Click on a chapter to see the excerpts!
Part 1: Perspective
Our Grandest Challenge – We open with the history of aluminum and the idea of technology as a resource-liberating mechanism, freeing us from the threat of scarcity. Visit Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s energy city of the future. Learn about the Limits to Growth, a pessimistic vision of the future which set expectations for many generations, and drove efforts to control population growth. The Chapter closes outlining the possibility of Abundance and outlining the four forces conspiring to transform our planet.
What does Abundance mean? Come to understand the Abundance Pyramid, based loosely on Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Human Needs.” Learn the concept of catallaxy — the value of specialists trading their specialties. Finally, we will take an initial look at abundance in the realm of water, food, health, education, and freedom, and lay out a timeline that will shock most.
Meet Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman and his research on cognitive biases and its direct impact on our ability to conceive of a world of abundance. Learn about the brain’s role in filtering information and how the media exploits this aspect to gain our attention. Finally, explore the work of evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar and the brain’s limitation in perception and categorization, and how these work together to make us believe the world is considerably worse off that it really is.
Meet Matt Ridley, scientist, author, optimist, and learn the hard facts which explain how the world is getting better at a increasingly rapid rate. Next we examine saved time as a metric of progress, explore the impact that specialization and exchange has had on prosperity, and see why information technology makes trade a non-zero exchange. Lastly, we meet Hans Rosling, professor of international health at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, and find out that the perceived gap between the world’s rich and the world’s poor is much, much smaller than most suppose.
Part 2: Exponential Technologies
Meet Ray Kurzweil, serial inventor, Presidentially-recognized predictor of technology trends and the man who has found exponential growth in all information technologies. Learn the origin of Moore’s Law and how his vision has governed chip manufacturer’s strategic planning for decades. Also, why exponentials can be so disruptive, why Singularity University (SU) was recently created, and how a $1000 laptop will soon outperform the human brain.
Meet J. Craig Venter, the man who sequenced the human genome and created the first synthetic life form, and Vint Cerf, the man who best deserves the moniker ‘father of the internet’, and his plans for the next generation Internet protocol.. Take a drive in an autonomous car and learn how AI, robotics, 3D printing, nanotechnology, medicine are leading towards a world of abundance. Finally hear what Larry Page, CEO of Google set forth as a challenge at the founding of SU.
Part 3: Building the Base of the Pyramid
Learn how cooperation is an evolutionary force, impacting biology, technology and culture. Come to understand the “tools of cooperation” as the bedrock of technological progress. Meet Rob McEwen and learn how the use of crowdsourcing made him a very rich man. Finally, we end with the exponential spread of smart phone technology—the greatest cooperative tool the world has yet seen.
Get a picture of our global water challenges and see how social entrepreneurs are beginning to make an impact on those challenges. Meet maverick inventor Dean Kamen and see how his invention, the Slingshot, could both provide fresh drinking water for tens of millions of people, while simultaneously curbing our current population explosion. Explore startling breakthroughs in nanotech, biotech, desalination, and the smart grid for water that could pave the way for a planet of watery abundance.
There are 925 million hungry people in the world today—here’s how we feed everyone. Learn about the failures of industrial agriculture and the true potential for biotechnology. Meet Dickson Despommier and see why the crops grown in a 30-story vertical farm could feed 50,000 people with zero-transportation costs and no environmental impacts. Solve our protein problems with the novel aquaculture solutions and cultured meat—that is, steak grown from stem cells—and see how the tools of agro-ecology provide incredible improvements in developing world agriculture.
Part 4: The Forces of Abundance
Learn the history of the DIY movement including the Whole Earth Catalogue and the home brew computer club and how this movement has now expanded into fields like biology (where college kids are now designing life-forms to do their bidding). How Burt Rutan built a spaceship with less than 30 people and social groups like Kiva are making a loan every 17 second, for a total $1 billion with a repayment rate is over 98 percent.
An overview of the history of philanthropy and an introduction to a new breed of philanthropist—a young, idealistic, go-getter committed to using their wealth to better the world. Learn of the surprising and significant impact that men and woman like eBay’s first president Jeff Skoll, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, and Pay Pal founder Elon Musk are having in the world of philanthropy. Come to see why today’s Technophilanthropists constitute a significant force for abundance.
Meet economists Stuart Hart and C.K. Prahalad and come to understand why the poorest people on Earth constitute a significant market force, with more than $13 trillion in PPP (purchasing power parity). How Grameenphone transformed life in Bangladesh and why BoP (bottom-of-pyramid) business is poised to transform the world. Explore the impact that cities are having on innovation and how a host of virtual smart phone apps are literally dematerializing expensive goods and services, making them available to all for free or at minimal cost. Lastly, see how the Rising Billion now constitute a significant force for abundance.
Part 5: Peak of the Pyramid
1.5 billion people live without electricity and 3 billion still rely on primitive fuels like wood or charcoal for cooking and heating.—but it’s time to change all of that. Solar power is growing exponentially. America is only two decades away from achieving energy independence via solar. Africa has enough solar potential to supply the present world’s energy needs 40 times over. Synthetic biology is poised to replace the gasoline in our cars with bio-fuels grown from algae; storage technology is maturing rapidly, and the smart grid is beginning to come online.
Meet Sugatra Mitra, Nicholas Negorponte, James Gee and a host of other education visionaries. See how information and communication technology is now making it possible to provide everybody on the planet with a top-tier education, in their native tongue, for free.
This chapter examines the global healthcare crisis and how an artificial intelligence designed to win a game show can help solve it. We’ll explore the concept of zero-cost diagnostics where simple, portable, nearly free hardware is already competing with quarter-million dollar equipment, and dive into the future of robotic surgery and robotic nursing. Meet stem cell pioneer Robert Hariri and learn how we may soon be growing replacement organs and much more.
Finally, we will introduce you to Jared Cohen and Eric Schmidt and their thinking about the role of technology plays in determining the future of international relations. How Oscar Morales changed the history of Columbia with a Facebook page. And provide an overview of 21st century techno-diplomacy. See how the internet is the greatest tool for self-empowerment ever created. In summary we conclude with a return to Daniel Kahneman, this time with an examination of his work on happiness, and the real possibility, that both Abundance and happiness are very much within reach for everyone on Earth.
Part 6: Steering Faster
Incentive prizes have a 300 year history of stimulating innovation. Meet Raymond Orteig and see how he changed the world of aerospace with just $25,000. Learn how the Ansari X PRIZE was modeled after Orteig’s work and how its success in opening the spaceflight industry. See how small groups can now accomplish what was once the sole province of governments and major corporations, explore the power of constraints to drive breakthroughs, and see why $1 billion dollar prizes to solve cancer, AIDS and other global epidemics could make sense.
If we’re going to create a world of abundance we’re going to have to learn to take risks. See how a tolerance for failure can drive breakthrough, and launching your crazy idea above the line of supercredibility can change how the world embraces your vision.
Our path of adjacent possibles has led us to a unique moment in time. We have wandered into a world where the expansive nature of technology has begun to connect with our inner desires. Unlike earlier eras, we don’t have to wait for corporations to get interested in solutions, or for governments to get around to our problems. We can take matters into our own hands. What kind of vision will we have? Which way shall we go next?