Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

The future is brighter than you think

By Peter Diamandis, Special to CNN
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Sun May 6, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Peter Diamandis says too much focus is placed on negative news
  • He says the truth is that the world is poised for abundance through innovation
  • Diamandis: Social changes have vastly increased wealth, reduced disease and violence
  • He says smart phones put knowledge, tools in the hands of billions around the world

Editor's note: Peter Diamandis is an expert on innovation, the author of "Abundance," and founder and chief executive of the X PRIZE Foundation, a nonprofit focused on creating large incentive prizes to drive breakthroughs. He spoke at the TED2012 conference in February. TED is a nonprofit dedicated to "Ideas worth spreading" which it makes available through talks posted on its website

(CNN) -- I've been talking to corporate groups a lot lately about the idea that the future is going to be better than many of us think -- that we will live in a world of abundance made possible by new technology. Repeatedly, I'm thanked by the audiences for giving them a positive outlook.

People are getting tired of doom and gloom conversations that persist through much of mainstream America. It's no wonder, given that the world presented to us by the media 24 hours per day, seven days a week is a rather distorted view of reality; it's focused predominantly on the negative news and doesn't represent anything like a balanced view.

Here are some of the things that aren't getting attention:

Peter Diamandis speaks at TED2012.
Peter Diamandis speaks at TED2012.

I'll start with poverty, which has declined more in the past 50 years than the previous 500. Over the last 50 years, in fact, even while the Earth's population has doubled, the average per capita income globally (adjusted for inflation) has more than tripled.

TED.com: Perspective is everything

Paul Gilding: World crisis is coming
Paul Gilding: The Earth is full
TED: Half a million secrets
Confronting shame head on

We're not just richer than ever, we're healthier as well. During the past century, maternal mortality has decreased by 90%, child mortality has decreased by 99%, while the length of the average human life has more than doubled.

As Steven Pinker has lately made clear in his new book, "The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined," since the middle ages, violence on Earth has been in constant decline. Homicide rates are as much as a hundredfold less than they were when they peaked 500 ago. So we're not only healthier, we're safer as well.

If your measure of prosperity is tilted toward the availability of goods and services, consider that even the poorest Americans today have access to phones, toilets, running water, air conditioning and even a car. Go back 150 years and the richest robber barons couldn't have ever hoped for such wealth.

Paul Gilding: The Earth is full

Right now, a Masai warrior on a mobile phone in the middle of Kenya has better mobile communications than the president did 25 years ago. If he's on a smart phone using Google, he has access to more information than the U.S. president did just 15 years ago. If present growth rates continue, by the end of 2013, more than 70% of humanity will have access to instantaneous, low-cost communications and information.

This is a very big deal. According to research done at the London Business School, increasing the number of cell phone users by 10 among a group of 100 people raises GDP by 0.6%. To quote technology writer Nicholas Sullivan: "Extrapolating from UN figures on poverty reduction (1% GDP growth results in a 2% poverty reduction), that.0.6% growth would cut poverty by roughly 1.2%. Given 4 billion people in poverty, that means with every 10 new phones per 100 people, 48 million people graduate from poverty. ..."

Even more impressive are the vast array of tools and services now disguised as free mobile apps that this same Masai warrior can access: a GPS locator, video teleconferencing hardware and software, an HD video camera, a regular camera, a stereo system, a vast library of books, films, games and music. Go back 20 years and add the cost of these goods and services together: You'll get a total well in excess of a million dollars. Today, they come standard with a smartphone.

TED.com: Older people are happier

So, this brings us back to the question of our contemporary mood. If this is really the true picture of the world, why are so many of us convinced otherwise?

Turns out there are about a dozen reasons. In my new book, "Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think," co-author Steven Kotler and I discuss those reasons and address how, building on this incredible foundation, four emerging forces give us the potential to significantly raise global standards of living over the next two to three decades, exponentially growing technology, the DIY Innovator, the new breed technophilanthropist and the rising billion, the poorest of the poor who are finally plugging into the global economy.

Abundance for all is actually within our grasp.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter and Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Peter Diamandis.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 2:12 PM EDT, Fri August 1, 2014
By now it should be painfully obvious that this latest round of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis in Gaza is fundamentally different than its predecessors.
updated 5:24 PM EDT, Fri August 1, 2014
Sally Kohn says like the Occupy Wall Street protesters, Market Basket workers are asking for shared prosperity.
updated 7:31 PM EDT, Thu July 31, 2014
President Obama will convene an Africa summit Monday at the White House, and Laurie Garrett asks why the largest Ebola epidemic ever recorded is not on the agenda.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Fri August 1, 2014
Seventy years ago, Anne Frank made her final entry in her diary -- a work, says Francine Prose, that provides a crucial link to history for young people.
updated 7:50 PM EDT, Thu July 31, 2014
Van Jones says "student" debt should be called "education debt" because entire families are paying the cost.
updated 3:41 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Stuart Gitlow says pot is addictive and those who smoke it can experience long-term psychiatric disease.
updated 7:00 PM EDT, Thu July 31, 2014
Marc Randazza: ESPN commentator fell victim to "PC" police for suggesting something outside accepted narrative.
updated 2:45 PM EDT, Thu July 31, 2014
Mark O'Mara says working parents often end up being arrested after leaving kids alone.
updated 4:31 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Shanin Specter says we need to strengthen laws that punish auto companies for selling defective cars.
updated 12:45 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Gabby Giffords and Katie Ray-Jones say "Between 2001 and 2012, more women were shot to death by an intimate partner in our country than the total number of American troops killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined."
updated 7:58 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Vijay Das says Medicare is a success story that could provide health care for everybody, not just seniors
updated 1:43 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
S.E. Cupp says the entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner thinks for himself and refuses to be confined to an ideological box.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
A Christian group's anger over the trailer for "Black Jesus," an upcoming TV show, seems out of place, Jay Parini says
updated 4:28 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
LZ Granderson says the cyber-standing ovation given to Robyn Lawley, an Australian plus-size model who posted unretouched photos, shows how crazy Americans' notions of beauty have become
updated 3:39 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Carol Dweck and Rachel Simmons: Girls tend to have a "fixed mindset" but they should have a "growth mindset."
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT