Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think
Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think Q & A
Why did you write this book?
Through his study of exponential technologies and incentive competitions, Peter became convinced that abundance for all was within our grasp. Because of his writing and work on cognitive neuroscience and human psychology, Steven came to understand why the majority of the population was blind to this important insight. As this future flies in the face of so much contemporary pessimism, they decided to write a book about it. Abundance is that book.
Abundance is also much more: a very real possibility, a new paradigm created through focused resources and courageous hard work. Peter’s basic philosophy has always been that the best way to predict the future is to create yourself. The purpose of this book and this website is to do just that. This is a place where leaders, philanthropists, entrepreneurs, innovators and anyone else can track the technologies and accelerating progress that are now enabling a much better tomorrow. A place where we can all work together to make this vision of abundance a reality.
If you’re sick of the doom and gloom, ready for the good news, and excited by this possibility, then welcome aboard.
Is the World Really Getting Better?
The answer is a resounding yes. Poverty has decreased more in the past 50 years than in the previous 500. At a global level, the gap between wealthy nations and poorer nations continues to close. Across the boards, we are living longer, wealthier, healthier lives. Certainly, there are still hundreds of millions of people living in dire, back-breaking poverty, but using almost every quality-of-life metric available: access to goods and services, access to transportation, access to information, access to education, access to life-saving medicines and procedures, means of communication, value of human rights, importance of democratic institutions, durable shelter, available calories, available employment, affordable energy, even affordable beer—our day-to-day experience has improved massively over the past two centuries.
Progress is also accelerating. We’re poised to make greater gains in the next two decades than we have in the previous 200 years. Because of new, transformational technologies and three powerful forces (discussed in greater detail below) we will soon have the ability to meet and exceed the basic needs for every man, woman and child on the planet. Abundance for all is actually within our grasp.
What's a Good Example of Abundance in Action?
Over the past twenty years wireless technologies and the internet have become ubiquitous, affordable and available to almost everyone. Africa has skipped a technological generation, by-passing the landlines that stripe our Western skies for the wireless way. Today, a Masai warrior with a cellphone has better telecom capabilities than the President of the United States did 25 years ago. If he’s a Masai warrior on a smart phone with access to Google, then he has access to more information than the President did just 15 years ago. By the end of 2013, over 70 percent of humanity will have access to instantaneous, low-cost, communications and information. In other words, we are now living in a world of information and communication abundance. For the first time ever, these “Rising Billion” will have their voices heard becoming both a producing and consuming segment of humanity.
Why Don't People Believe in Abundance?
The simple answer is because we’re hard-wired not to notice. The first thing to know is that the brain filters reality with great prejudice. Every moment of every day we are flooded with information—way too much for our neuronal circuits to handle. So choices are made and processing shortcuts are utilized. Because the first order of business for any organism is survival, the brain privileges information that appears to threaten us. We always notice the bad news, but the good news struggles to get through.
Moreover, we also utilize processing shortcuts known as heuristics. Most of the time these work. Sometimes they fail. When this happens, heuristics become “cognitive biases.” These biases come in all flavors, but lately scientists have found a few patterns. One is our “the psychological immune system.” This is a set of biases that keep us ridiculously cocksure. We overestimate our own attractiveness, intelligence, work-ethic, chances for success, chances of avoiding a negative outcome, impact on external events, impact on other people, and even the superiority of our own peer group (known as the Lake Woebegone Effect after Garrison Keeler’s fictional happyland). But there’s a flipside: while we seriously overestimate ourselves, we significantly underestimate the world at large.
Human beings are designed to be local optimists and global pessimists and this is a big problem for abundance. By necessity, any organism struggling for survival is a control fiend. And we are significantly more optimistic about things we believe we can control. If I ask you what you can do to get a better grade in math—you can imagine studying harder, partying less, maybe hiring a tutor. You have control here. Thus your psychological immune system makes you feel over-confident. But if I ask what you can do to solve world hunger, all you can imagine is hordes of starving children. There’s no sense of control, no overconfidence, and those starving children instead become your anchor—and crowd out all other possibilities.
What are the Critical Technologies Leading to Abundance?
Moore’s Law, the doubling of the price-performance of our laptops every 18 months, also underpins the exponential growth of any ‘information-based technology’. As such areas like computational and network systems, artificial intelligence, robotics, biotechnology, bio-informatics, nanotechnology, human-machine interfaces, and medicine are growing faster than ever. These technologies are enabling the vast majority of humanity to experience what only the affluent have had access to thus far. Artificial intelligence alone, as demonstrated through the recent success of Watson in the game show Jeopardy!, has the potential to transform both education and healthcare worldwide. In Abundance, Peter and Steven examine how exponential technologies are being used (and can be used) to provide 6.8 billion people with clean water, nutritious food, affordable housing, personalized education, top-tier medical care, non-polluting and ubiquitous energy.
Technology is also dematerializing the goods and services that used to distinguish the rich from the poor. Today anyone with a smart phone can own a video-camera, game arcade, music library, GPS, video phone, voice recorder, compass, radio, television and much more, all for the price of a cup of coffee.
What are the Forces Leading to Abundance?
In addition to the powerful tools being created by the exponential growth of technology, we believe that three forces are conspiring to significantly improve global standards of living. These forces are the DIY Innovator, the Technophilanthropist and the Rising Billion.
DIY Innovators: DIY innovators are individuals and small groups empowered by exponential technologies and driven by the desire to take on humanity’s grand challenges. As we explore in the book, these groups now have the ability to tackle problems that were once the sole domain of governments and major corporations and NGOs.
Technophilanthropist: Today there are more than 1,400 billionaires and 93,000 “ultra-high-net-worth” individuals. Many of these are young, entrepreneurs who have made their money in technology and are interested in using that wealth to slay some of the world’s grand challenges. We call these individuals Technophilanthropists. Rising Billion: These are the poorest people on Earth, the so-called “bottom billion.” We have renamed this group the “Rising Billion” because, thanks to the exponential spread of communication and information technologies (like the smart phone), these people are coming on line for the very first time. Their voices, which have never before been heard, are suddenly joining the global conversation. Aided by these technologies, the Rising Billion are beginning to pull themselves out of poverty. They are already on their way to becoming a powerful and significant consuming segment of humanity, and many companies are rushing to develop ultra-low cost products to meet their needs. This effort will drive down the price of basic goods and services in a fashion that will benefit everyone. The Rising Billion are also become a producing and consuming segment of humanity, generating new ideas, insights, products and services that add to the overall wealth of Earth.
How did Peter and Steven come to write this book?
Peter and Steven first meet in 2000, when Steven wrote an article on the X PRIZE for GQ magazine. Peter so enjoyed Steven’s writing style that he approached him about an early collaboration on that same subject (which did not move forward). A decade later, in Spring 2010, Peter again approached Steven on a book collaboration – this time on the concept of Abundance. Peter had come to this organizing principal through his work on X PRIZE and Singularity University. To his pleasant surprise, Steven had been considering similar ideas, and brought his expertise and unique perspective on technology, food, education, energy, the environment and the neuroscience/psychology of abundance to this work. Writing this book was a journey of discovery for both of them. While the book is written Peter’s voice, and through his personal stories, (which, given the nature of his work, have direct relevance here and provide a clear, easy-to-read narrative flow) the effort is a true partnership. The ideas and the writing in Abundance were shared equally between Peter and Steven.
Reviews for Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think“At a moment when our world faces multiple crises and is awash in pessimism, Abundance redirects the conversation, spotlighting scientific innovators working to improve people’s lives around the world. The result is more than a portrait of brilliant minds – it’s a reminder of the infinite possibilities for doing good when we tap into our own empathy and wisdom.”
—Arianna Huffington, CEO, Huffington Post
“This brilliant must-read book provides the key to the coming era of abundance replacing eons of scarcity, a powerful antidote to today’s malaise and pessimism.”
—Ray Kurzweil, inventor, author and futurist, author of The Singularity is Near
“Now that human beings communicate so easily, I suspect that nothing can stop the inevitable torrent of new technologies, new ideas and new arrangements that will transform the lives of our children. Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler give us a blinding glimpse of the innovations that are coming our way — and that they are helping to create. This is a vital book.”
—Matt Ridley, author of The Rational Optimist
“Comprehensively sampled here are a hell of a lot of the profound innovations going on to improve the human condition. Every breakthrough helps empower others, and so they aggregate into a trend you can count on.”
—Stewart Brand, author, Whole Earth Discipline
“Diamandis and Kotler challenge us all to solve humanity’s grand challenges. Innovative small teams are now empowered to accomplish what only governments and large corporations could once achieve. The result is nothing less than the most transformative and thrilling period in human history.”
—Timothy Ferriss, #1 NY Times bestselling author of The 4-Hour Workweek
“Today, philanthropists, innovators and passionate entrepreneurs are more empowered than ever before to solve humanity’s grand challenges. Abundance chronicles many of these stories and the emerging tools driving us towards an age of abundance. This is an audacious and powerful read!”
“Diamandis and Kotler do a masterful job of explaining why we are at the start of a new era of radically increasing standards of living throughout the world. Abundance is essential reading for anyone looking for a better tomorrow.”
—Elon Musk, CEO, SpaceX, CEO, Tesla Motors, Founder, PayPal
“Abundance provides proof that the proper combination of technology, people and capital can meet any grand challenge.”
—Sir Richard Branson, Chairman of the Virgin Group
“This engaging book is a needed corrective, a whirlwind tour of the latest developments in health care, agriculture, energy, and other fields …The authors make a compelling case for optimism over dread as we face the exhilarating unknown.”
“If the future isn’t necessarily bright enough for shades, then, write high-tech pioneer Diamandis and science journalist Kotler think things are going to work out just fine…A nicely optimistic look at a matter that usually brings out the darkest thoughts among prognosticators…”