already are.
The Rising Billion
A young person in Africa today with a cellphone has access to better communication technology than the President of the United States did 25 years ago. Abundance explores the concept of the Rising Billion—the phenomenon where the world’s poorest billion people are experiencing an unprecedented rise in global information and economic integration. In fact, mobile phones and the Internet are bringing education and market access to those that never had it before. Previously ignored, they are now becoming a valuable market for businesses. Previously lost, their ideas and aspirations can now be a creative force heard around the world.
DIY... With others
Not too long ago, advances in technology were often the workings of individual inventors. Because of this system, major changes were infrequent and the process wasn’t efficient. Next came organized research and development that was conducted only by well-funded projects within universities, governments, and corporations. Today, the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) movement is empowering and connecting individual innovators with capital and other like-minded individuals. As a result of this shift, new technologies, such as 3D printers, can come about very quickly because of this networked innovation.
Abundance also looks at a new breed of change agents, known as technophilanthropists. As we know, information technology has created some of the richest and most successful business individuals in history who want to make a difference. People like Microsoft’s Bill Gates, eBay’s Jeff Skoll, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg are revolutionizing philanthropy by how they give. Referring to technophilanthropists, Elon Musk said, “They are now attracted to the biggest problems facing humanity, particularly in areas such as education, healthcare, and sustainable energy. The result will be the creation of new technologies, companies, and jobs that will bring prosperity to billions on Earth.”
Abundance is a must read for anyone who wants to understand how, “Humanity is entering a period of radical transformation where technology has the potential to significantly raise the basic standard of living for every man, woman, and child on the planet.”
Visit www.AbundancetheBook.com to learn more, buy a copy, and watch the great two-minute video produced by Jason Silva.