Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Future Better Than we Could Even Imagine

We live in a world overwhelmed by myriads of news, which are mostly related to the scarcity of resources, either money, workforce or raw materials effecting our existence, worldwide. Lots of our time, attention and energy are absorbed by these news, and by the idea of an uncertain future.

What does the current reality tell us? Is it merely a mirror of the current mental models used by the world's leaders, policy makers, bankers, and citizens? What might be the underlying root causes?

In Peter Diamandis' and Steven Kotler's forthcoming new book "Abundance - THE FUTURE IS BETTER THAN YOU THINK" (release will be 21st, February 2012) the first chapter (which is free to download for the interested minds) starts with a most interesting story about Gaius Plinius Cecilius Secundus, better known as Pliny the Elder. "In one of his later volumes, Earth, book XXXV, Pliny tells the story of a goldsmith who brought an unusual dinner plate to the court of Emperor Tiberius. The plate was a stunner, made from a new metal, very light, shiny, almost bright as silver." - It turned out that this was aluminum. Only the goldsmith was ordered to be cut a head shorter, as Emperor Tiberius feared the decline of his gold treasures, once this new metal would be out on the market. The knowledge about the metal, and the production process was then forgotten for almost two millennia.

What appears like a pretty distant connection between today, and the above story about the goldsmith however brings up similar patterns of behavior: once new technologies make the scarcity of resources become more abundant then in the present, the ruling class clings to the old behaviors.

Yet, times have changed dramatically. Millions of "Pliniuses" in the coat of bloggers, tweeters or boundary spanners spread the knowledge of new technologies, and disruptive innovations to any corner of the world in almost split of a second. The information technology era which had been mainly fueled by the work of Jay W. Forrester (inventor of the RAM, Patent US2736880) working at Lincoln Labs, MIT, Cambridge, on the Whirlwind Project, has enabled the "information age" of the past decades. This is now evolving into a "connected knowledge age", which most of us have not really been exposed yet.

"Abundance" tells the story of unleashing people's creative potential around the globe, despite their social status, age, education, and other boundaries in the knowledge flows into reality. Exponentially accelerating information technology (1) supports the possibilities of Do-it-yourself (DIY) (2) especially as 3D-printing becomes widely available, biotech labs in the living room, and social network tools are connecting the already connected people on the WorldWideWeb. Emerging generations of tech philantropists (3), like Peter Thiel, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and many others who earn a fortune in their early life, using it then to play out their inner visions, making the world a better place.

Yet what really makes the difference is that billions of new users of the internet ("The Rising Billion") (4) will come into the global "innovation game". Someone who never before had a chance to connect to the global knowledge now is able to connect to like-minded ones not just across the street, rather across the planet. Mobile computing, and the downsizing of devices, power consumption ("Cool Silicon" a Dresden-based cluster researching the decrease of energy consumption) as well as increasing the calculating power, and data storage facility.

Coming back to my first lines, I strongly believe that we are just on the edge of huge transformational change which impacts all aspects of life in a way, not many have experienced yet. And best of all we have all the tools, concepts, theories that may help us all together making this dream become reality. It will include a much broader basis of people around the globe, including the ones who are not yet part of globally connected society as Tiffany Shlain has so beautifully made a movie "A Declaration of Interdependence" - The future is better than we think :)
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