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 5:22 AM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
updated 2:51 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
updated 4:13 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
updated 7:55 AM EST, Wed December 10, 2014
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
updated 12:34 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
updated 8:42 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
updated 12:40 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
updated 11:00 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
The Internet is an online extension of our own neighborhoods. It's time for us to take their protection just as seriously, says Arun Vishwanath.
updated 4:54 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
Gayle Lemmon says we must speak out for the right of children to education -- and peace
updated 5:23 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
Russia's economic woes just seem to be getting worse. How will President Vladimir Putin respond? Frida Ghitis gives her take.
updated 1:39 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
Australia has generally seen itself as detached from the threat of terrorism. The hostage incident this week may change that, writes Max Barry.
updated 3:20 PM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
Thomas Maier says the trove of letters the Kennedy family has tried to guard from public view gives insight into the Kennedy legacy and the history of era.
updated 9:56 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
Will Congress reform the CIA? It's probably best not to expect much from Washington. This is not the 1970s, and the chances for substantive reform are not good.
updated 4:01 PM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
From superstorms to droughts, not a week goes by without a major disruption somewhere in the U.S. But with the right planning, natural disasters don't have to be devastating.
updated 9:53 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
Would you rather be sexy or smart? Carol Costello says she hates this dumb question.
updated 5:53 PM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
A story about Pope Francis allegedly saying animals can go to heaven went viral late last week. The problem is that it wasn't true. Heidi Schlumpf looks at the discussion.
updated 10:50 AM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
Democratic leaders should wake up to the reality that the party's path to electoral power runs through the streets, where part of the party's base has been marching for months, says Errol Louis
updated 4:23 PM EST, Sat December 13, 2014
David Gergen: John Brennan deserves a national salute for his efforts to put the report about the CIA in perspective
updated 9:26 AM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
Anwar Sanders says that in some ways, cops and protesters are on the same side
updated 9:39 AM EST, Thu December 11, 2014
A view by Samir Naji, a Yemeni who was accused of serving in Osama bin Laden's security detail and imprisoned for nearly 13 years without charge in Guantanamo Bay
updated 12:38 PM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
S.E. Cupp asks: How much reality do you really want in your escapist TV fare?
updated 1:28 PM EST, Thu December 11, 2014
Rip Rapson says the city's 'Grand Bargain' saved pensions and a world class art collection by pulling varied stakeholders together, setting civic priorities and thinking outside the box
updated 6:10 PM EST, Sat December 13, 2014
Glenn Schwartz says the airing of the company's embarrassing emails might wake us up to the usefulness of talking in-person instead of electronically
updated 5:33 PM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
The computer glitch that disrupted air traffic over the U.K. on Friday was a nuisance, but not dangerous, says Les Abend
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT