Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think

Rate this book
Providing abundance is humanity’s grandest challenge—this is a book about how we rise to meet it.

We will soon be able to meet and exceed the basic needs of every man, woman and child on the planet. Abundance for all is within our grasp. This bold, contrarian view, backed up by exhaustive research, introduces our near-term future, where exponentially growing technologies and three other powerful forces are conspiring to better the lives of billions. An antidote to pessimism by tech entrepreneur turned philanthropist, Peter H. Diamandis and award-winning science writer Steven Kotler. 

Since the dawn of humanity, a privileged few have lived in stark contrast to the hardscrabble majority. Conventional wisdom says this gap cannot be closed. But it is closing—fast. The authors document how four forces—exponential technologies, the DIY innovator, the Technophilanthropist, and the Rising Billion—are conspiring to solve our biggest problems. Abundance establishes hard targets for change and lays out a strategic roadmap for governments, industry and entrepreneurs, giving us plenty of reason for optimism.

Examining human need by category—water, food, energy, healthcare, education, freedom—Diamandis and Kotler introduce dozens of innovators making great strides in each area: Larry Page, Steven Hawking, Dean Kamen, Daniel Kahneman, Elon Musk, Bill Joy, Stewart Brand, Jeff Skoll, Ray Kurzweil, Ratan Tata, Craig Venter, among many, many others. 

400 pages, Hardcover

First published February 21, 2012

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Peter H. Diamandis

13 books667 followers
Dr. Peter H. Diamandis is an international pioneer in the fields of innovation, incentive competitions and commercial space. In 2014 he was named one of "The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders" – by Fortune Magazine.

In the field of Innovation, Diamandis is Founder and Executive Chairman of the XPRIZE Foundation, best known for its $10 million Ansari XPRIZE for private spaceflight.

Diamandis is also the Co-Founder and Vice-Chairman of Human Longevity Inc. (HLI), a genomics and cell therapy-based diagnostic and therapeutic company focused on extending the healthy human lifespan. He is also the Executive Founder of Singularity University, a graduate-level Silicon Valley institution that studies exponentially growing technologies, their ability to transform industries and solve humanity’s grand challenges.

In the field of commercial space, Diamandis is Co-Founder/Co-Chairman of Planetary Resources, a company designing spacecraft to enable the detection and prospecting of asteroid for precious materials. He is also the Co-Founder of Space Adventures and Zero-Gravity Corporation.

Diamandis is the New York Times Bestselling author of Abundance – The Future Is Better Than You Think and BOLD – How to go Big, Create Wealth & Impact the World.

He earned an undergraduate degree in Molecular Genetics and a graduate degree in Aerospace Engineering from MIT, and received his M.D. from Harvard Medical School.

Diamandis’ mission is to open the space frontier for humanity. His personal motto is: "The best way to predict the future is to create it yourself."

In 2016, the Greek Government honored him by issuing a 1.2 Euro stamp into circulation. Also in 2016, the book How To Make A Spaceship – A Band of Renegades, an Epic Race, and the Birth of Private Spaceflight, Peter’s biography and the story of the XPRIZE was written by Julian Guthrie with a Foreword by Richard Branson and an Afterword by Prof. Stephen Hawking.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
4,268 (38%)
4 stars
4,207 (37%)
3 stars
2,018 (18%)
2 stars
500 (4%)
1 star
199 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,035 reviews
Profile Image for Todd Martin.
Author 4 books74 followers
December 4, 2013
In Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think, author and X Prize founder Peter Diamandis makes his case that the standard of living of the bulk of the world’s population can be raised to a level in which everyone’s basic needs are met within the next twenty-five years. How is this to be done you might ask given the many seemingly intractable problems that are present around the globe today? …. SCIENCE, the private sector and the largesse of billionaires!!

This might seem far-fetched, but you don’t have to look very far into the past for other visionaries whose dreams have come true. In the 1940s and 50s there were crazy prophets who envisioned a future of jet packs, hover cars, transporters, ray guns, robot servants, food pills, 4-hour workweeks, space elevators, cryogenic freezers that would bring us back from the dead, colonies on the moon, mars and in our oceans and an abundance of shiny unisex jumpsuits. In the post WWII years, these individuals were viewed as seers, eccentrics, and dreamers with unrealistic expectations, and yet, look at us now … with … uh … exactly none of that stuff. Ok, it’s a bit odd that they didn’t get any of it right and that they failed to anticipate the negative aspects of technology such as nuclear waste, massive species extinction, global warming, thalidomide, the formation of the ozone hole, toxic waste, fishery die-off and oceanic dead zones.

But that’s all in the past, and now we have a fresh breed of Utopians who portend to usher in a new era of prosperity through chemistry. Could they be right this time? Well … it’s a nice thought, but no one really knows. It’s not possible to predict the future and the road is littered with the failed attempts of those who have tried. Data shows that prosperity is rising in most third world countries and that this rise is driven in large part by new technologies (in particular computers and the internet). Barring some catastrophe (such as the worst case predictions of global climate models) it’s reasonable to assume that this trend will continue in the near term. In the long term, one can’t ignore the fact that rising prosperity also leads to increased consumption, environmental degradation and pollution.

I didn’t feel like the book provided a convincing argument, instead, the bulk of the text simply consists of a survey of some of the technologies that are presently under development and a description of the purportedly benign global benefits that they will bring … that is, assuming that they wind up being technologically viable, scalable, cost effective and adopted into broad public use (a huge assumption, given that most technologies fail to satisfy these requirements).

Unfortunately, there are many claims that Diamandis’ makes that I found to be flawed (here are but a few):
1. Diamandis claims that cell phones reduce consumption because they obviate the need for such thing as TVs , stereos, flashlights, tools, video games, computers and home entertainment systems. How many people own not just all of these items but multiple versions of each? Lots. Cell phones are just another consumer item that people purchase on top of many other consumer items.
2. He repeatedly uses the term “sustainable growth” a phrase which is, at best, meaningless and at worst a disingenuous marketing ploy. The term is most often used as a green veneer to allay the guilt of hyper-active consumers. More to the point though, the U.S. EPA stated in a 2007 report: “While much discussion and effort has gone into sustainability indicators, none of the resulting systems clearly tells us whether our society is sustainable.” In other words … nobody even knows what the term means or how to measure it. The phrase represents little more than empty rhetoric.
3. Diamandis is enamored of the robber barons (which is weird on its face … given the fact that they were, you know … first and foremost “robbers”) and believes their philanthropy will save the planet (Diamandis falls into this category and clearly likes to thinks of himself in heroic terms). Here’s the thing though, robber barons and philanthropists have been around as long as civilization has existed. Ignoring the oppression they engender for the moment, they've had more than enough time to solve the world's problems and have not come close to doing so.
4. Along with the above, he believes the private sector will offer all the solutions, ignoring any role of government. That’s fine, but completely ignores the fact that all of the fundamental research for the programs he discusses had their origin in publically funded programs. The internet, space program and human genome project among others would not have existed but for government funded research. Private companies do not engage in basic research because their motive is profit (as opposed to knowledge).
5. Diamandis spends an entire chapter arguing that those who disagree with him do so because of the inherent psychological underpinnings of the brain, which cause us to be unduly influenced by an innate pessimism and to place increased weight on negative arguments and evidence (and to ignore positive news and events in turn). Evidently, if you disagree with Diamandis’ point of view, it is not because he failed to provide convincing evidence, but because of your unconscious pathologically negative patterns of thought. Interesting idea, but as a rebuttal to criticism it’s intellectually dishonest.

