Editor’s Note: Peter Diamandis is an expert on innovation, the author of “Abundance,” and founder and chief executive of the X PRIZE Foundation, a nonprofit focused on creating large incentive prizes to drive breakthroughs. He spoke at the TED2012 conference in February. TED is a nonprofit dedicated to “Ideas worth spreading” which it makes available through talks posted on its website
Peter Diamandis says too much focus is placed on negative news
He says the truth is that the world is poised for abundance through innovation
Diamandis: Social changes have vastly increased wealth, reduced disease and violence
He says smart phones put knowledge, tools in the hands of billions around the world
I’ve been talking to corporate groups a lot lately about the idea that the future is going to be better than many of us think – that we will live in a world of abundance made possible by new technology. Repeatedly, I’m thanked by the audiences for giving them a positive outlook.
People are getting tired of doom and gloom conversations that persist through much of mainstream America. It’s no wonder, given that the world presented to us by the media 24 hours per day, seven days a week is a rather distorted view of reality; it’s focused predominantly on the negative news and doesn’t represent anything like a balanced view.
Here are some of the things that aren’t getting attention:
I’ll start with poverty, which has declined more in the past 50 years than the previous 500. Over the last 50 years, in fact, even while the Earth’s population has doubled, the average per capita income globally (adjusted for inflation) has more than tripled.
We’re not just richer than ever, we’re healthier as well. During the past century, maternal mortality has decreased by 90%, child mortality has decreased by 99%, while the length of the average human life has more than doubled.
As Steven Pinker has lately made clear in his new book, “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined,” since the middle ages, violence on Earth has been in constant decline. Homicide rates are as much as a hundredfold less than they were when they peaked 500 ago. So we’re not only healthier, we’re safer as well.
If your measure of prosperity is tilted toward the availability of goods and services, consider that even the poorest Americans today have access to phones, toilets, running water, air conditioning and even a car. Go back 150 years and the richest robber barons couldn’t have ever hoped for such wealth.
Right now, a Masai warrior on a mobile phone in the middle of Kenya has better mobile communications than the president did 25 years ago. If he’s on a smart phone using Google, he has access to more information than the U.S. president did just 15 years ago. If present growth rates continue, by the end of 2013, more than 70% of humanity will have access to instantaneous, low-cost communications and information.
This is a very big deal. According to research done at the London Business School, increasing the number of cell phone users by 10 among a group of 100 people raises GDP by 0.6%. To quote technology writer Nicholas Sullivan: “Extrapolating from UN figures on poverty reduction (1% GDP growth results in a 2% poverty reduction), that.0.6% growth would cut poverty by roughly 1.2%. Given 4 billion people in poverty, that means with every 10 new phones per 100 people, 48 million people graduate from poverty. …”
Even more impressive are the vast array of tools and services now disguised as free mobile apps that this same Masai warrior can access: a GPS locator, video teleconferencing hardware and software, an HD video camera, a regular camera, a stereo system, a vast library of books, films, games and music. Go back 20 years and add the cost of these goods and services together: You’ll get a total well in excess of a million dollars. Today, they come standard with a smartphone.
So, this brings us back to the question of our contemporary mood. If this is really the true picture of the world, why are so many of us convinced otherwise?
Turns out there are about a dozen reasons. In my new book, “Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think,” co-author Steven Kotler and I discuss those reasons and address how, building on this incredible foundation, four emerging forces give us the potential to significantly raise global standards of living over the next two to three decades, exponentially growing technology, the DIY Innovator, the new breed technophilanthropist and the rising billion, the poorest of the poor who are finally plugging into the global economy.
Abundance for all is actually within our grasp.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Peter Diamandis.