Abundance The future is better than you think

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Authors: Peter Diamandis, Steven Kotler

Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think Peter Diamandis, Steven Kotler 2012

abundance
abundance

Abundance for everyone? (abundance)

Authors: Peter Diamandis, Steven Kotler 

One of the main problems of mankind is the lack of resources. Back in the 18th century, the English scientist Thomas Malthus discovered that the population is growing many times faster than food production. He was sure that a moment would come when humanity would not be able to feed itself. This statement is still relevant today. It is assumed that by 2050 the population of the Earth will reach 10 billion, and the planet will not withstand this. The authors, however, believe that if we bring together brilliant scientists, inventors, and businessmen who have already managed to create world-changing industries, they will be able to solve the problem of “sharing the pie” by figuring out how to increase the number of “pies”. 

The authors are convinced that humanity is entering a period of radical transformation, in which new technologies will improve the standard of living of every person on the planet. Abundance for all becomes a reality. For example, over the past 20 years, the Internet has become a comprehensive, cheap, and accessible means of communication for almost everyone. 

The authors estimate that by 2020, an additional 3 billion people will discover the Internet. Thanks to the Internet, people are gaining access to knowledge, experience, creativity, insights, and discoveries that were not so long ago available to very few people. 

Mobile phones have fundamentally changed the way of life in developing countries. For example, residents of Uganda, Ethiopia or Tanzania, who were unable to open a bank account, began to use mobile banking services. This business in African countries is growing exponentially. On the Apple platform, 6,000 applications offering healthcare services successfully operate. Opportunities for online collaboration are also growing exponentially. And since progress is cumulative, the innovations born from such collaborations will also grow extremely fast. 

The smartphone has replaced the camera and video camera, radio, TV, navigator, flashlight, board and card games, maps, atlases and encyclopedias, dictionaries and textbooks – all those items that used to be a symbol of material well-being. A little more, and we will not need to own a car, because thanks to artificial intelligence, cars will always be available on demand. According to the authors, “dematerializing” household items and replacing them with a small, handy telephone device greatly improves the prospects for improving everyone’s standard of living. 

With figures and facts in hand, the authors share fascinating insights into how a world of 9 billion people can be built where everyone has access to clean water, good food, energy sources, personalized education, and first-class health care. 

Path to Abundance

Let’s place accents

Poverty and luxury, scarcity and abundance are relative concepts. 

The poorest American most likely has a television, telephone, electricity, running water, and a toilet in the house. For a Somali living on $1.25 a day, all this is an incredible luxury. 

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The abundance discussed by the authors does not imply a luxurious life for everyone. Like Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs”, the authors build their own “pyramid of abundance”, consisting of three levels. At the bottom level is the provision of food, drinking water, and housing. The middle level focuses on the factors that contribute to development: affordable sources of energy, educational opportunities, and unlimited access to communications and information. Reaching the top of the pyramid presupposes health care and civil liberty, conditions that allow a person to make his own useful contribution to the development of society. 


Why is it hard to be an optimist?

The barriers to abundance are cynicism, pessimism, and general disbelief in the possibility of achieving positive results. It turns out that we are all subject to so-called cognitive biases. If we are convinced that “the hole is too deep to get out of it,” then we will pay attention to and remember information that confirms our belief, and ignore any information that indicates the opposite. In addition, we tend to give more weight to negative information and experiences than to positive ones. The structure of our own brain and evolution have turned us into pessimists. 

The endless streams of information flowing through our brains first encounter the amygdala, the amygdala region of our brain that is responsible for emotions such as rage, hatred, and fear. This is our early warning system, whose task is to detect threats to survival. Because the amygdala is always primed to look for fear, positive news just doesn’t grab our attention. What’s more, psychologists have found that not only are we convinced that “the hole is too deep,” but that we don’t want to climb out of it. This is explained by the fact that the amygdala does not allow our social instincts to manifest – compassion, sympathy, altruism. 

For 150,000 years, man evolved in a world that was “local and linear,” while today’s world has become “global and exponential.” So it’s not surprising that our brains can’t keep up with the exponential changes the world is undergoing. As a result, humanity is convinced that the end of the world will come soon and nothing can be done about it. The authors invite the reader to make sure that this is not at all the case. 


Progress is clear

We have learned to manage our most precious resource, time, more rationally. Electric light and modern means of transport save a lot of time. The gap between rich and poor is also shrinking. 