But the biggest problem with the book is that Diamandis simply does not seem to understand human nature. Just as those who earn $1 per day wish to earn more to meet basic needs , so does the lower class want to become middle class, and the middle class to become millionaires, millionaires strive to become multi-millionaires, and multi-millionaires wish to become billionaires. Simply put, there is no such thing as 'enough' when it comes to human beings and their desires to acquire material wealth and possessions. Increased wealth begets increased consumption and as long as we continue to overlook the role of population, it will become increasingly difficult to ignore the fact that we live on a finite planet with finite resources. A far better solution than the ones Diamandis proposes, would be to put humane programs in place to systematically reduce human birth rates. The world is quite big enough to sustain many millions (as opposed to billions) of people in abundance, with plenty of room left over for other species and vibrant ecosystems.
Profile Image for Andy.
1,373 reviews465 followers
March 3, 2022
Optimism makes things better. Hooray!

Scientists and engineers exist, and they will make super-duper new gizmos. Yay!

Everything in the whole wide world will soon be radically better because of the business-like innovations of the techno-philanthropists. They are like gods; praise them!

The problem for this goofy book is reality. As documented in Forbes, Fortune and other publications, the Gates Foundation (to use the biggest example of techno-philanthropy) actually has a pretty bad track record. They justify this by saying you have to take risks and fail a lot to succeed sometime. Perhaps, but that's also what losing gamblers say. The life-saving success they hang their hat on is the expansion of polio vaccination. But this is a program that has been going on for decades under the leadership of the Rotary Club and other non-profits and uses an old, simple, cheap, evidence-based intervention. It's wonderful that the Gateses have used their enormous clout to promote this worthy endeavor, but it doesn't prove Diamandis's point. It actually supports the opposite conclusion: we should look at what is known to work and do more of that.

And when one digs into the details of specific issues, it seems the author is just making stuff up. I don't know about the safety of hypothetical next-gen nuclear reactors, but I know about public health history. Diamandis messes up on basic concepts like the difference between lifespan and average life expectancy at birth. He actually talks about 30-something year-old grandparents dying as the natural state of the species, apparently not understanding that life expectancy 150 years ago was 30-something not because people got "old" and died at 35 but because children routinely died before their fifth birthdays. If half the people die at age 70 and half at age 0, then average life expectancy is 35. People who can't do basic math shouldn't write science books.

For more sanity on related topics:
The Shock of the Old: Technology and Global History Since 1900
Give a Little: How Your Small Donations Can Transform Our World
Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think
Factfulness Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling
The Shock of the Old Technology and Global History Since 1900 by David Edgerton
Give a Little How Your Small Donations Can Transform Our World by Wendy Smith
Profile Image for David Buccola.
91 reviews11 followers
February 15, 2015
A truly awful book. Take the futurism of a world's fair, add the hucksterism of a veteran of the start-up world, and rose-tinted outlook of a millennial and you get an idea of what this book is like. The book is littered with the false hope of NGO's and other companies that--just three years from publication--are already complete failures. But never fear, Peter Diamandis assures us, the world's billionaires will save us all! Conveniently missing from the narrative is the looming ecological crisis posed by Global Climate Change. There is very little of substance here.

Just three years since publication, we already know that a number of the ideas espoused in this book are complete failures. The world's cheapest and most dangerous car, the Tato Nano, has not even close to meeting the expectations of shareholders. The devestation of the predatory micro loan industry has been well documented and has shook the Indian economy to its core. The much touted One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) has already shuttered its doors after passing out a paltry 2.3 million laptops that are mostly junk. The guy who gave fat suburbanites the segueway claims to have invented a machine that's going to bring clean water to the poorest of the poor. It costs $100,000 at this point so a family making a few dollars a day might have to save up for a few generations before they can buy one. It goes like this, on and on throughout the book.

There are, of course, things aren't failures yet. Bill Gates is promoting the next generation of nuclear power that is supposedly safe and cheap. Of course that's been the mantra of the nuclear industry since its inception. With the recent disaster at Fukushima I think there's little reason to give this much credence. Even Gates admits that we're at least ten years away from a working prototype. So it's really just hype at this point. Other ideas, like the next generation of biofuels are also highlighted. I won't go on much here. Some of this stuff may indeed work out at some point down the line but it's mostly empty hype at this point.

There are points when Peter Diamandis comes dangerously close to touching on something worth while. He admits, for instance, that we already have enough food to feed everybody. We have an abundance of food! Yay, we're already there. But then he goes off the rails to explain to the patient reader that we don't have a distribution problem. Our problem, he insists, is that we need to move the farm!

Now much of what he has to saw about vertical farming and even urban farming is spot on. We would certainly benefit from moving the farm. But it doesn't matter how much we increase our food production if we don't allow hungry people access to that food. You can move the farm wherever you like, but until we start producing food to feed people we're going to still have this problem.

Diamandis' biggest problem is conflating a trend within the computing industry with a scientific law. Moore's law has lead to incredible advances in computing. They're faster and cheaper than ever. But most things we need, like major infrastructure projects, cars, housing and the like still require huge amounts of energy and cost. He talks about the smart water grid were going to build, which is essentially a bunch of sensors, but he's mute on how we're actually going to fix our aging water infrastructure and replace all those pipes. His answers again and again are essentially, "We'll let a computer do it."

When grandma needs to go to an old folks home because the rest of the family is working too many hours to look after her, she can talk to a robot! When we start running out of trained professional teachers, we'll just replace them with iPads and laptops! Again and again we're told that all of life problems will be solved with a giant technological bandaid.

I was told again and again that this was a book full of hope. I don't find techno-charlatanism hopeful. If anything, I found the "future of abundance" outlined here sounds like a complete nightmare where meaningful human interactions are replaced with machine interfaces with artificial intelligence. If you want a realistic look at our future with some hopeful observations I highly recommend Richard Heinberg's "The End of Growth."
Profile Image for Lena.
Author 1 book341 followers
April 19, 2012
Most human beings have a built-in tendency to focus on the negative, obsessing about all the things that are wrong with the world and how we're all on the fast track to hell in a hand basket. In this book, X PRIZE founder Peter Diamandis tackles that view head on with a compelling argument that humanity is actually in far better shape than the 24/7 news cycle would have you believe.

The core of his argument is that a number of forces have come together to create an opportunity for problem solving unprecedented in human history. Among those forces are the explosive growth of computing technology, the democratizing power of the Internet, and the rise of billionaire technophilanthropists with a genuine desire to save the world.

Diamandis and co-author Steven Kotler spend good portions of this book looking at the most serious problems facing the world today, including water, food, sanitation, health care, energy and repressive governments. In doing so, they offer tangible examples of new technologies that have or soon will have the potential to eliminate those problems.

Among the most interesting sections for me were those on how cheap mobile diagnostic tools and cloud based medical computers can bring health care to remote regions of the planet; how Generation IV nuclear reactors can power the earth for 1,000 years using existing nuclear waste with zero risk of the dangers of current plants; the discovery that kids in an Indian slum who spoke no English and had no computer experience could teach themselves biotechnology if given a computer; and that a guy in Colombia with a Facebook page succeeded in taking down FARC, a rebel organization that had been terrorizing his country with kidnappings and violence for 40 years.

Examples like these were the most valuable part of this book for me, provided in enough abundance to combat my own natural "yeah, but..." tendencies. The author's attempt to provide a structural framework through which to view these examples - a pyramid of possibility inspired by Maslow - was less successful; it was too abstract and less engaging than the inspiring, real world examples.

In addition, I couldn't help noting that just because many technologies do drop dramatically in price as they increase exponentially in power doesn't mean that the exponential growth he anticipates can solve many of our problems will actually occur. Despite that, I found this book to be authentically hopeful; it pushes back hard enough against the doomsayers that I finished it feeling like we have a much better chance at solving our big problems than I did before I started it.

Profile Image for David Sasaki.
244 reviews346 followers
April 3, 2014
When I worked at Open Society Foundations, we had a focus on defending rights, which derived from a worldview that assumes there are large institutions (mostly corporations and governments) that encroach upon our individual freedoms and our ability to live a prosperous life. By strengthening and defending rights, we can mitigate the negative effects of these large institutions. For all the insane blabber by Glenn Beck about George Soros being a Communist puppet master, the foundation actually has a worldview much aligned with the Republican Party of early 20th century: defend the rights of individuals so that they can seek prosperity and political representation.

At Omidyar Network, we never spoke about rights. Within the Omidyar Network worldview, there are no enemies, only opportunities to improve. Technology, according to this worldview, is the fulcrum that creates these new opportunities.

To put it in unsophisticated terms, Open Society Foundations seeks to defend individuals from a pessimistic view of the world while Omidyar Network seeks to accelerate and distribute an optimistic view of the world.

In general, Silicon Valley is a geography of optimism, but no one takes it to such an extreme as Peter Diamandis, co-founder of Singularity University, founder of the X Prize Foundation, and author of Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think .

The book makes three main arguments:

The world today is better off than it ever has been. This is a result of formerly scarce resources becoming abundant and accessible to all thanks to technological innovations.
As a species, we are psychologically primed to exaggerate the negative and ignore the positive.
There are three main forces that are accelerating innovation to improve the lives of everyone, but especially the poor of developing countries.

The book begins by recounting the famous anecdote of a goldsmith who presented a new type of metal to Emperor Tiberius of Rome in 23 AD. The shiny silver metal was so alluring that, rather than reward the goldsmith for his invention, Tiberius ordered his beheading to ensure the new metal wouldn't devalue the empire's massive store of gold. Aluminum remained a rare metal until the middle of the 19th century. We are told that Napoléon III hosted the King of Siam for a banquet "where the honored guests were given aluminum utensils, while the others had to make do with gold." Decades of technological innovation from 1825 to 1886 made aluminum cheaper and faster to produce. Today the International Aluminum Institute calls the lightweight material that we use to wrap our leftovers "almost infinite."

For Diamandis, the anecdote is illustrative of the most important trend of the past 300 years: what begins as rare and only accessible by the rich becomes abundant and accessible to everyone. And, significantly, the timeframe between rare and abundant -- whether it's access to the latest gadgets or an individual's ability to sequence her DNA -- is narrowing with each passing year.

Haiti square 1

One of the book's many examples from Singularity University is Matternet, a start-up that aims to deliver food and medicine to African villagers by drone. More recently, the questionably branded "Flying Donkey Challenge" wants to "pioneer a new transport system of large cargo robots in Africa and beyond."

Diamandis spends a long time arguing with the pessimists. It's a tiring, repetitive portion of the book that could have been summed up in a single paragraph: Our evolution on the African Savanna surrounded by predators primed us to be hypersensitive to any signs of threat. Our brains are structured to focus on the bad. As a result, even if our rational selves acknowledge that life expectancies have tripled in the past few hundred years, we still spend all our time worrying about Y2K or melting ice caps or the threat of China.

It's probably a good thing that our brains are wired for alarmism -- if, that is, our alarmism persuades us to lead more sustainable lives. Unfortunately, often times we spend all our attention worrying about the downfall that awaits us without ever changing the behaviors that cause the problems in the first place. Many of today's most influential pundits gain fame by constantly pointing to the latest potential threats without ever offering any suggestions to address them. Diamandis thinks we'd all be better off if we spent less time worrying and more time innovating.

That takes us to his third and final argument: three forces are coming together to accelerate innovation in order to improve the lives of the world's poor.

The DIY Innovator -- You no longer need to work at Bell Labs or IBM in order to invent new products and bring them to market. Microsoft, Apple, Google and Craig Venter's indie sequencing of the genome are all examples of how individual entrepreneurs have been able to outperform the giants.
The Technophilanthropists -- Modern capitalism has produced extremely wealthy technology entrepreneurs who are increasingly using their money, insight and fame to address the world's greatest problems.
The Rising Billion -- Ever since C.K. Prahalad published The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, an increasing number of entrepreneurs are trying to build products and services designed for the billions of people at the bottom of the financial pyramid.

As an illustration of how old business is rethinking their practices to reach the "bottom billion," one of the most intriguing anecdotes of the book describes how an Indian jeans manufacturer was able to change his approach to reach the rural poor that make up the majority of the country:

Arvind saw a golden opportunity forming in the budding domestic market for jeans. Today, the company sells four brands, priced between $7 and $30 a pair. Its best-selling label, Ruf & Tuf, caters to rural India, home to 70 percent of the country's 950 million people. Before Ruf & Tuf was introduced in 1995, most rural Indians had only seen jeans on television.

It took some creativity to crack the rural market, where many Indians still prefer custom-tailored clothes. Rather than fight that mindset, Arvind conceived "ready-to-stitch" jeans. Ruf & Tuf jeans are sold as a kit: two legs, buttons, rivets, zipper, leather label and an instruction booklet for the neighborhood tailor.

I am sufficiently optimistic to get annoyed by the pessimists who are always crying wolf about the next disaster that awaits us. Yet, I am sufficiently pessimistic to get equally annoyed by the uber-optimists that disregard threats to our freedom because they are so focused on the next innovation. As I've written many times before, the automobile probably seemed like a pretty great idea at the time. Diamandis sits squarely in the camp of tunnel vision optimists. He isn't concerned that we could run out of water, but rather that we aren't able to make the systems efficient enough. He isn't worried about our information overload, only that we don't have better filters to help us focus on what's important.

His only doubt as to whether we are gliding effortlessly toward utopia is how quickly we will arrive.
655 reviews
January 17, 2014
The basic premise of Abundance is that there are a lot of problems in the world, and its hard to get people to change, but the right technological innovations will fix everything.

As someone who notices many of the same problems in the world, I want to believe the authors' assertions. And the book inspired me! The characters and anecdotes are appealing. I finished the book feeling nagged by a few big holes, but overall excited.

Unfortunately, in reflection the excitement wore off. There are plenty of technical problems with the book – for instance, a few of the stories (computer education in the villages, do-everything water filters) are exaggerated and don't pan out as well in the real world. Devoting a major pillar of the book to the author's own X-prizes project was lame. Wasting a whole chapter on the claim that all their opponents are just deluded by their brain chemistry was a waste of space. But the real difficulties are fundamental philosophical problems with expecting technology to change the world.

First off, the human tendency toward greed has proven able to absorb anything it's been given. Everyone always wants more. The idea that we could produce so much that the rich people would be satisfied and let the poor have enough, without major society changes, doesn't fit with any period in human history. The powerful have always been able to limit other people's access to resources whenever it benefited them, and the authors never explain how they'd keep powerful corporations and powerful governments from continuing to do such a thing. On occasion they allude to such problems (such as Monsanto's wield of patents to force farmers to be reliant on their products indefinitely), but they just “hope” such things will change.

Second, the degree to which wealth disparity, rather than absolute wealth alone, contributes to societal problems is never dealt with. Problems like violence and mental health appear not to be connected just to a nation's overall resources, but to its ability to deal out those resources evenly. That's one reason that Americans are less happy now than we were in the 1950s and 1960s (despite having FAR more stuff, including all the innovations the authors praise), and why many countries – including Sweden, Norway, Denmark, New Zealand, etc. - do better than America an d England on nearly every social index despite having far less money at their disposal. The authors don't deal with that issue at all.

