I have been reading articles in the media by learned men and women and watching news about the outlook for 2014 and beyond. What I got is a general sense of pervasive gloom of doom. While I appreciate these views, I believe otherwise and I would like to share a different perspective.
I believe that we are now at the cusp of an incredible life of potential for all mankind. I believe there is, and indeed has always been, abundance in the world, and not the scarcity that we have been told for so many long years. We are not living in a Malthusian world where scarcity is the norm; rather we are living in our own matrix where fear of scarcity is the norm. Up to now, we have not had the technologies to access all the abundance that is around us. With the exponential increases in all kinds of technologies, we now already have, or will soon have, the necessary technologies. The world in 2020 will be quite different from our world today in many better ways.
Energy scarcity is a myth
I have been told since the oil crisis in 1970’s that the world would soon run of fossil fuel, yet this has not happened. Instead, new technology is making energy more abundant than ever. The technology-generated energy abundance is not limited only to fossil fuel and gas, but also extends to renewal energy. With costs coming down rapidly, even solar energy has become increasingly competitive with other forms of energy. I first became aware that energy scarcity is a myth from Daniel Yergin’s 2012 book, Quest. It got me thinking that if scarcity in energy is not true, what else is not true.
I have also been told by wise men that countries will go to war on water because fresh water is a scarce commodity. It has always puzzled me why this should be so when our planet contains so much water. I have since learnt that technologies are already available today to convert salt and brackish water into fresh water economically and quickly. I cite energy and water only as examples in the whole spectrum of the debate on scarcity versus abundance.
I am not denying that there are problems and conflicts in the world and many of them look quite intractable. Also, as our guest blogger Professor Lehman pointed out: prospects for peace in East Asia are not encouraging right now. But even here, solutions are more likely to come forth if the main protagonists were to view the world from the perspective of abundance rather than from that of scarcity. An abundance perspective sees potential and hence offers more win-win options, whilst a scarcity perspective assumes a zero-gum game and hence offers fewer acceptable options.
A case for abundance
The title of this blog article: Abundance: the future is brighter than you think, is the title of the book by Peter Diamonds and Steven Kotler, published in 2012. The writer refers to the book’s title as being a future where 9 billion people have access to clean water, food, energy, healthcare, education and everything else that is necessary for a first world standard of living, thanks to technological innovations. The book’s main points are:
- Technologies in computing and many other areas are improving at an exponential rate and will soon enable breakthroughs that today seem impossible
- These technologies have allowed independent innovators to achieve startling advances in many areas of technology with little money or manpower
- Technology has created a generation of techno-philanthropists (such as Bill Gates) who are using their billions to try to solve seemingly unsolvable problems like hunger or disease
- The lives of the world’s poorest people are being improved substantially because of technology
You can hear what Peter Diamonds has to say by watching his Tedtalk video below.
This optimistic view of the world is obviously not universally shared. In fact, there are many who would argue that technological advances did not bring that much benefit to the masses, and even if they did, it is difficult to see a continuation of the same rate of changes and benefits. You make up your own mind. Are we living in a world of scarcity and going downhill or in a world of abundance with a great potential ahead of us? Will 2014 bring more gloom and doom or will it be the start of a new era that could make life better for all?
Regardless of your conclusion, I wish all my readers a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year.