Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
According to some viewpoints, life on Earth is getting worse, with more and more people competing for fewer and fewer resources. However, Peter Diamandis and Stephen Kotler are here to make the case for optimism, arguing that innovations in technology, communication, information access, energy production, medicine, agriculture, methods of learning, and entrepreneurship are likely to have vast, transformative effects on human society in the near future. Key to understanding this is the authors’ belief that technological progress tends to follow an exponential curve, rather than a linear one, with inventions that seem to be of limited use at first quickly evolving to become crucial, productivity-enhancing features of everyday life. We’ve already seen this happen with airplanes, cars, computers, and the Internet, and there’s little reason to believe it won’t happen with solar and nuclear energy, better batteries, smart agriculture, gene therapy, self-driving cars, and artificial intelligence. If you’re familiar with techno-optimists like Ray Kurzweil, then you know the cloth that Abundance is cut from.
The authors also focus some attention on the so-called “bottom billion”. As they point out, even small improvements that reach the very poor have a marked effect on their quality of life. Simple access to clean water, basic medicine, cell phone communication, a little electricity, and other small conveniences liberates people from their harshest struggles, enabling them to reach for better lives, including more education. This also reduces the rampant population growth and environmental strain associated with poverty, as people find that they no longer need to be subsistence farmers or have as many children as possible to ensure a comfortable future for themselves.
As a guy who works in technology, I think the book’s optimism in that department is well justified. Never underestimate what can happen when millions of very smart individuals, who can share knowledge easily, attack interconnected problems. The middle chapters contain a short who's-who catalog of inventors, thinkers, and entrepreneurs whose work is pushing the envelope in different areas. In fact, I took the artificial intelligence course taught by one of the researchers mentioned in the AI section, and offered for free online by Stanford University. How’s that for abundance? As Diamandis points out, even the President of the United States didn’t have so much expertise at his fingertips twenty-five years ago. Now a kid in India with a cheap laptop does.
On the social front, there seems to be a little more wishful thinking. The authors are hopeful that improved resource efficiency and slowing population growth will bring humanity’s rapacious levels of consumption and environmental impact down to sustainable levels, and I’m sure they’re right to some degree, but will they be right *enough*? Also, while I admire what certain billionaire philanthropists are doing with their money to solve real problems, the authors seem to discount the other side of concentrated wealth and power, the one that hasn’t always cared about humanity’s best interests. And I still have my concerns about the fate of people who no longer have skills that are useful in a technology-based economy -- what will they get paid to do?
But, even if Abundance doesn’t fully address all those questions, it’s still a hopeful, positive book, directing attention towards all the ways that human beings are applying their ingenuity for real good.
I like the direct, practical solutions to seemingly intractable problems presented here. While I had heard of many of these things, I was surprised to see how far along the technology had moved. TED presenters are everywhere and fleshing out the personalities a bit was refreshing and enlightening. If you like Sci-Fi this feels like nirvanna. If you like practicality, there are so many deep insights and realized solutions. I love this book.
I loved how optimistic the authors were regarding the future and the progress to be made. I especially like the chapter regarding DIY and the potential for change that motivated individuals or small groups can effect. Also, having a young child the book spurred me to think about the world he will grow up in and how I can best prepare him for that world...a somewhat daunting task but very exciting to contemplate!
professional, well-spoken, clear
No, this book is one that I preferred to listen in installments and then digest the thoughts put forward.
I wasn't sure how to rate this title as the reading and book are both well done however it is not a book that I would really recommend as an audio book. This is one in which I would rather have in ebook or paper format in order to highlight passages and mark pages for later reference. The were several times in which I wished I could stop and simply zone out on the "page" to let my mind bounce the ideas presented around as my eyes track particular words or phrases. This probably reflects my tendency to be a very visual person but in any case I would recommend the book to any reader interested in the challenges and possible solutions to many of the worlds current problems...albeit in a visual format.
Good News Only.
It made me see the power of technology in a new light.
Yes, at times I felt relieved.
The extraordinary breadth of the subject matter is simply amazing.
Humanity's ability to carry on.
The World has a bright future from Peter's point of view .
I found this to be a light in a darkened room of doom and gloom .
Solutions , proposals and suggestions .
We can stand by and watch it happen or join in .
This is a must read for everyone . ( I do not say that often )
I love listening to books when cycling, paddleboarding, etc but I press pause when I need to concentrate. Its safer & I don't lose the plot!