Finally, the book shows absolutely no real interest in the people and things that the authors claim to be trying to preserve. They want to solve poverty, yet don't show any knowledge of the experience of the poor or any desire to ask them what they want. They want to save the environment, but everything they propose is irrelevant to and often disregarding of nature. They want to preserve land, but seem to think they could do that by just destroying small bits of land more efficiently, and hope that other land will be saved in the process. In general, they reach for technological numbers and statistics, but completely ignore the much greater damage to human societal structures and the Earth's environmental balance that are caused by both previous technological "advancements" and their own proposed technological "solutions".

As long as the people with power are obsessed with the greed for more things, they will continue abusing the poor, nature, and the land in order to satisfy their greed. Technology is neutral – no matter what you invent, the powerful aren't going to give up their desire to own more than everyone else, to possess the land, to control other peoples' lives. The authors are right that greed is part of the problem. They're right that people's nature is difficult to change. They're wrong that we can just hope that enough technology will just make that issue go away. It has never, ever worked before.
Profile Image for Jud Barry.
Author 6 books18 followers
May 17, 2012
The future according to our popular novelists is almost always dystopian. Peter Diamandis encourages us to imagine otherwise, based on the potential of recent developments in science and technology.
Taking a page from Ray Kurzweil (with whom he has established Singularity University), Diamandis's future is very much the present-day reality of artificial technology, nanotechnology, robotics, communications, and biotechnology, where the pace of innovation conferred by computerization has greatly improved the prospects of the planet to support all of its inhabitants comfortably.

Thus, this is more than another account of gee-whizardy. It's about how technological progress can be translated into a higher degree of creature comfort for earth's creatures (well, at least its people), including those living at the "bottom of the pyramid." Indeed, one of the most encouraging messages of the book is how some parts of the world--Africa in particular--occupy in some respects an advantageous position vis-a-vis some of these new technologies. The advantage, such as it is, comes from the fact that they don't have the developed countries' huge invested interest in the old and expensive technologies of land lines, coal, and gasoline, which puts the under-developed countries in a better position to be early adopters of the new technologies, particularly solar power. Cell phones have already proven themselves to be a potent tool for delivering financial and public health benefits in such countries as Bangladesh and Kenya.

Diamandis places a great deal of faith on the ability of tech philanthropists to deliver the goods that will produce our abundant future. While never providing an overt critique of centralized governments, Diamandis consistently uses such examples as Bill Gates to show how much tech tycoons really care about the world and are the key to its salvation.

Unfortunately, he fails to make a distinction between private actions taken for public benefit--Wikipedia comes to mind--and private actions taken for proprietary benefit, like those of Craig Venter in the race to map the human genome. Diamandis's account of Venter's role is brief, glowing--and self-contradictory: "Building on work that had come before, Venter ... delivered a fully sequenced human genome in less than one year (tying the government's ten-year effort) for just under $100 million (while the government spent $1.5 billion)." Sounds like a wasteful government, doesn't it? What he doesn't say is that "government" (actually scientists using money from public sources) had done 80% of the work by the time Venter got to it--and copied it. That's what "building on work that had come before" means. And then, Venter wanted to declare private ownership of what his company had "discovered," whereas the "government" wanted to make the information available to create future wealth in the form of new knowledge by others "building on work that came before."

Diamandis also places a great deal of stock in prizes as an engine of progress. I have no beef with that, but if he wants to point fingers--even without seeming to do so--I do have to wonder why, five years after the awarding of an X-prize to not one but three winners of a competition to design "the world's first fast, affordable, production-ready car able to achieve over one hundred miles per gallon equivalent," there is still no such car on the market. The reason, I'm sure, has something to do with why American auto-makers were never able to release any fuel-efficient cars in the first place and had to have Japan show them how; it has something to do with the fact that so-called "fuel-efficient" cars are being marketed today that get less than 40 mpg, which is disgraceful. The reason is one that I don't fully understand, but it is a demonstrable phenomenon no less. And it has nothing to do with wasteful governments.

I am hopeful that the future will turn out the way Diamandis describes. But there is one reason why dystopian fiction prevails--it is really more about people than technology. If, as J-P Sartre said, hell is other people, so might we say the same about the future.
Profile Image for Shirley Freeman.
1,134 reviews11 followers
March 30, 2012
This is an amazing book! The authors define abundance as 'providing all people with a life of possibility.' Imagine a world where 9 billion people have adequate clean water, food, shelter, energy, education and health. The authors not only imagine it, but think it is possible within the next 25 years. Yes, it seems overly optimistic but their argument (with supporting data) and their energy and enthusiasm are contagious. They outline the incredible technological advances that are occurring in psychology and biology and therefore in health care and food production, in education, in energy development, in every field of human endeavor. They tell the story in a readable format, but more than half the book is notes and data supporting their argument. The Kindle version is 45% words and 65% appendices and notes. I would highly recommend this book for anyone with an interest in entrepreneurship, technology, improving the world, helping others live a fulfilling life, you name it. If you read it, I'd love to know what you think.
Profile Image for Oleksandr Zholud.
1,079 reviews108 followers
August 29, 2020
This is an optimistic non-fic from 2012, written mainly in 2010, that is a great alternative to doom and gloom of todays and even earlier near-future prediction literature. I read is as a part of monthly reading for August 2020 at Non Fiction Book Club group.

The book starts with an attempt to understand why most of the near-future prediction literature, starting roughly from 1972’s The Limits to Growth and continuing since is mostly saying: “we are on the bring (or just passed it) and there is a great disaster ahead”, namely the fact that humans have evolved as pessimists, having a negativity bias—the tendency to give more weight to negative information and experiences than positive ones. This allowed us to survive, while more happy-marry cousins were eaten by predators or died from hunger. The same bias shaped our media, which much more likely will talk about disasters than about happier happenings. In no way this suggests that the are no disasters, for there are a lot, but more that nevertheless for the majority of Earth population the life is longer, happier, more diverse and fulfilling lives despite worsening environmental situation or growing income disparity in many countries.

It continues by giving examples of discovering and inventions, which were “just behind the corner” ten years ago, when the book was written. This include a lengthy discussion about cleaning the water, supplying/generating electricity, lowering carbon emissions, assessing knowledge with concrete examples of what has been done and can be done. The fact that it was mostly written 10 years ago gives a unique perspective on what has been realized and what still lags behind, so that we, the readers, can look deeper to answer why this is so.

I see that a lot of reviewer see this book as one-sided, but doom-and-gloom books are one-sided as well, so if seen in a larger context, it is ok. The book also actively praises “the new rich”, internet-era millionaires, who are seen here as the major drive of change. As a person from the formerly socialist country, I actually support the view that the newly self-made (wo-)men from the western world that quite actively spend their wealth – say Bill Gates or George Soros – to improve the livelihood of many, actually do a better job than the governments, to which they ought to give their money via taxes according to some. Alas, in the developing world, ‘new money’ are quite often made and later supported by corrupt practices, so as any solution ‘rich folk will save us’ isn’t that universal.
Profile Image for Adam Ford.
89 reviews9 followers
March 7, 2014
Abundance is one of the better books about the modern world that I have read. A very informative and well written book that flowed quickly. I highly recommend it. A few things that stood out to me:

1. The main forces pushing us forward are the buying power of the bottom billion (the poorest billion people on the planet), the exponential growth of technology, the rise of the super-smart techno philanthropist and the do-it-your-selfers.

2. We are heading into a significant shortage of doctors as the baby-boomers retire. There have never been enough doctors worldwide, but we are about to experience a major shortage in the first world. The best hope for dealing with the crisis will be technology. Health scans will engage in direct biocommunication and diagnostics with greater accuracy than possible with a live doctor. Exciting times lie ahead in medical technology.

