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 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 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 7:57 PM EDT, Tue July 29, 2014
Alan Elsner says Secretary Kerry's early cease-fire draft was leaked and presented as a final document, which served the interests of hard-liners on both sides who don't want the Gaza war to stop.
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 2:18 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Rick Francona says Israel seems determined to render Hamas militarily ineffective.
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."
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
A crisis like the Gaza conflict or the surge of immigrants can be an opportunity for a lame duck president, writes Julian Zelizer
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Carol Costello says the league's light punishment sent the message that it didn't consider domestic violence a serious offense
updated 8:51 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Danny Cevallos says saggy pants aren't the kind of fashion statement protected by the First Amendment.
updated 2:52 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Margaret Hoover says some GOP legislators support a state's right to allow same-sex marriage and the right of churches, synagogues and mosques not to perform the sacrament
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno say it's unacceptable for states to experiment with new execution procedures without full disclosure
updated 1:44 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Priya Satia says today's drones for bombardment and surveillance have their roots in the deadly history of Western aerial control of the Middle East that began in World War One
updated 12:35 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Jeff Yang says it's great to see the comics make an effort at diversifying the halls of justice
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Rick Francona says the reported artillery firing from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
Paul Callan says the fact that appeals delay the death penalty doesn't make it an unconstitutional punishment, as one judge ruled
updated 6:25 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
updated 11:33 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Ruti Teitel says assigning a costly and humiliating "collective guilt" to Germany after WWI would end up teaching the global community hard lessons about who to blame for war crimes
updated 8:45 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
updated 9:49 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
updated 6:05 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
updated 7:42 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 2:53 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 12:37 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
updated 12:30 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
updated 8:09 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT