It’s a blizzard of bad news out there: an ongoing economic crisis, a burgeoning education crisis, healthcare turmoil, energy poverty, water scarcity—to name but a few of our fears. So pervasive is our sense of doom and gloom, that those telling a different story can rarely be heard. And there’s a very different story worth hearing.
Currently, thanks to the incredible, exponential rate of growth of technology, combined with three powerful emerging forces, we are teetering on the edge of a much, much better tomorrow. Imagine a world where everyone has access to clean water, nutritious food, affordable housing, personalized education, top-tier medical care, non-polluting and ubiquitous energy. Imagine a world of abundance.
Sound too good to be true? Already, elements of this transformation are underway.
1. Exponential Technologies
Over the past twenty years, wireless technologies and the Internet have become ubiquitous, affordable, and available to almost everyone. Africa has skipped a technological generation, by-passing the landlines that stripe our Western skies for the wireless way. Mobile phone penetration is growing exponentially, from 2 percent in 2000, to 28 percent in 2009, to 80 percent in 2013. Already folks with no education and little to eat have gained access to cellular connectivity unheard of just two decades ago. Soon, the vast majority of humanity will be enmeshed in this same World Wide Web of instantaneous, low-cost communications and information. In other words, we are now living in a world of information and communication abundance.
In a similar fashion, computational systems, networks and sensors, artificial intelligence, robotics, biotechnology, bioinformatics, 3-D printing, nano-technology, human-machine interfaces and many other tools are now advancing at exponential rates, soon enabling the vast majority of humanity to experience what only the affluent have access to today. Even better, these technologies aren’t the only change agents in play.
There are three additional forces at work, each with significant, abundance- producing potential.
2. The DIY Innovator
The first of those is the newfound power of the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) innovator. While DIY’ers have already proven themselves capable of launching a computer revolution, their reach now extends considerably further. In the past decade, DIY’ers (working both 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 and governments. The newfound power of these maverick innovators is the first of our three forces.
3. The Technophilanthropist
The same technologies that allowed the rise of the DIY Innovator have also created wealth much faster than ever before. People like Jeff Skoll (eBay), Elon Musk (PayPal), Bill Gates (Microsoft), etc., 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 towards global betterment, becoming a new breed of philanthropist—a technophilanthropists—and, as such, yet another force for abundance.
4. The Rising Billion
Perhaps the most significant change of the next decade will 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 and their collective economic and creative boost becomes our final force: the power of “the rising billion.”
By themselves, each of these forces will reshape our globe. But acting together, amplified by exponentially growing technologies, the revolution we have long been waiting appears poised to arrive.