3. More people should be working on things that are significant. The book quotes one of Google's founders saying that something is significant if it has the potential to affect the lives of 1 billion people in the next decade. This is thinking big. If more people stretched towards this goal, the world would be a much better place. I like this a lot and think I need to broaden my horizons significantly. I spend far too much time obsessing over the tiny religious sect I happened to be born into. It is a long-term historical irrelevancy and has distracted me for most of my life from applying my skills towards accomplishing great things. If your audience size is less than a million people, you are wasting your gift.

4. The bottom billion are a massive market with amazing growth potential for businesses and will not be ignored much longer. As these consumers are understood and targeted engineers and businessmen will be forced to lower the cost of their products. Nearly every household in the Philippines or Kenya or Nigeria or Pakistan have cell phones today. In a decade they will all have more than the average first world household has today due to advances in technology. The 3rd world is disappearing.

5. The next decade will see an explosion in game-based learning. Video games are not harmful and in fact can be a very powerful tool in teaching. We are just figuring out how to use the video game format to revolutionize teaching and learning. It will be exciting to watch this happen.
Profile Image for Mehrsa.
2,234 reviews3,657 followers
October 3, 2016
You should probably read this in tandem with Robert Gordon's "The Rise and Fall of American Growth" because they come to exact opposite conclusions. I hope these guys are right, but since their claim is based on a few cool tricks and the other one is based on rigorous data, I doubt it. Still, this is worth reading because I think half the premise is sound: technological answers to intractable problems are in the wings. The future will not be as anticipated. However, there are several broad economic and political trends that make me think that we need more than technology and their cool X project to make the world a better place. I also worry that so many people look to tech as the answer to problems that actually need policy to change. Like poverty for example. Technology may be able to make drinking water more accessible, and that should be celebrated, but that doesn't eliminate the other factors.
Profile Image for Carl.
38 reviews10 followers
April 1, 2012
If you live in a rich abundant area and avoid the poor hungry and desolate then you might buy into this one but in the real world these guys are out of touch with the real world.
Profile Image for Siah.
96 reviews29 followers
August 6, 2019
This book trivializes the magnitude of some of our greatest existential challenges as humans. The authors use simplistic analogies and argue that technology fixes all of our problems. From climate change to war. Some of the problems that they enumerate have nothing to with technology and that is my primary problem with this book. For instance, take the problem of excess green house gases in the atmosphere, this has become a political and policy challenge rather than a technology challenge. One can realize the childish view when the authors talk about 3D printing as a paradigm shift technology. A few years after the writing we all know these ideas did not pan out. Having drinkable water is a much bigger problem than funding open source robotics projects. I find the message in this book to possibly appeal to folks who believe in a creator who magically takes care of our future. Everyone else should look at this as just one side of a very complex story.
Profile Image for Andy.
44 reviews5 followers
November 14, 2012
This is one of the best books I've read in a long time. It holds an excellent analysis of what the future holds. It changed my opinion about a lot of technologies (solar and medical) for the better. The section on the future of power collection was very interesting. I do hope their predictions about robots come true... imagine finally having a robot that would clean your house.
My favorite part of the book dealt with people who are attempting to reform the educational process throughout the world. Khan Academy is an excellent tool and is being utilized by many people.
If you want a book that takes a look at the future and doesn't leave you feeling scared, this is the book to read.
Profile Image for Amber.
594 reviews5 followers
February 15, 2020
In certain very limited ways, this book is really exciting and full of great news. The incredible technologies that have the potential to virtually eliminate problems of water scarcity, food scarcity, energy scarcity, healthcare scarcity, and education scarcity will make your jaw drop. But I found myself having a lot of, “Yes, but...” questions along the way, like:

If the planned petroleum-free, carbon-neutral, “one planet living” city of Masdar outside Abu Dhabi is so great, did it ever get built, and what's its status now? The 2019 answer seems to be NO, and it's looking a lot like it was nothing but a giant boondoggle.

When you say, “even the poorest Americans have access to a telephone, electricity, and flush toilets,” are you including in that generalization the several hundred thousand Americans who live in cars, tent cities, or literally on the streets?

If we're this close to solving the global scarcity of potable water, why have residents of Flint, Michigan, a city in the richest country in the world, spent five years fighting for safe, reliable access to this basic essential for human life?

If “Ethos” bottled water was such a wonderful idea for funding projects to improve water access in the third world, why has it only helped half a million people, and what do you plan to do about all the additional plastic waste the company has generated and put into the environment? For that matter, what's your proposed solution to plastic waste generally, and the already-wealthy petroleum companies who have big plans for more fracking so they can flood the world with even more cheap plastic?

If exponentially improving technology is the solution to so many of humanity's problems, what's the solution to the next problem that solution creates – the exponentially-increasing mountains of toxic e-waste?

If aquaculture is such a great solution to providing protein to 9 billion people, what's the solution to the appalling water pollution aquaculture creates? And for god's sake, the answer better not be what industry's answer has been for 60 years: “Dilution is the solution to pollution.”

In general, what's the solution to the undeniable fact of human nature that for every new solution technology comes up with, greedy, shortsighted human beings will find the cheapest, quickest, dirtiest way to deploy it because that's the easiest and fastest way for them to make a short-term profit?

What's the solution to the fact that very few of your proposed solutions close the loop, and appear likely to create a new environmental problem for every humanitarian problem they solve?

The “Slingshot” water purifier sounds incredible, but did the cost ever get to or below $1,000 per unit? And how many did Coca-Cola actually deploy in remote locations around the world? The answer appears to be no, and very few.

I had more, but this is where I stopped listing them individually. In short, this book is interesting and even exciting as far as it goes, but it doesn't go far enough, it's full of holes, and it has some larger overarching problems:

It's relentlessly anthropocentric. If you're feeling angry, sad, depressed, and helpless about things like whales dying with bellies full of plastic waste, or Bornean jungles being burned so Americans can have convenient snack foods made with palm oil, or Amazon rain forest disappearing faster than ever under the policies of President Jair Bolsonaro, "the Brazilian Trump," or anything of that sort, this book has only very a limited sort of solace to offer. Yes, Diamandis and Kotler say, we're in the midst of an unprecedented mammalian extinction, and it's definitely our fault. But don't worry, it's not as bad as you think. Your brain is just hard-wired to focus on the negative, the media is biased in favor of alarmist news, and anyway, you're one of the 1-2 billion lucky people whose more basic needs are being sufficiently met so that you can spend time and energy worrying about next-level issues like the survival of other Earthlings. And there's great news - we're getting closer and closer to the point where we can meet the needs of the other 8 billion humans who will probably be on this planet by 2050, so that they will also be free to worry about things like whales and orangutans and rain forests. The only question is, can we get a critical mass of humans to the point where they can care about the rest of the planet before the rain forests, orangutans, and whales are gone?

Of the many resources Diamandis and Kotler discuss, the sheer amount of ecological space humanity takes up on this planet is not one of them. And ecological space isn't a resource that's subject to the kind of “bigger pie” tinkering that's the star of the book. We have to use less. A lot less. Or, if you insist on using the kind of “bigger pie” terminology the authors love so much, you have to invent ways to create new ecological space by going up (vertical farming is one example discussed in the book, but arcologies, something dreamers have been dreaming about for decades, would be a much bigger way of doing this) or turn the ocean into living and farming space (floating cities have also been on that list of things dreamers dream about for decades). Some scientists, E.O. Wilson lead among them, have been saying for 10+ years that to stop the mass extinction that's already under way, humanity needs to set aside half the planet for the rest of Earth's citizens. Unless technological tinkering can make arcologies and floating cities real and allow 9 billion people to live fulfilled, happy lives in carbon-neutral, waste-neutral, self-contained megacities and happily conduct all of their activities on just half of a landmass that is shrinking due to rising ocean levels, and do it quickly, technology simply can't make ecological space a bigger pie. And the authors have very little to say about any environmental problem beyond population, except to tell you you're probably overreacting, because after all, 40 years ago, scientists and policymakers thought acid rain was our biggest environmental problem, and it turned out all we needed was sulfur-scrubbing technology to solve it.

