Bill Gates read Abundance on a recent vacation, and he recommends it!
Bill Gates read Abundance on a recent vacation, and he recommends it!
A shout out goes to Current TV host and futurist Jason Silva, who was so inspired by the book that he created a powerful video we’re pleased to share with you.
Cooperative tools and exponential technologies are reshaping our globe. You no longer have to sit on the sidelines and wait for the future to happen. You are now empowered to get involved to change the world. If you’re sick of the doom and gloom and ready to get in the game, explore the resources below. Here are some great crowdsourcing and collaboration tools on the web:
Peter and Steven answered questions from readers of the Freaknomics blog:
- 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.
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.
Watch Peter’s 2012 TED talk and weigh in on the debate for “Abundance vs. Scarcity” at http://www.ted.com/talks/peter_diamandis_abundance_is_our_future.html
- 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…