I am listening to Abundance, The Future is Far Better Than You Think by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler, which is a fascinating book. Far from the usual dystopian view of the world of the future, Diamandis and Kotler outline dozens of ways our lives, and perhaps more importantly, the lives of the “Bottom Billion” will be improved through technology that already exists and is being readied for for large-scale use.
Clean water, more efficient food production, renewable and unlimited energy, advances and medicine, robotics and genetics could lead to better lives for all of us.
A friend of mine recently regaled a group of us at dinner about how we are doomed to bankruptcy at the hands of public unions. This future is certainly possible, but what if our energy costs dropped 90% in the next 10 years? What if large-scale aeroponics is able to feed cities by re-purposing existing but underused skyscrapers? What if robotics can drastically reduce the cost of caring for the elderly?
Clean water alone in the poorest areas of Africa and India can “scale.” It has been shown that fewer deaths from waterborne diseases has the effect of sharply reducing the number of births. If children will survive to adulthood, the thinking goes, we don’t need to have so many. This is grim, but it is a reality in the Third World.
Diamandis and Kotler point out that advances in technology serve to create abundance. The Story of Aluminum illustrates this point. Originally invented in the first century by a nameless goldsmith, the metal as lost to us until 1886 when, almost simultaneously and in different parts of the world, American chemist Charles Martin Hall and Frenchman Paul Héroult developed a process that uses electricity to extract aluminum from bauxite, one of the most plentiful materials on the planet. Suddenly everyone on the planet had access to ridiculous amounts of cheap, light, pliable metal.
What if someone invented a machine that can purify anything “wet” including salt water, sewage or contaminated water to clean (actually surgical grade) water. And what if this machine could use almost anything for fuel?
It exists today. It is named after the weapon David used to kill Goliath.