Where Are the Women? While vreading this book, I noticed a variant of my usual gripe. In this case, it's not a direct criticism of Diamandis and Kotler – after all, their writing on the subject is descriptive, not prescriptive. There are exactly 14 women mentioned in the text, and I know this because once I noticed their absence, I started paying attention anytime a woman's name went by. As a result, I know the names of all 14 of them: April Rinne, Pamela Ronald, Sylvia Earle, PETA president Ingrid Newkirk, Melinda Gates (mentioned here solely as the wife and co-philanthropist of Bill Gates), Barbara Ward (author of Spaceship Earth), Ann Cotton, Jacqueline Novagratz, Mercy Njima, Laura Ipsen, Katie Salen, Anita Goel, Catherine Mohr, and Wendy Schmidt. This is compared to probably a solid 75-100 men.

This leads me to think about the much-discussed problem of the lack of women in the top tiers of science and technology. It seems to me that one fairly obvious explanation that doesn't get talked about much is the simple fact that women are still recovering from centuries of cultural conditioning that tells us significant chunks of our attention must first be devoted to (a) making ourselves attractive and amenable to men, (b) birthing and raising children, and (c) maintaining the home. And the din of that cultural conditioning hasn't been shut off in the last 100 years, but only gradually lessened. Once those issues take up 40% of more of your conscious attention on a daily basis, how many women really have enough brainpower left to succeed as creative geniuses in any field at all?

Diamandis and Kotler openly acknowledge a variant of this problem when they discuss the concept of attention as a finite and even scarce resource, mention the hundreds of billions of attention-hours Americans devote to watching TV annually, and ponder what cognitive miracles we could accomplish if we all quit our TV addictions for a year. The same principle applies to women and the things that monopolize our finite ration of daily attention, only the things that demand our attention aren't as easily shut off as a TV, and tend to demand active responses from us, rather than passive absorption of entertainment. How many hundreds of billions of attention-hours do American women (not to mention women worldwide) devote to domestic tasks that the men in their lives are freed from? What could American women be accomplishing creatively and professionally right now if in 1919, when we won the vote, we had also been unshackled en masse from (a) the physical labor of beauty and fashion regimens, housework, and child care; (b) the mental labor of staying aware of a truckload of daily minutiae ranging from your mother-in-law's birthday, to which kid has soccer practice what days, to the need to pick up the mail and replace the toilet paper roll; and (c) the emotional labor of managing the often destructive moods and egos of the men around us? We're still trying to get out from under all those burdens, and even now, in 2019, American women are being forced to choose between professional success, a domestic life that isn't littered with old take-out cartons, and sleep.

Of course, I could be wrong about all this – it's entirely possible that women really are achieving great things in the important fields discussed in this book, and as a result of their own social conditioning, Diamandis and Kotler simply neglected to interview or mention more than 14 of them. I'll never know, and I can't be arsed to find out because every day after my first job, I work the unpaid second shift.

It's seven years old. Published in 2012, and with a lot of research and writing presumably done well before that publication date, some of the book suffers from the problem of being at least seven years out of date in fields like technology, where seven years is an eternity. For example, Diamandis and Kotler's enthusiasm for the new (in 2012) concept of “the internet of things” belies the place we're at now in 2019, where all “the internet of things” means is that anything in your home that's connected to the web can be (a) hacked by a malicious third party or (b) bricked by the manufacturer because they were really only renting you the thing you thought you bought. And once the manufacturer bricks it, it becomes another piece of e-waste. (The authors lived in an optimistic world where “brick” hadn't yet become a verb.) As shown by some of my, “Yes, but...” questions above, I repeatedly feel like they underestimated the ability of people to take any good idea and harness it to a selfish economic interest that helps a few people get rich at the expense of the many and/or the planet. And I can't help feeling that they also repeatedly underestimated the ability and will of existing power structures to preserve themselves at the expense of the many and/or the planet.

Diamandis and Kotler's praise for the man who came up with the idea of Ethos bottled water is a prime example of so much that's wrong with this book. Some dude was in South Africa and observed South African women walking for hours to collect water, and he came up with the “brilliant” idea of bottling water and selling it to wealthy Americans at an exorbitant price, advertised by the promise that 5% of the profits would go to water development projects in under-served parts of the world. The authors seem to think this is a genius combination of entrepreneurship and humanitarianism. That's bullshit. This is nothing but self-serving greenwashing. Diamandis and Kotler admit that the 5% donated profits have only helped about half a million people get improved access to clean water. Meanwhile, the dude took the other 95% of the profits and no doubt laughed all the way to the bank. Even if 100% of the profits were donated to water development projects and they helped 10 million people get clean water, who the fuck thinks more bottled water for sale is a good idea for anyone? And China has told the world, "We're tired of recycling your plastic for you," so every bottle of Ethos sold is just adding to the plastic waste problem as well as this douchebag's bank account. Go Google “The Story of Bottled Water” if you're unclear on why bottled water is an awful thing for anyone to sell. Starbucks ought to remove all bottled water, including Ethos, from its shelves, install drinking fountains with filtered tap water, charge customers a quarter to use the fountains, and give all that money to the water projects.
16 reviews1 follower
June 2, 2012
This book was recommended by a friend, and I certainly enjoyed reading it. The main premise is that the doom & gloom which dominates the media is ill-placed and we are in fact much better off and will soon have the means at our disposal to beat the challenges facing humanity today. Much of this makes sense to me - certainly there is a tendency to focus on the negative, and it's good to see a book which catalogues some of the good inventions which do have the potential to change our lives in the foreseeable future.

As far as how believable some of their predictions are - well I think they vary. I found the section on water quite interesting, and some of the technologies discussed around the provision of clean water are very exciting. Also the education section is worth a read, as I think the authors are onto something with the profound way the internet has penetrated our lives and made so much information accessible, and the availability of mobile apps replacing many devices.

I'm a little more skeptical about their claims on energy generation and health care - claiming that there are trends for both of these becoming much cheaper and affordable which seems to be exactly the opposite of what we're seeing in the real world at the moment (both electricity and health care costs increasing rapidly).

At times it seems to be a little too self-promoting, with many passages little more than ads for the authors' companies (eg. the X-prize and Singularity University). There is also a lot of faith placed on continued exponential growth, almost to the point of it being a religion - eg. Moore's Law will continue to apply indefinitely - not considering things like quantum limits where it starts to break down. Just because something has grown exponentially in the past doesn't mean it will continue to do so in the future.

In the end, the book is a good read (and quite easy to read) if you want to know about some of the more exciting technologies which are being developed and appearing on the horizon, and how they might affect our lives. I certainly found it engrossing and wanted to read more.

In terms of providing an overarching view of argument in the title that "the future is better than you think" I think it falls a little short, and didn't leave me convinced of the broader view but predicting the future is a difficult game and I'm looking forward to a follow-up in a few years where the same authors evaluate their own predictions against reality.

Profile Image for Kater Cheek.
Author 32 books260 followers
November 5, 2012
The cover of this book, which you can't really see from the snapshot, has been done to look like it's wrapped in aluminum foil. Aluminum was once the most precious metal on earth, and now technology has made it so cheap it's ubiquitous.

