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 8:21 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Carlos Moreno says atheists, a sizable fraction of Americans, deserve representation in Congress.
updated 12:25 PM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Democrats and unions have a long history of mutual support that's on the decline. But in a time of income inequality they need each other more than ever
updated 12:23 AM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
William McRaven
Peter Bergen says Admiral William McRaven leaves the military with a legacy of strategic thinking about special operations
updated 12:11 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
updated 1:24 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
updated 9:06 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
updated 11:54 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
updated 10:34 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
updated 10:32 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
updated 10:43 PM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat August 30, 2014
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
updated 9:30 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
updated 6:42 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
updated 9:21 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
updated 9:19 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
updated 7:35 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
updated 4:53 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
updated 3:19 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
updated 11:58 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
updated 3:50 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
updated 4:52 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
updated 5:04 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
updated 5:45 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT