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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 13 May 2013
Abundance by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler is a well-researched and hugely optimistic book. Its central thesis is that new technologies are going to solve many of the world's resource problems over the coming ten to twenty years, bringing about a world of future abundance. The book's structure follows what the authors term 'The Abundance Pyramid': water, food, shelter, energy, education, health care and freedom (a hierarchy of human needs based loosely on Maslow). Each of these needs are explored in depth and the authors share insights from leading edge research and the likely benefits that they might bring.
Energy
Take, for example, energy, "arguably the most important lynchpin for abundance" (p.156): where is all the energy going to come from? The authors explore three options: solar and photovoltaics, synthetic biofuels and "fourth generation" nuclear power. Of these, they argue, solar has the most potential: "The German Aerospace Centre estimates that the solar power in the deserts of North Africa is enough to supply forty times the present world electricity demand" (p.157). The chapter unpacks each of these three energy sources as well as outlining other significant technical developments, which will enhance these, such as Liquid Metal Battery technologies which promise to enable us store clean energy; and development of "an intelligent network of power lines, switches and sensors able to monitor and control energy down to the. Level of a single lightbulb" (p.169).
Alongside discussion of the developments in these key areas, the authors outline four key drivers of technological progress:
The DIY Innovator - collaboration through e Internet means that small groups are far more powerful than ever before. On the Wikipedia principle, it is possible for enthusiasts and experts to work together to solve problems more efficiently than is possible in large corporations.
The Technophilanthropists - Billionaire philanthropists, such as Microsoft's Bill Gates and eBay's founder Pierre Omidyar, are pouring resources into solving many of the world's problems on a scale that previously was possible only at a Governmental level. Unlike e Mega-rich philanthropists of the past (Rockefeller, Vanderbilt Carnegie et al) the current breed are young and see the world (as opposed to NYC/USA as their stage).
The Rising Billion - "the bottom billion" (= four billion people) are becoming connected and are set to be net economic contributors and consumers in the next two decades.
The Power of Incentive Competitions - competitions with large prizes put up by philanthropists have a long history of promoting innovation and technological break-throughs. (Here Peter Diamandis is plugging the X-PRIZE of which he is the founder and CEO, but the argument is nevertheless an interesting one.
The World of Abundance:
The world of Abundance is one where all are fed and watered and there is enough power that we can start to clean up the planet by removing carbon from the atmosphere or to think about investigating Space seriously. People will continue to get healthier as medicine becomes "predictive, personalised, preventive and participatory" (= P4 medicine; p.201-3); X-ray machines will be the size of a suitcase (p.194), spare organs will be 3-D printed or cultivated to order from stem cells (p.200-1) and most, if not all Blue-collar work will be taken over by robots, including care of the elderly (how do you feel about the prospect of "robo-nurse"?). Robots will also perform routine, repetitive operations (e.g. Cataract p.197).

Education
In the context of such abundantly interesting read, the chapter on Education was a little disappointing, but that's perhaps only because it was the area with which I am most familiar. The authors retrace the New Delhi hole-in-the-wall research, Negroponte's One Laptop per Child (OLPC) initiative, before regurgitating Sir Ken Robinson's critique of the present educational system (see Sir Ken's TED talk "Schools kill Creativity").
Learning like Video Games
However, there is an eloquent argument that "we need to make learning a lot more like video games and a lot less like school" (p.183). Indeed there may be much to learn from the ways in which Game Designers motivate gamers and reward success. Game designers never give negative or bad grades because gamers don't like it. Lee Sheldon, a professor at the University of Indiana, has "implemented an 'experience points' game based design. Students begin a semester as a level zero avatar (equivalent to an F) and strive toward a level 12 (an A). This means that everything you do in class produces forward motion, and students always know exactly where they stand - two conditions that serve to motivate." This makes enormous sense. We are all familiar with Dweck's research that demonstrate that many pupils prefer to do the same puzzle again and again rather than attempting a harder puzzle for fear of failing. Yet, many of those very same pupils will devote hours of their free time gaining experience to get to the next level in a computer game.
The Inverted School

The Khan Academy is held up as a model for classroom teaching of the future (yes, you read it correctly): Los Altos School District in California "are taking an approach that inverts the 200-year old schoolhouse model":
"Instead of teachers using classroom time to deliver lectures, students are assigned to watch Khan Academy videos as homework, so that class time can be spent solving problems . . . This lets teachers personalise education trading their sage-on-stage role for that of a coach. Students now work at their own pace and only advance to the next topic they have thoroughly learned the last." (p.186-7)
Conclusion
Abundance is a fascinating and challenging read for anyone who is interested in learning about what the future might hold. The book is fully indexed and referenced and has some informative indices outlining the data - mainly in graphic form - which supports the thesis. Above all it is a much-needed and most welcome counterblast to the doomsday scenarios perpetuated in the media. Lets hope we can build a future where our grandchildren will in a world of abundance.
The Author
The principal author, Peter Diamandis, is the Chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE foundation and co-founder and executive chairman of Singularity University, which appears to be a very interesting think-tank that brings together forward-thinkers and futurists and whose mission is mission is "to educate, inspire and empower leaders to apply exponential technologies to address humanity’s grand challenges" (worth a look).
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 15 May 2012
Abundance is about what can be achieved, provided we set the right goals.

There are inevitably political and bureaucratic hurdles before these goals come to fruition, however, hurdles are for jumping over, not directly into, and given the track record of the prime author Peter Diamandis along with his detailed derivation as to the logic behind the arguments put forward, there sure is a basis here for optimism.

Well worth a read.
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on 22 September 2014
What an excellent upliffting book - how to use technology to cure the world's problems. I like the way it gives one alternative solutions to the big problems humans are causing the earth.
A book to read certainly.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 28 October 2012
In this surprising book the authors look at many aspects of modern technological development and predict enormous positive changes in the coming few decades.

As they say, "When seen through the lens of technology, few resources are truly scarce they're mainly inaccessible. Yet the threat of scarcity still dominates our worldview.", and they go on to look at new cheap seawater purification, the falling costs of solar electricity, smart grids, open source maker groups, the democratization and cost reduction of publishing'/advertising (eg. Craig's list) and education (eg. Khan Academy), mobile phone banking in Africa, etc. etc.
Overall, their conclusions are very convincing, and they devote an interesting section to cognitive biases, particularly the natural tendency to focus on threatening situations combined with an inability to appreciate their probability. Modern information overload presents a multitude of possible threats = anxieties while in reality lives are safer and more uneventful than ever before.

I would have given the book 5 stars if it weren't for their finessing of the issue of robotic AI on employment. They say, ".... The old lower skilled jobs were replaced with higher skilled jobs, and the workforce was trained to fill them."
They know that there is is world of difference between the introduction of farm machinery and new intelligent agent computers that can fly aircraft or provide advanced medical diagnosis. There's an interesting discussion of this problem in Martin Ford's, The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future: 1.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 16 July 2013
A great read that will open your eyes to the changes in the world that are possible with innovation. If you're tired of reading about all of the "impossible" problems that the world faces and instead want to read about people and companies that are creating real and viable solutions to these "wicked" problems, you need to read Abundance.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 16 April 2012
I think it deserves more than one star. It may be over-optimistic, but reads well, and gives me hope. Expecially interesting was the history of the prize-reward for Charles Lindburgh's New York to Paris flight and the effect it had on the development of aviation, and the effect that the X-Prizes now may have.
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on 5 November 2014
Any pessimist out there owes it to themselves to read this. Highly enjoyable and insightful read. I absolutely recommend this book.
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on 24 July 2015
Feel uplifted and also challenged by this good read. Opened my eyes to the possibilities for the human race and our choices.
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on 3 April 2014
I read a lot on a wide variety of topics, but this is one of the most inspiring and uplifting books I have ever read.
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on 15 January 2015
One of the most exciting books I've read. Makes you know future of abundance is just around the corner. Awesome.
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