In 1995, there were 4.5 million middle class families in India. In 2009, there were 29.4 million. Over the past 50 years, the average Chinese has become 10 times richer and lives 28 years longer. According to the UN, poverty has been reduced more in the last 50 years than in the last 500 years. 

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It is also worth remembering that slavery no longer exists, people are not sacrificed to deities, that genocide is not a way to acquire real estate, states do not seek to conquer new territories, and torture and bodily harm are not punished for crimes. All this indicates that we live longer, more prosperous, healthier, and safer than our ancestors. 


The power of an idea

In the early 1950s, scientists suspected that the rate of technological change had some hidden algorithm, and if it was recognized, it would be possible to predict the development of technology. 

In 1965, Gordon Moore predicted that the computing power of computers would double every two years, that is, grow exponentially. Moore’s Law still works. When applied to computers, Moore’s Law would mean that in 45 years a typical $1,000 laptop would be able to perform 1,026 operations per second, which is equivalent to the combined work of the human brain. 

In 1980, the American inventor Ray Kurzweil realized that at the current pace of development, inventions would become obsolete before they hit the market. Therefore, in order to be successful, it is necessary to foresee the direction of technology development three to five years in advance. Interestingly, Kurzweil predicted the collapse of the USSR, the victory of the computer in the World Chess Championship, the invention of the autonomously moving car, and, of course, the invention of the Internet. 

The authors believe that biotechnology, computing systems, networks and sensors, artificial intelligence, robotics, medicine, nanomaterials, and nanotechnology are the areas of knowledge that will develop exponentially and help transform the lives of billions of people. 


Miracles of life

Craig Venter, an American geneticist, and biotechnologist who was the first to decipher the human genome is working on creating cheap fuel. He intends to influence the DNA of algae in such a way that they “learn” to synthesize oil (or gasoline, or diesel) from carbon dioxide and water. He is also working on a method to create new vaccines that could be produced in 24 hours, rather than two or three months, as it is now. In addition, Venter is thinking about a way to increase agricultural productivity by 50 times. 

Vint Cerf, one of the founding fathers of the Internet, is working on the creation of the “Internet of Things” – a collection of networks and sensors that can receive and transmit any information from any object. The authors call this the “central nervous system” of the planet. Companies will be able to perfectly regulate supply and demand, production losses will be reduced to zero. The energy-saving potential of the Internet of Things alone can change the world. Production, environmental control, distribution, consumption, and processing of resources – everything will be connected to the “Internet of Things”. Increasing the efficiency of all processes will be a big step forward toward achieving abundance. 

Recently, IBM introduced new developments in computer chips. The current generation of chips needs an electrical signal that produces heat that requires cooling, which limits the amount of work such a chip can do. The new chips operate under the influence of light, which, according to IBM calculations, will increase the computing speed of a computer by 1000 times, that is, it will be able to process information 100 times faster than the human brain. This is another big step towards creating artificial intelligence, bringing us closer to abundance. 

Scott Hassan, one of the programmers involved in the development of the Google search engine, has created an experimental personal robot called PR2. He does not keep his designs secret. On the contrary, he invited the best minds from all over the world to participate in this project. He aims not to own unique technology, but to accelerate its development. As a result of collective efforts, PR2 can open doors, fold laundry, get beer from the refrigerator, play pool and clean the house. 

Modern 3D printer technology makes it easy, fast, and cheap to print objects made of plastic, steel, glass, and even titanium. Enthusiasts-amateurs print functioning robots and flying machines. Biotechnologists are experimenting with the creation of human organs. 

A 3D printer has been invented that functions in the absence of gravity, which will allow astronauts aboard the International Space Station to print spare parts as needed. 3D printers are rapidly reducing production costs by enabling rapid prototyping. Now inventors can produce dozens of designs instantly and cost-effectively and quickly figure out what works and what doesn’t. 

Computing power, combined with 3D printers, will give developing countries a powerful tool to fight poverty. 

The use of artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and Lab-on-a-Chip technology in healthcare will allow a small device the size of a phone not only to perform blood and sputum tests but also to discuss symptoms of the disease and make diagnoses, compensating for the lack of nurses and doctors. 

Where does abundance come from?

How do get everyone drunk? 

The human needs for freshwater are enormous. 

Every year, the world’s population drinks 50 billion liters of bottled water. Agriculture consumes 70% of the world’s fresh water. Industry demands are also inexhaustible. At the same time, 97.3% of the water on the planet is not suitable for consumption due to excess salt, and 2% is ice. 

abundance

Therefore, the solution to the problem of supplying humanity with fresh water requires a radically new approach. 

Dean Kamen, a physicist, entrepreneur, and inventor came up with the technology and built a water purifier he called the Slingshot. It is about the size of a small refrigerator, can purify 1,000 liters of water a day, and uses the same amount of energy as a home hairdryer. The unit cost $100,000. Kamen convinced The Coca-Cola Company to take over the field trials of the Slingshot. The success of the device will be a lifesaver for rural communities in remote parts of the world. 

Interestingly, the availability of drinking water affects the decline in the birth rate. In developing countries, the majority of the population lives in rural areas and is engaged in agriculture, which requires a large number of laborers. Hence the big families. Women are having more babies because they know not everyone will survive. Every year, 2.2 million children die from diseases caused by drinking contaminated water. If the problem of providing the rural population with drinking water is solved, then the problem of high birth rates will be solved by itself. 

Nanotechnology makes it possible to produce filters that purify water not only from salt and arsenic but also from heavy metals, bacteria, and viruses. 

Peter Williams, a specialist from IBM, is convinced that the problem of saving water can be solved with the help of information technology by introducing smart sensors, meters, and process automation in all water supply systems, sewers, reservoirs, rivers, and lakes. In the US, this will save 30 to 50% of the water used. 

By applying the methods of “targeted” farming, in which the computer monitors the temperature and humidity of the air and soil, receives information about the weather forecast, knows when and how much water and fertilizer each plant received, farmers reduce water consumption by 35-40%, and their crops are growing. 


How to feed everyone?

According to the UN, 925 million people are regularly undernourished. Half of child deaths in developing countries are due to a lack of healthy nutrition. In these countries, one in three children is retarded due to malnutrition. 

abundance

Despite the giant leap in agricultural productivity over the past century, we must fundamentally change our existing farming practices if we are to achieve abundance and preserve the environment. 

Genetic engineering, for example, allows, according to the authors, “to move from evolution by natural selection to intelligently controlled evolution.” 

The agricultural direction of the biotechnology industry is growing at 10% per year. In 2000, deciphering the plant’s genome took seven years, cost $70 million, and required the combined efforts of 500 people. Now the same project takes three minutes and costs $100. 

abundance

Thanks to genetically modified crops, we will be able to grow crops in drought conditions, in saline soils, in greater volumes, and with less use of pesticides. 

The Bill Gates Foundation is working on an improved version of cassava that will have more protein, vitamins A and E, iron, and zinc, while the updated cassava will be virus-free and can be stored for two weeks (instead of the current one day). The authors believe that by 2020 genetically modified cassava will improve the health of 250 million people for whom it is a daily meal.

The use of aeroponics (a method of growing plants in the air) in agriculture will reduce water consumption from 70 to 6%. Moreover, thanks to aeroponics, the idea of ​​vertical farming was born. Columbia University students calculated that a crop grown in 150 30-story buildings could feed the entire population of New York for a year. 

Aeroponics will help to get rid of pesticides, reforest former farmland and slow down the loss of biodiversity that is detrimental to life. Vertical farming is growing in Japan, Sweden, China, and Singapore. And if you combine aeroponics with advances in robotics (to reduce labor costs) and artificial intelligence (to better control the environment in vertical farms), and also process the remains of an unclaimed crop into fuel, then we will have the gold standard of efficient agriculture that can feed the entire world. world. 

As for the protein needed for a healthy diet, it turns out that it is quite possible to grow meat “in a test tube” in volumes comparable to industrial ones. In vitro, beef production will improve our health, allow us to use the grain now fed to livestock to feed people and turn livestock pastures into forest land. 

The authors call for faster and more efficient implementation of all of the above methods of food production. Otherwise, we will completely destroy the ecosystem of the planet, and our grandchildren will not see a prosperous future.

Driving Forces of Abundance

Communication between people

Information and communication technologies have connected people with each other. And in a godforsaken village at the end of the world, and in world capitals, people are discussing the same events. Moreover, it has become possible to communicate information to millions of people at the same time, which makes it possible to effectively organize online training or send specifications for production processes. The communities of interest that have come into being thanks to social media are creating new opportunities for sharing knowledge. With the right stimulation, it is possible to bring together the best minds in the world to solve complex problems. The authors note the desire of people to cooperate voluntarily and free of charge to solve global problems. If we were to give up our addiction to television for even a year, the world would have over a trillion hours of focused attention that could be devoted to solving one or another difficult problem. 