That's basically the premise of the book; technology brings about abundance. Diamandis has oodles of examples, and he backs them up with a thick selection of charts and graphs in the back. For every doom-and-gloom prophecy that journalists have brought up to frighten us with, Diamandis proposes a technologically feasible solution.

Some of the book deals with the psychology of why people are predisposed to believe the worst about the future, and some of it deals with how typical economic models of helping developing countries are flawed. He seems to be a big fan of capitalism.

This tome of Gee Whizzery feels a little like reading the transcript of a couple hours of TED talks, edited into a single optimistic book. I recommend it for people who like pop science books and want to read one that doesn't leave them feeling like the end of the world is upon us.
Profile Image for Loraine.
253 reviews17 followers
May 7, 2013
I love tomorrow and its potential. I have no nostalgia for the past. So this is a perfect book for me. I want to hear the message that this book presents and I got what I was looking for. Lots of it. No wasted words here and never over my head.
Some examples: "We used to think that healthy and wealthy meant you had to be fat. We don't think that anymore. Today, we think that to be healthy and wealthy we need a ton of things, but maybe that too will become old thinking. Technology can replace much "stuff" without reducing our standard of living.
We must expand our notions of the possible."
Considering the developing world: "The free flow of information enabled by cellphones replaces the need for a free press".
The "bottom billion" in the developing world are about to come online. "This influx of intellect from the rising billion may turn out to be the saving grace of the planet."
My big takeaway is that there are lots of people with ideas, money and desire to make the world a world of abundance for all, not pipe dreams but real workable solutions.
Profile Image for Evan Crane.
73 reviews1 follower
June 22, 2016
The book begins with a list of cognitive biases that lead to negative thinking, which throws the authors own errors in sharp relief. (see: psychogenetic fallacy)

On environmentalism: Environmentalists claimed acid rain would harm the environment. Legislation was enacted that mitigated harmful effects. Therefore, no need to listen to environmentalists. (see: self-defeating prophecy)

On billionaire class: Income inequality is good, because billionaires might give some of it away. (see: misleading vividness, valence effect, wishful thinking, argumentum ad crumenam)

The authors quote other books ad nauseum, including another slapdash author Steven Johnson.

On GMOs: nothing bad has happened. Therefore, nothing bad will happen. (see: argumentum ex silentio, black swan theory, problem of induction, precautionary principle)

And perhaps worst of all, they refer to 'The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker' as 'The Legend of Zelda: The Windwalker'
Profile Image for Jeffrey.
293 reviews20 followers
May 3, 2022
In which the author argues that technophilanthropists, inventors, and entrepreneurs like Jeff Bezo will save the word by doing what we’re already doing by relying almost exclusively on the testimony of those same technophilanthropists, inventors, and entrepreneurs. Also selling stuff the world’s poorest billion. And almost every real world example of abundance creation which author cited has turned out to be a pipe dream. One example was a company town in Middle East (Masdar City: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articl...) that was supposed to be the green carbon neutral city of the future. The project was proposed and never went anywhere. Another example is Theranos (https://www.investopedia.com/articles...), which has turned out to be a complete fraud.

I get that there’s a market for books saying everything is fine, keep the status quo... but ugh.
Profile Image for Shahrazad.
79 reviews35 followers
July 30, 2019
There are enough resources in the world for everyone , the world is better and quality of life is higher than any other time in history , we can solve modern day problems like we have solved other problems in the past to ensure more prosperity. These are the main themes in the book demonstrated with stories from different domains.
Very informative, it’s refreshing to listen to an optimistic scientist for a change even if he hyped it up a bit.
Profile Image for Abby Smith.
24 reviews3 followers
October 11, 2017
Not at all what I thought it would be. Seems like a lot of hype for a lot of theories. There are a lot of problems in the world but science --> technological advances will fix EVERYTHING. Change is hard.
25 reviews
October 21, 2020
Don't believe that tomorrow Elon Musk will come to your home and fix all your problems? Well, you are clearly wrong and it's just your Neanderthal brain making you all pessimistic.
What a pile of garbage.
Profile Image for posthuman.
64 reviews105 followers
December 7, 2019
Despite the authors getting lost on rabbit trails in a couple of chapters, this was a rather memorable and enjoyable read by the founders of the X Prize. An invaluable dose of rational optimism in the face of our daily barrage of irrational doom and gloom.

The premise is that humanity's evolutionary adaptations for surviving in the Pleistocene are holding most of us back from realizing scarcity is entirely contextual. Instead of responding to scarcity by slicing our pie thinner or redistributing pieces of pie around, the only viable solution is to make more pies. We are no longer living in world of competing for zero-sum resources, but a world where new pies are being made, entirely new ways to access to resources that make the previous scarcity obsolete.

These days, we are saturated with information. Millions of news sources compete for our mind share. And how do they compete? By vying for the amygdala's attention. The old journalism adage "If it bleeds, it leads" works because the first stop that all incoming information encounters is an organ already primed to look for danger. We're feeding a fiend.

"over 90 percent of articles are pessimistic. Quite simply, good news doesn't catch our attention. Bad news sells because the amygdala is always looking for something to fear...Our early warning system evolved in an era of immediacy, when threats were of the tiger-in-the-bush variety."

But today's dangers are largely probabilistic -- the economy might nosedive, there could be a terrorist attack, freak weather might strike somewhere nearby -- and the amygdala can't tell the difference between immediate threat or statistical insignificance.

Even worse, this system is designed not to shut off until the potential danger has completely vanished. But statistical probability dangers never completely go away.

Add in an impossible-to-avoid media continuously scaring us in an attempt to capture market share, and you have a brain convinced that it's living in a state of siege, despite the fact that our world is statistically safer now than at any prior time in history. Most of us are living much longer and more uneventful lives. Nevertheless, we live in worst-case fear scenarios.

In dangerous situations, the amygdala directs information around the prefontal cortex. This is why you jump backward when you see a squiggly shape on the ground before you have time to deduce stick, not snake. But because of the difference in neuronal processing speeds, once our primitive survival instincts take over, our newer, prosocial instincts [wired into the much slower prefontal cortex] stay sidelined....Over the past 150,000 years, Homo sapiens evovled in a world that was "local and linear" but today's environment is "global and exponential."

In the local and linear environment of our ancestors, nearly everything happened within a day's walk. Life was effectively the same from one generation to the next, and the gradual changes that did occur followed a linear progression.

Today's global and exponential world is very different from the one our brain evolved to comprehend. Consider the sheer scope of data we now encounter...From the very beginning of time until the year 2003, humankind created five exabytes of digital information....in the year 2010 the human race [was] generating five exabytes every two days. By the year 2013, the number will be five exabytes produced every ten minutes...It's no wonder we're exhausted."

Five hundred years ago, technologies were not doubling in power and halving in price every eighteen months. Waterwheels were not becoming cheaper every year. A hammer was not easier to use from one decade to the next. Iron was not increasing in strength. You could not upgrade your oxen's yoke every 12 months. Crop yields varied by seasonal climate instead of improving each year.

For the first time in history, non-zero abundance is actually within our grasp. Technology has the potential to significantly raise the basic standards of living for every human on the planet. Within a generation, we will be able to provide goods and services once reserved for the wealthy few to any and all.
"Right now a Masai warrior with a cell phone has better access to information than the president of the United States did just fifteen years ago...If we stop thinking of the world's poor as victims or as a burden and start recognizing them as resilient and creative entrepreneurs and value-concious consumers, a whole new world of opportunity opens up. The BoP [four billion people occupying the "bottom of the pyramid", surviving on less than $2 per day] market potential is huge: 4 to 5 billion underserved people and an economy of more than $13 trillion purchasing power parity"

The bulk of this book describes hundreds of examples of resources becoming more abundant by means of disruptive technological breakthroughs in agriculture, healthcare, nanotech, biotech and AI etc. I would have liked to see a bit more coherent defense of the central argument, an overarching vision of how all these interconnected exponential breakthroughs make scarcity obsolete.

