Let’s take a hopeful break.
“Because we’ve never seen it before, exponential change makes even less sense. “
I am immersed in the book Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think by Peter Diamindis and Steven Kotler. It is a surprise to me that I am. My nature is to be somewhat negative, a borderline pessimist. The authors tell me this is not entirely my fault. We evolved this way. Our brains require attentiveness to danger, and so we see danger before, and more often, than anything else. We are not attuned to see the possibilities. We are attuned to see the dangers. Before, fear kept us alive — fear is what we look for, what we (think we) need.
But, the future may just be brighter than we had realized – better than we think. Part of the reason is the pace of discovery. And even though it appears that innovation has “slowed down” dramatically, the reality is that it has slowed down only “recently.” But, over the longer haul of the last few centuries, the pace has been breathtaking, leaving us panting to keep up.
In Abundance, the authors quote Kevin Kelly, What Technology Wants:
Waterwheels were not becoming cheaper every year (five hundred years ago). A hammer was not easier to use from one decade to the next. Iron was not increasing in strength. The yield of corn seed varied by the season’s climate, instead of improving each year. Every 12 months, you could not upgrade your oxen’s yoke to anything much better than what you already had. (that last line is my favorite line – R.M.).
But now, my modern marvel, my iPhone, is practically a dinosaur. My wife’s is newer, better, cooler than mine, and my son’s is newer, cooler, better, and “stronger/faster” than hers. (My next new one is coming soon. It’s my turn again on our family plan – I can’t wait).
Today, I learn about a book, and I order the sample pages immediately on my Kindle App for my iPad. (Just now, I interrupted my writing of this blog post, clicked over to Amazon, and ordered the sample pages of What Technology Wants. When I open my iPad in just a few minutes, they will be there).
And that’s just the small corner of my world.
Every day, if we can avoid the polarizing political fights that we see and hear every day, there is some new breakthrough to read about. We really do feel like the breakthroughs are coming – against Alzheimer’s; some kind of clean energy solution; so many more. (No, I’m not as confident that the Dallas Cowboys will return to their glory years anytime soon. There are some areas where the deck may simply be stacked against that “better future”).
The Extreme Future will indeed be good, wonderful (i.e., filling us with wonder). Our need is to become just a little less fearful, and a whole lot more fearless. “Fearlessness is like a muscle: the more we use it, the stronger it becomes.” (Abundance).
“For most of history, if your dad was a baker, you were a baker,” wrote Kevin Kelly. But today – well, today, the average young adult has a job that he cannot even make his grandmother understand, much less is he working in the same job as his dad or grandfather or great-grandfather… In fact, today, it is as likely to be the “she” who can not explain to grandparents what her job entails. It is simply too far outside of their context.
On some days, I speak to retired people, many of them in their late 80’s, and up. I asked a recent group how many of them had a Facebook page. Not one! Then I asked how many of them had ever looked at a computer screen or a smaller screen at anyone’s Facebook page. Again, not one. I told that to a man who is still learning to live with the new technology, and he described how his 7 year old picks it up faster than he does.
Yes, they do. And with the new tools of today the new breakthroughs will come at an increasingly fast pace.
Just consider (again, from the book, Abundance):
Twenty years ago, most well-off US citizens owned a camera, a video camera, a CD player, a stereo, a video game console, a cell phone, a watch, an alarm clock, a set of encyclopedias, a world atlas, a Thomas Guide, and a whole bunch of other assets that easily add up to more than $10,000. All of which come standard on today’s smart phones, or are available at the app store for less than a cup of coffee.
If the Bible tells us, “where there is no vision, people perish,” then the inverse is also true: “where there is vision, the people flourish.”
Tomorrow could turn out to be just a whole lot of fun.
By the way, Dr. Peter Diamandis, one of the authors of Abundance, is the Chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation.