Age of Abundance?
Technology is driving us toward an era of exhilarating freedom, economic opportunity, and the profound gift of health.
It is a blizzard of bad news out there: an ongoing economic crisis, a burgeoning education crisis, health-care turmoil, energy poverty, water scar-city-to name but a few of our fears. So pervasive is our sense of doom and gloom that anyone telling a different story can rarely be heard. But there is a very different story worth hearing.
Currently, thanks to the exponential growth rate of technology combined with three powerful emerging trends, we are teetering on the edge of a much better tomorrow. Imagine a world where everyone has access to clean water, nutritious food, affordable housing, personalized education, top-tier medical care, nonpolluting and ubiquitous energy. Imagine a world of abundance.
Sound too good to be true? According to some compelling trends and metrics, elements of this transformation are under way. Over the past 20 years, wireless technologies and the Internet have become ubiquitous, affordable, and available to almost everyone.
Africa has skipped a technological generation, bypassing the telephone landlines that stripe our American skies for the wireless way. Mobile phone penetration in Africa is growing exponentially, from 2 percent in 2000 to 28 percent in 2009 to an expected 70 percent in 2013.
Folks with no education and little to eat have gained access to cellular connectivity unheard of just three decades ago. Soon the vast majority of humanity will be enmeshed in this same World Wide Web of instantaneous, low-cost communications and information. We are now living in a world of information and communication abundance.
In a similar fashion, computers, networks and sensors, artificial intelligence, robotics, biotechnology, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, human-machine interfaces, and many other tools are also advancing exponentially. In the near future, these technologies will enable most of the world to experience what only affluent societies have access to today.
Even better, the new tools themselves are not the only agents of change in play. There are three additional forces at work, each with significant abundance-producing potential. The first of those is the newfound power of the do-it-yourself (DIY) innovator.
DIYers have already proven themselves capable of launching a computer revolution, and now their reach extends considerably further. In the past decade, DIYers (working either in small teams or collectively, via crowdsourcing) have made major contributions to fields like genetics, robotics, proteomics, autonomous vehicles, even space exploration-fields that were once the sole province of large corporations, universities, and governments.
The same technologies that allowed the rise of the DIY innovator have also created wealth much faster than ever before. People like Jeff Skoll (the former president of eBay),Elon Musk (cofounder of PayPal), and Bill Gates (of Microsoft) became billionaires by reinventing industries before the age of 35. Maintaining their taste for the big and bold, they are now turning their attention and their considerable resources toward global betterment.
This new breed of technophilanthropist is a force for abundance as well. But the most significant change of the next decade should be the dramatic increase in worldwide connectivity via the Internet.
The online community is projected to grow from 2 billion users in 2010 to 5 billion by 2020. Three billion new minds are about to join the global brain. What will they dream? What will they discover? What will they desire? These are minds that the rest of society has never had access to before. Their collective economic and creative boost should unleash the most powerful abundance force of all.