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NY Times review: Plenty to Go Around

- NY Times, March 30, 2012

…I’m fairly certain even the most skeptical readers will come away from “Abundance” feeling less gloomy. What’s more, anyone contemplating the direction of our global society would do well to read and debate its arguments. The future may not turn out to be very bad, or even very good. We may just muddle through, with plenty of highs and lows, kind of as we’re doing now. Still, there’s a significant idea embedded within “Abundance”: We should remain aware, as writers like Jared Diamond have likewise told us, that societies can choose their own future, and thus their own fate. In that spirit Diamandis and Kotler put forth a range of possible goals we may achieve if we have the imagination and the will. A little optimism wouldn’t hurt, either.

…Diamandis and Kotler have written a frequently interesting and sometimes uplifting book. There are a number of ideas in “Abundance” that even devoted followers of technological trends may find new and reifying. The authors’ tutorial on the declining costs of solar panels and power storage, for instance, makes a nearly airtight case for clean energy’s imminent economic and environmental effects. And did you know that robotic surgeons — first developed for soldiers during battle, now used to help with knee-replacement surgeries — may be adapted to perform simple and urgent procedures in developing countries where doctors are scarce? Or that “vertical farms” within cities have a real potential to provide vegetables and fruits to local consumers on a mass scale? I didn’t.

Read the complete review on NY Times

On Dematerialization: Our Response to WSJ Columnist Matt Ridley

On WallStreetJournal.com, the science writer Matt Ridley has penned a very interesting article on some of the ideas discussed in Abundance. Here are a few additional thoughts.

Ridley examines deflation, which he describes as a form of economic growth created, at least in part, by dematerialization. Here’s his example: “If the cost of, say, computing power goes down, then the users of computing power acquire more of it for less—and thus attain a higher standard of living.”

Of course, these days, dematerialization has shown up in dozens and dozens of industries—banking, cameras, stereos, encyclopedias, music, books, etc. Yet despite such progress, Ridley feels there are limits: “[C]ertain growing problems—such as caring for children and the elderly, or policing, or repairing freeways—won’t experience much dematerialization or deflation. And as dematerialized goods and services like communication get cheaper, these problems will increasingly dominate budgets, damping the acceleration.”

This may turn out to be the case, but there are certainly indicators that say otherwise. Take the DIY biology movement. The rapid acceleration in biotechnology has dropped the cost of a state of the art lab from over a million dollars just ten year ago, to less than ten thousand today. Taking advantage of this fact, DIY biologists are now beginning to solve real world problems. The winner of the 2008 IGEM competition (an MIT sponsored synthetic biology competition) built a vaccine against the virus that cause the most common form of ulcers. This type of syn bio DIY innovation is certain to have serious impact on the health and welfare of both the young and the old.

There’s also the recently announced Qualcomm “Tricorder” X Prize, which bestows $10 million dollars on the first team able to design a handheld device able to diagnose disease better than a board certified doctor. This will certainly help slash healthcare costs here at home, but in parts of the world where doctors are in short supply, this will bring a revolution in quality of care to children, the elderly, and everyone in between.

Then there’s robotics, where open source initiatives are already dematerializing costs. With a rapidly aging baby boomer population and nursing home price tags averaging between $40,000 and $85,000 annually, elderly care could easily bankrupt the nation. But many experts feel that robotic nurses are a fantastic solution (check out this Reuter’s video; or this article).

Or consider Matternet, a Singularity University spin-off attacking both of Ridley’s aforementioned problems—healthcare and freeway repair—simultaneously. Taking advantage of the fact that military-grade autonomous drones have dropped in price by nearly 99 percent over the past decade (radical demonetization), without much loss in functionality, Matternet is planning an AI-enabled network of UAVs and recharging stations housed in shipping containers scattered throughout roadless parts of Africa. Orders are placed via smart phone. For villages disconnected from the global transportation network, this means that everything from replacement parts for farm machinery to medical supplies can now be shipped in via a drone—for less than six cents per kilogram-kilometer.

There are other examples, of course, and ones that speak to Ridley’s other concerns. Dematerialization in autonomous drones has already impacted policing (as has dematerialization in video surveillance technology). Autonomous cars, meanwhile, threaten to dematerialize much of the transportation industry (taxi cabs and buses for starters). While these vehicles won’t banish the need for freeway repairs, they can be made several tons lighter than existing gas models, so will vastly reduce roadway wear and tear (and the need for freeway repairs).

None of this is to say that there won’t be issues ahead that will bog budgets and decelerate “official” progress, but with the newfound power of the DIY innovator we no longer have to wait for ”official progress,” for governments or large corporations to solve our problems. We can start to solve them ourselves. Which is, after all, the point.

MSNBC: The Path to Abundance

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Abundance is now #2 New York Times Best Seller

http://www.nytimes.com/best-sellers-books/2012-03-11/hardcover-nonfiction/list.html

The Economist: A godsend for those who suffer from Armageddon fatigue

- The Economist Magazine, March 3, 2012

THE lab-on-a-chip (LOC) is a small device with a huge potential. It can run dozens of diagnostic tests on human DNA in a few minutes. Give the device a gob of spit or a drop of blood and it will tell you whether or not you are sick without any need to send your DNA to a laboratory. In poor countries LOCs could offer diagnostics to millions who lack access to expensive laboratories. In the rich world they may curb rising medical costs.

The world has been so dogged by bad news of late that it is almost possible to forget about tiny miracles like the LOC. But [Abundance] remind[s] us that boffins continue to make the world a better place even as politicians strive to do the opposite. Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler make a breezy case for optimism in “Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think”…a godsend for those who suffer from Armageddon fatigue. They also remind us that technology keeps improving despite economic gloom…


Read the complete review on the Economist
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The Christian Science Monitor: “A Riveting Page-Turner”

-A review by the Christian Science Monitor

Hoping for a better world – quickly? “Abundance” promises to take you there.

By Kate Vander Wiede / February 28, 2012

…There is no hype in the pages of “Abundance.” Instead, Kotler and Diamandis patiently and carefully answer the skeptical thoughts they know you will have. They keenly dismantle your defenses through their presentation of research and facts. Not only is “Abundance” a riveting page-turner (hasn’t soothsaying always been popular?), but it’s a book that values your intelligence by being honest and shooting straight.

With so much information packed into so few pages, “Abundance” can be an overwhelming read. But perhaps that’s the point. Your mind fills with so much good news, so much progress, so much innovation, that by the book’s end, there seems to be no question as to whether we are headed down the path toward abundance. Of course we are.

“Abundance” is more than an interesting account of new-fangled technologies is because it gives us a vision of the future that is not just bright, but attainable. It gives us reason not just to hope, but to act.

“Abundance” gives us a future worth fighting for. And even more than that, it shows us our place in that fight…

Read the complete review on the Christian Science Monitor

 

 

 

Radio interview of co-author Steven Kotler

Listen to the interview of Steven Kotler on News Talk Radio 710
http://www.wor710.com/topic/play_window.php?audioType=Episode&audioId=5706841

Wall Street Journal Review

on Wall Street Journal (wsj.com) By MICHAEL SHERMER

Defying the Doomsayers

“Abundance” argues that growing technologies have the potential not only to spread information but to solve some of humanity’s most vexing problems.

 

If every image made and every word written from the earliest stirring of civilization to the year 2003 were converted to digital information, the total would come to five exabytes. An exabyte is one quintillion bytes, or one billion gigabytes—or just think of it as the number one followed by 18 zeros. That’s a lot of digital data, but it’s nothing compared with what happened from 2003 through 2010: We created five exabytes of digital information every two days. Get ready for what’s coming: By next year, we’ll be producing five exabytes every 10 minutes. How much information is that? The total for 2010 of 912 exabytes is the equivalent of 18 times the amount of information contained in all the books ever written. The world is not just changing, and the change is not just accelerating; the rate of the acceleration of change is itself accelerating.

The exabyte story and many other examples of accelerating returns are chronicled in “Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think” by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler. Mr. Diamandis is the chairman and chief executive of the X Prize Foundation and the founder of more than a dozen high-tech companies. With his journalist co-author, he has produced a manifesto for the future that is grounded in practical solutions addressing the world’s most pressing concerns: overpopulation, food, water, energy, education, health care and freedom. The authors suggest that “humanity is now 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.”