Some of the chapters seemed a bit outdated or irrelevant to the premise of the book, for example too much emphasis on the Arab Spring and political changes brought by social media, the author's own X Prize, and a few others. There was a particularly weird chapter promoting low fertility rate, despite the fact low fertility rate presents a massive looming crisis for the global economy (shrinking consumer markets and underfunded pensions crisis).
Profile Image for Charlene.
875 reviews503 followers
November 16, 2016
In her book This Changes Everything, Naomi Klein stated how much she disliked scientists who focused on innovation over conservation. For this reason, Klein would absolutely hate Peter Diamandis. He began his book with example after example of why we worry too much about depleting Earth's resources. He even went so far as to Kahneman shame his reader. (I have decided that Khaneman shame should be an actual term). I usually enjoy being Kahneman shamed because I know that even the most logical individuals among us hold biases that are held from their consciousness. But Diamandis' Kahneman shaming rubbed me the wrong way. I remember thinking, "You are joking right? You are lecturing your reader while you are, yourself, failing to seek out evidence against your own argument?" Clearly I was not a fan of this book, at first anyway.

However, as I continued to read, I came to understand he is just terrible at conveying what steps he took to look at both sides of the coin. The early part of the book reads like a pollyanna approach to the future-- everything looks great! We shouldn't worry now or worry then. He didn't seem, to me, to engage in critical thinking in the way his colleague Kurzweil did, as evidenced by his constant homage to the old guard, gene jocks like Pinker and Ridley. However, toward the middle of the book he became more problem oriented and began to illustrate one solution after the other, and it was beautiful!

Here are some examples of limited resources and the possible solutions for providing everyone on Earth with an abundance of these limited resources:

- Water is hard to come by for those in many developing countries, but laying pipes that carry clean water to everyone around the globe is ridiculously costly. One solution to this problem is to provide them with filters that have pores only 15 nm wide (I love that someone invented such a filter)! That means water is filtered so thoroughly, it will even keep bacteria from getting through. Using these filters, people can turn undrinkable water into drinkable water in seconds at much less cost than running pipes all over the world.

- Many people in developing countries don't have waste systems. When human waste sits around, humans get sick, very sick. Recall the plagues throughout history and the pandemics of more recent times. To address the lack of sanitation, the Malinda and Bill Gates Foundation is working to provide these countries with the best waste system I have ever heard of. They are providing high tech outhouses that powder and burn up feces. Human feces hold more than a megajoule of energy! When that energy is harvested and released by the powder and burn process, it can be used to get rid of the urine, and the left over energy can be sent to a grid and used to power things, such as a cell phone. I know Klein has it in for scientists who innovate over conserve, but Naomi, even you have to love this! Right?

- Of course, providing water and waste systems to people around the world won't amount to much if we end up using more carbon in order to keep progress progressing. Poisoning our planet while trying to provide abundance would be the stupidest thing imaginable. Addressing that concern was perhaps the best part of the entire book. How can we have create an abundance of energy *and* keep atmosphere intact? There are many methods being researched and implemented that could provide not only the energy we need for daily life, but the energy needed to help combat climate change (not a bad plan if we can make it work). Diamandis is clear in his suggestion to take conservation efforts very seriously. I am certain he would suggest that we fight against Trump's plans for the usage of coal- and fight hard. Trump calls everything a huge disaster. Yet, he fights for coal, the use of which would actually be a huge disaster, on a global scale. Coal isn't just a little bit bad for Earth; it is one of the most significant contributors to climate change. That is precisely why there are regulations limiting and prohibiting its use. Our better bet, according to Diamandis, is to restrict the use of coal and use incentives to get the best minds all over our world to come up with alternative ways to generate energy, ways that don't have harmful waste products (e.g. carbon) that destroy our planet. So far, it's looking pretty promising. Now if we can only stop Trump and others like him until we can develop and implement safer energy generating mechanisms.

- Providing an abundance of eduction to everyone around the world is also a really worthwhile goal. I loved the plans for this. It was not the first time I have read about these same methods-- computer / game oriented learning with oversight by teachers who are more like tutors than traditional tutors. This will not only solve the education crisis in developing countries, it might help fix the rigid teaching style that destroys plenty of children's love for learning in schools all over America.

- With better global education comes longer-lived individuals who will need an abundance of access to healthcare. No problem. Innovators of the future have this covered. Smart medicine (e.g. smart phone diagnosis, surgeons in LA who robotically operate on patients in developing countries in their spare time, etc) will change the face of treatment. For more on this, I highly recommend Eric Topol's The Patient Will See You Now.

- And finally, these healthy, well-educated individuals will need an abundance of access to political power. How can we help that happen? Through the internet of course, but as Diamandis will tell you, that might only be accessible to the young ;)
Profile Image for Masatoshi Nishimura.
315 reviews13 followers
March 8, 2021
This is the second book for me by Peter Diamandis (ironically going backward). This book was much better and thoughtful than the latest one: the future is faster than you think. He put his passion in the writing and what he wanted to tell the world about his X Prize and philosophy. I quite liked it. He describes how our primate brains miss out the exponential technological progress. And discusses the drive for innovations revolve around 4 motivations: curiosity, fear, money, and legacy. Each fits nicely into our social system: science/academics, military, capitalism, and philanthropist. That is reassuring we have the right balance that fuels innovations in place (on top of X Prize style competition of course).

Another thing I truly appreciated is the countless number of chart references at the end. It amounts to 50 pages. As a data nerd, I crunched into every one of them.

Since this is the second book I read, one thing I wish he did was to analyze critically how some of the predictions didn't come true or taking longer than expected. I belive that is the style of Ray Kurzweil. It seems some of the predictions of blood monitoring or organ printing have not progressed that far since the book publishing 8 years ago. That's also true of books that have not faced demonetization or democratization unlike music even though ebooks had been around for years now. That would have much more educational value to us readers.
25 reviews
November 2, 2013
Possibly the most fascinating nonfiction book I have read in a decade: a reader-friendly overview from the originator of the X Prize, this book covers advances and reasons for optimism in areas of food, water, shelter, energy, commerce, healthcare, education and more. While realistically laying out causes for concern (over-population, climate change, poverty), the author counters each of these with a solid reason for optimism. Many of these causes for hope come from advances in technology, but they do not rely either on large corporations or political will to implement. The growing D.I.Y. movement, or "makers" have a big part to play in this brighter future envisioned by the author. Worth a read if only for the ideas it sparks ("Wow, if that could happen, maybe this could happen . . .) and a refreshing change from the 24/7 news cycle based on "if it bleeds, it leads" -- in other words, bad news sells.
Profile Image for Rhuddem Gwelin.
Author 6 books19 followers
November 13, 2018
Optimism is a very good thing. We can't survive without it. There are a lot of very good things in this book. I too love technology and I'm convinced that science is our only chance. These two authors most certainly mean well, but...but, they have entirely too much faith in the goodwill of capitalists and capitalism and they have completely ignored the real world in which Trump is US president (yes, the book came out before but still) racism, sexism, nationalism, homophobics, climate change denial, nazism go hand in hand and are spreading. The dangers are real. So yes, I try to be optimistic but it's not easy.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,035 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.