I have read, or listened to, a lot of very gloomy books over the last few years. Unfortunately, I think most of them have probably been telling the truth, so it is quite a relief to listen to a book that paints an optimistic picture of the future.
The authors don’t hide from the fact that we are facing an apparently unsustainable world population growth to 9 billion in the next couple of decades, along with an increasing demand for food and water and a continuing of humanity’s destruction of other species and the environment.
But in this book they do a pretty good job of convincing us that the situation is not as bad as we think, and that we have the ingenuity to solve many of these crushing, dispiriting problems: lack of food, lack of clean water, dependence on fossil fuels, pollution by human and industrial waste, deforestation, destruction of the oceans etc.
Their first job is to convince us that we are inherently pessimistic for a number of deep-rooted psychological reasons, because a pessimistic, suspicious, over-cautious outlook would have increased our survival chances when we were evolving as hunter-gatherers. A hunter-gatherer’s territory was small and involved only a few people and animals, and we aren’t wired to comprehend systems involving billions of people and countless other variables, so we tend to be over-pessimistic. For example, in 19th century London people believed that the city was being overwhelmed by horse-manure. They couldn’t conceive of a workable solution because they couldn’t imagine that a few years later the city would be dominated by automobiles and we would be worried about air pollution instead. Similarly, in later decades we thought acid rain would decimate the environment, but this problem has now been largely forgotten.
When we try to predict the future we tend to think of our rate of progress as being linear, but actually, many of our technologies advance at an exponential rate. An example of this is computer chip technology, where each year the number of circuits packed onto a chip increases exponentially. Problems that currently seem to be unsolvable, like the lack of clean drinking water in the world’s poorest countries, can be solved by the invention of water-purifying technologies. These devices are already being produced and are improving at an exponential rate. The knowledge and spread of such technologies is enhanced and compounded by the exponential growth of communication networks in the developing world resulting from the spread of mobile phone technology.
Similar technological solutions are offered for sanitation (toilets that don’t need water or an outlet pipe, that burn the faeces to generate energy, purify the urine to release fresh water and produce urea as a fertiliser). There are similar solutions offered for many other problems faced by the poor in the modern world. Solar panel technology which increases efficiency exponentially, improved battery technology made from abundant non-toxic chemicals, efficient high rise farms, bacteria that are genetically programmed to manufacture fuels and so on.
These may seem rather far-fetched, but today’s smartphones would have seemed far-fetched 20 years ago, and now they are affordable to almost everyone.
One might object that improving the lot of the poorest billion will only increase population further, so that it always remains unsustainable and beyond the reach of technological advances, but the authors point out that the rate of population growth always falls once people have the basic necessities to bring them out of poverty: Food, shelter, clean water, good sanitation, energy for cooking, heating and lighting, health and education.
It’s a fascinating book, and it offers an optimistic future without the need to radically change the whole global political landscape. I thought the only way to slow the current reckless onslaught towards environmental destruction would be to form some kind of world government which could control and limit emissions, deforestation, overfishing and all the other human activities that are doing so much damage, but this book suggests that we might arrive at a cleaner, better world without the need for drastic government intervention. This view may be overly optimistic, but I have enjoyed the hope.
Yes, I'm actually going to buy the book so I can dive deeper into the content. Great content and excellent writing/organization of a lot of complex and exciting ideas.
This is a Great Look at how Scientific Progress has Made the World a Better Place in the past and will do so in the future.
The authors have a real grasp of the science of the 21st Century and provide and interesting narrative for science and non-science aficionados alike.
I'm not sure the immediate future will be as rosy as the author's think, but they provide a compelling case that over the long run science raises living standards for everyone.
I was ambivalent about this book until he started to get to technologies that I actually know something about, and then found myself shocked at how superficial and off the mark their treatment was. I actually strongly agree with the general thesis of this book, but they treat each individual technology they touch on as a done deal, something definite and inevitable.
I stopped listening to this book around 2/5ths of the way through, as I just couldn't listen any further. I believe the future is going to be brighter than many pessimists think, and I do believe that new technologies will solve many problems that appear to be intractable today, but I find their discussion to be too certain of which specific technologies will succeed, and too certain that ALL of our problems will be solved.
Would not recommend this book if you're looking for a serious treatment of a highly complex subject. Would recommend this book if you're looking for a superficial cheer-leading overview of a few specific technologies that may or may not pan out.