Read the complete review on WSJ.com

 

Huffington Post Review

- On Huffington Post by Arianna Huffington

Abundance: A Reminder of the Need to Focus on Our Surpluses and Not Just Our Shortages

As we move further into the presidential campaign, we’re going to hear a lot about the ways we’re lacking and where we fall short. And though the conversation has rightly and finally shifted to the need to grow the economy, much of it is still dominated by hysterical and destructive demands to impose deficit-cutting austerity even before the economy gets back on its feet (which would only increase, not cut, the deficit).

Of course, it’s only right that we should focus on where we’re coming up short. Those of us in the media focus too much on autopsies and not enough on biopsies of our problems. So, yes, let’s talk about our shortages — of jobs and revenue and good ideas coming from our leaders. But let’s start talking much more about our surpluses.

With unemployment still over 8 percent, we currently have more ingenuity, energy, spirit, and expertise than we have jobs — and definitely more time on our hands. And the story of how this abundance is being put to use, of what is working and how we can scale it, has been part of HuffPost’s mission from the very beginning — and was the guiding principle behind the recent launch of our Good News section.

That’s why I was so drawn to a new book by Peter Diamandis, who has been a friend for many years and is the CEO and chairman of the X Prize Foundation (of which I am a board member). Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think, co-written by Steven Kotler, arrives in a world facing multiple crises and awash in pessimism. And it offers three things in short supply: solutions, perspective and, just as important, optimism.

Arguing, as Diamandis and Kotler do, that the world is getting steadily, demonstrably better carries multiple hazards: of tone-deafness; of giving short shrift to suffering, corruption, and the parts of the world — including many parts of America — that are in steady, demonstrable decline.

But Abundance is not a work of Pollyannaism. The portraits of brilliant and empathetic minds at work improving the human condition are not an excuse to ignore the many areas in which our leaders and institutions are failing us. Rather, they are a reminder of the possibility of doing good by tapping into our collective intelligence and wisdom — and into game-changing advances in technology. As Diamandis and Kotler point out, a Maasai tribesman living in Kenya today with a cellphone has better mobile communications than President Reagan had 25 years ago. And if it’s a smartphone with an Internet connection, the tribesman has instant access to more knowledge and information than President Clinton had just 15 years ago…

Read the complete review on Huffington Post

Forbes Magazine: Peter Diamandis – Rocket Man

Peter Diamandis’ $10 million X Prize bounty sparked a boom in commercial space tourism. You won’t believe what he wants to do next.

It’s not easy to follow Grover from Sesame Street, especially when the throng of hungover Consumer Electronics Show attendees packed into the cavernous Palazzo Ballroom of the Venetian in Las Vegas endured product pitches from Qualcomm’s Paul Jacobs and Nokia’s Stephen Elop even before the fuzzy ­purple Muppet’s demo of an augmented reality app for kids.

But this is Peter Diamandis, the fast-talking, hand-chopping impresario of the tech and space worlds. “The system is broken, access to health care is inconvenient, inefficient, bureaucratic—at worst, it’s even inaccurate,” he intones, striding on the stage in the standard tech mogul uniform—white shirt, blue jacket and jeans—as MRI-like images dance behind him on a gigantic screen. Stats roll off his tongue: an average 21-day wait for a doctor’s appointment; the 2-hour delay in the office; a coming shortage of 91,000 doctors. That’s just in America.

The crowd listens keenly, less for Diamandis’ subject matter—a deadly topic, even at an electronics show—or his matter-of-fact style than this track record and his cash. Diamandis is launching his latest payload: a $10 million X Prize, his seventh contest, to whoever develops the first medical tricorder—yes, that all-purpose handheld that was standard equipment among Star Trek medics. “The good news is we do have incredible technologies like wireless sensors, cloud computing, lab-on-a-chip technologies and digital imaging,” he says. “Our goal is to revolutionize health care, to provide it literally in the palm of your hand.”

Read more on Forbes.com

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