Small groups of independent inventors are now able to solve problems that previously could only be the domain of governments and large corporations. For example, Bert Ratan, with a team of 30 engineers, managed to build a spaceplane with three people on board, which broke all previous records by making two flights into space in five days. Until then, it was believed that only NASA and professional astronauts could fly into space. 

Chris Andersen, editor-in-chief of Wired magazine, has partnered with the Build Your Own Drone online community to build a drone similar to the one used by the US military, but literally 100 times cheaper. It’s hard to overstate the value of low-cost drones for delivering medicines and other supplies to hard-to-reach areas like Botswana (where there are no roads at all) or Bangladesh (where roads are washed away by heavy rains). 

Inspired by the disaster caused by the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, students at the Delft University of Technology won an international competition to build artificial biological systems using standardized DNA strands by creating a bug that eats oil spilled in water.

The philanthropists born during the industrial revolution donated some of their wealth to improve life in their city or country. Poverty in Africa or illiteracy in India was of little concern to them. Now the world is much more interconnected, and the problems that arise in one part of the world concern each of us. Today’s billionaires, the so-called techno-philanthropists who made their fortunes at a young age building global businesses, are ambitious and fearless. They want to solve the problems of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, the fight against pandemics, and the provision of drinking water for everyone. They believe that in their lifetime they will be able to influence events and achieve change for the better. 

In 2009, there were 93,000 ultra-rich people worldwide, and all these people are constantly involved in philanthropy on a scale never seen before in history. 

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A ray of light

According to the UN, 1.5 billion people still live without electricity, and 3.5 billion use wood and coal for cooking and heating. 

Energy is the cornerstone of achieving abundance. If we find sources of energy, it will be easier to solve the problem of drinking water, which is necessary for maintaining health. Energy means light, which facilitates the learning process, which in turn helps fight poverty. 

According to the authors, the solution to the problem of providing energy to African countries is to curb sunlight, which is in abundance in Africa. The German Aerospace Center has calculated that North Africa alone has 40 times more solar energy than its current need. And if we add wind, geothermal and hydraulic energy to solar energy, then the African continent will be able not only to satisfy its needs for electricity but also to export it.

The market potential of solar energy and its benefits to mankind is so great that thousands of entrepreneurs, large corporations, and university laboratories are working to reduce the cost of solar panels, simplify the installation process and increase their products globally. Another unresolved problem with the use of solar energy is its long-term storage. 

Biofuels can also become an alternative source of energy. ExxonMobil has announced a $600 million investment to develop a new generation of biofuels. In this case, the source of biofuel should be algae, which in the process of photosynthesis convert light into chemical energy. ExxonMobil plans to get these “smart” algae to produce 45 thousand liters of fuel per year on about 4 thousand square meters. m area. Boeing and New Zealand Airlines are also starting to develop algae-based aircraft fuel. And at Caltech in Berkeley, scientists are trying to create artificial photosynthesis, that is, without the participation of any organic component, turn sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide into fuel that can be stored and transported. 

Small autonomous fourth-generation modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) should become another source of clean and cheap energy. They differ from earlier reactors in safety, the absence of long-lived waste, and the ability to operate without repair for decades. Behind them are huge opportunities to provide the whole world with energy without hydrocarbons. 


New education

The authors note that the current model of education focused on memorizing facts is no longer needed. For the facts, it is best to go to Google. Today’s jobs require creative and critical thinking, teamwork, and problem-solving. This is not taught yet either in America, where schools are in crisis or in Africa, where there are simply no schools. 

But there is another problem: how to attract children’s attention to learning, if around – the Internet, video games, and 500 cable TV channels? The authors believe that if we want to prepare children for the future, the educational process should not only be exciting and entertaining but also addictive, like a drug. 

Studies have shown that video games are better than textbooks for teaching history, geography, anatomy, and physics while improving visual coordination, cognitive reaction speed, and manual dexterity. Games in which you need to create your own world (SimCity, RollerCoaster Tycoon) teach planning and strategic thinking. Interactive games teach collaboration, while personalized games develop creativity and inventiveness. 

The authors are confident that an education system will be created based on games in which the child will immerse himself with delight.

Thanks to the development of information technology, and the emergence of smartphones and tablets, students will be able to choose what, how, and when they want to study. Education will become personalized and accessible to every child in every corner of the earth. Educated people live longer. The better the population is educated, the greater the chances for the development and preservation of democracy. Education is a necessary step in the fight against poverty and a powerful force that brings us closer to treasured abundance. 


Health for all

In Africa, 1.3% of the world’s health workers are trying to fight 25% of all diseases in the world. A significant part of the African population still does not live to be 40 years old. 

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Creating a world where people stay healthy and live long requires clean water to drink, clean air, and nutritious food. We must end malaria and learn to recognize and prevent the pandemics that threaten our existence with increasing frequency. Despite the shortage of doctors and nurses, there is optimism in the fact that information technology, which is increasingly being introduced into medicine, is developing exponentially. 

Nuance Communications is working with the University of Maryland School of Medicine and Columbia University to “educate” a Watson supercomputer in all the sciences taught in medical school. Watson will be able to diagnose patients more accurately and faster than any doctor. The catch is that for a correct diagnosis, a computer first needs accurate data, which so far can only be obtained using expensive and bulky hospital diagnostic equipment, apparently not available in developing countries. 

However, a breakthrough is also being observed in this area: Nanobiosystem is developing a mini-laboratory (Lab-on-a-Chip) using nanotechnology, which will allow one drop of blood or saliva to identify pathogens and report them to a central computer, such as Watson. It is assumed that Watson’s “brains” will be available on a mobile phone equipped with GPS, which will allow Watson not only to recognize the infection that struck a person but also to generalize cases of detection of the same infection in the same place and warn the World Health Organization about the likelihood of occurrence pandemics. 

The development of robotics allows us to hope that soon robots will be able to perform surgical operations under the guidance of a doctor located thousands of kilometers away. Robots will be able to take care of lonely elderly people, offering them emotional support, communication, and help with basic activities. The cost of such homework should not exceed $1,000, the authors hope. 

Another reason for optimism is the successful research in the field of stem cells. To date, scientists have already managed to “grow” human ears, fingers, bladder, and heart valves in the laboratory. The development of genetics will lead to the fact that we will know what diseases we have a genetic predisposition to, what to do to prevent the development of the disease, and what medicines are most effective for us. The development of sensory devices will make it possible to measure and analyze literally every aspect of our lives – from blood composition to the level of daily physical activity. Taking care of your own health will be easier than ever. 


How do accelerate the onset of happiness?

It is likely that the abundance promised by the authors will come, but so far time is working against us. Until the innovations described in the book bear fruit, resource scarcity remains a real threat. The authors note four motivating factors that move forward the development of science and technology: 

 curiosity;  fear of competitors;  desire to get rich;  the desire to leave your mark on the world. 
 

 

The authors believe that the best tool for solving a specific problem, combining all four incentives, are competitions with an announced award for the winner. A large prize for solving a problem draws attention to its importance and reinforces the public opinion that the problem is solvable. In addition, the conditions of the competition and the size of the prize fund introduce time and investment restrictions into the research process, which, according to the authors, pushes the participants of the competition towards greater efficiency and savings.

One of the famous programmers said that “the best way to foresee the future is to create it yourself.” The authors believe that announcing a reward for solving a problem is the most effective method of promoting innovation. To achieve abundance, scientists and inventors must gush with crazy ideas, learn to think outside the box, and not be afraid to take risks and fail. 

But the accelerated development of science and the emergence of new discoveries are fraught with a lot of dangers: biotechnology in the hands of terrorists, unemployment as a result of the development of robotics and artificial intelligence, and the growth of crimes in the virtual space. However, despite these threats, it is impossible to stop the development of technology. The desire for innovation is part of our nature, and sooner or later it will lead to the desired abundance.

Top 10 Thoughts

1. Scientific discoveries and technological advances are growing exponentially and give hope for an age of abundance for all mankind. 

2. Cynicism and pessimism are built into our brains and are a natural reaction to negative news.

3. Figures and facts show that the current generation lives in a healthier, more prosperous, and safer world than our ancestors.

4. According to Moore’s Law, in 45 years, a conventional computer will have a computing power comparable to the combined work of the brain of all mankind.

5. “Internet of things” will become the central nervous system of the planet, which will be able to dramatically improve the efficiency of production, distribution, and consumption processes. 

6. 3D printer technology is able to reduce the cost of new developments due to the ability to quickly create low-cost prototypes. 

7. You can significantly reduce the consumption of freshwater if you install sensors on all water supply and sewage systems, reservoirs, rivers, and lakes. 

8. Vertical farming is one of the successful examples of a non-standard approach to solving the problem of nutritional deficiencies and protecting the environment.

9. The best incentive to accelerate innovation is competitions for solving a specific problem with a significant prize fund.

10. The education system to prepare children for the future must be playful.

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