The Abundance Index
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METATREND #20: INCREASING GLOBAL ABUNDANCE
Peter Thiel famously asked, “What important truth do you believe, that very few people agree with you on?”
Despite all the dystopian news media, concerns about climate change, rising inflation and deadly pandemics—I believe that today is, by far, the single best time in all of human history to be alive.
This blog, the 20th and final in our Metatrends Series, will provide a summary of the technologies and forces driving an increase in global abundance and uplifting humanity.
We’ll see how technologies are turning scarcity into abundance over and over again, and probe into whether you hold an “Abundance & Optimism” Mindset, versus one of “Fear & Scarcity.”
Is population growth the downfall of our civilization? Or do more minds on the planet mean more innovations and breakthroughs?
Will humans fail to solve our gargantuan climate crisis? Or will entrepreneurs and technologies use the next generation of AI and quantum tech to drive breakthroughs in large-scale carbon capture?
The goal of this blog is to empower you with an informed appreciation of the growing trends of abundance in the world and to train your neural nets towards data-driven optimism.
If you have someone in your life who is depressed about the state of the Earth, please forward this blog to them!
Get ready for a massive download of data on how our world is headed towards limitless abundance.
Let’s dive in!
(This blog is written by Peter H. Diamandis, MD and Raiany Romanni)
EVIDENCE OF ABUNDANCE
“If you had to choose a moment in history to be born, and you did not know ahead of time who you would be… you’d choose now.” - Barack Obama, 44th U.S. President
The news these days is pretty horrific...
The war in Ukraine so far has led to some 200,000 deaths and to the displacement of millions of innocent civilians.
Today, nearly 1 in 10 people suffer from undernutrition, and roughly a billion people live without electricity.
In 2022, floods, hurricanes, and other natural disasters took the lives of thousands, and left hundreds of thousands of people without shelter.
These are the headlines you’ll encounter watching CNN, a news channel I refer to as the “Crisis News Network.” While the figures above are true, they are also NOT the whole story, nor are they ever put into context.
Why is every newspaper and news channel feeding us negative news 24 hours per day?
Why is every murder, disaster and bankruptcy delivered to your living room, in high definition, over and over again?
It’s because we humans evolutionarily pay 10-fold more attention to negative than positive news. And because the news media’s business model is to deliver your eyeballs to their advertisers. It’s for this reason that they keep are eyes glued to their channel with negative news.
The old saying, “If it bleeds, it leads” is very true. Check it out, open tomorrow’s newspaper and count the number of negative to positive news stories. It will be at least 10 to 1.
It’s for this reason that we think that the world is falling apart, and we don’t recognize or acknowledge any of the positive progress happening right in front of us. We don’t get to see it.
But the question remains, with all of this negative news, how can I possibly make the argument that we’re living during the most extraordinary time in history?
That’s where this blog comes in. My job to show you the data, and enable you to see the vast gains we have made.
And yes, while there have been heartbreaking ups-and-downs over the past decade and century, on the whole, global living standards have marched upward and to the right for the past 200 years—and because of converging technologies, they are likely to continue in that direction.
Below, we’ll look at some of the most exciting advancements driven by exponential technologies (and explored in our previous Metatrends blogs), which, I hope, will enable you to also become a data-driven optimist.
1. INFORMATION, INTELLIGENCE
In Metatrends #1 through #4, we probed into how we’ve massively demonetized and democratized the MOST important aspects of Information & Intelligence through technologies like Google, Wikipedia, ChatGPT, and Dall-E.
In 2010, we had just under 2 billion people connected to the Internet. We are now at 5 billion and growing. By 2030, that number will rise to at least 7.5 billion, or 90% of the planet.
This means a child in Zimbabwe can Google any information they want—for free.
Coupled with global gigabit connectivity, a rising Internet of Everything (IoE), ubiquitous mobile subscriptions and the incredible advancement of AI and robotics, we are rapidly building an interconnected and hopefully intelligent brain for the entire planet.
These tools are becoming increasingly open source, available on the cloud, allowing anyone with an internet connection to amplify their creativity, improve their problem-solving skills, and increase their earning capacity.
In Metatrends #5 through #12, we looked at how people, products, services, and companies have become increasingly interconnected.
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the shift towards remote work, expanding pools of talent and supercharging technologies like Zoom, AR, VR, and emerging versions of the metaverse.
Ubiquitous sensors, 5G connection and platforms like Zoom and Teams have disrupted the millennia-long notion that where you live determines the access you have to labor, healthcare, and ideas in general.
These converging technologies are enabling a world where everyone and everything is becoming connected, everywhere—always—and at ultra-low cost.
- A Gallup survey in June of 2022 found that 8 in 10 people in the U.S. are now working hybrid or remote jobs.
- Sensors are now a $200-billion-dollar industry. As of 2022, there are nearly 260 million smart, sensor-connected homes in the world.
- In 2022, 84% of U.S. physicians offered virtual appointments, and 57% said they would opt to continue offering virtual care.
3. HUMAN LIFESPAN
Without question, most precious, and perhaps most scarce is our healthy lifespan. The number of years we feel great and get to enjoy our loved ones.
Between 1900 and 2016, the global life expectancy at birth increased by 132%.
Since 1991, cancer deaths have decreased by 33%—amounting to nearly 4 million cancer deaths averted.
In Metatrends #13 through #15, we learned there may be no limit to the human lifespan, and looked at how new tools like gene therapy, stem cells, epigenetic reprogramming and CRISPR might be able to add decades of healthy years to YOUR life.
Ultimately, the more progress is made in age-related diseases (like Alzheimer’s and cancers), the greater the value of all further improvements, in all industries. Adding just one healthy year of life-expectancy to every human on Earth is worth $38 Trillion to the global economy!
4. ENERGY & RENEWABLES
In Metatrends #16 and #17, we discussed the world’s increased access to renewable energy and electricity.
Today, up to 90% of humanity has access to reliable electricity.
In Asia alone, almost 1.2 billion people have gained access to electricity since the year 2000. And there’s a direct correlation between the amount of energy a people can access and its level of abundance.
According to the World Bank, the relationship between energy access and prosperity is profound: a 1% increase in electricity access results in up to 1.5% increase in GDP growth.
On top of that, the percentage of electricity originating from renewables will soon become the dominant source by 2025.
Solar photovoltaic alone will account for 60% of all renewable capacity additions through 2025, and wind will provide another 30%—while 35 privately funded fusion companies are on the verge of producing net-positive power.
5. FOOD & WATER
Between 1970 and 2015, there has been a reduction of more than 50% in the prevalence of malnourishment in developing countries.
Today, rather than facing starvation, the majority of humanity is consuming too many calories, resulting in a growing global pandemic of obesity.
Globally, deaths from unsafe water sources have decreased by over 50% between 1990 and 2017.
In Metatrend #18, we discussed new technologies such as vertical farming and cellular agriculture (stem-cell grown beef, chicken, and fish) are reinventing how we create a future of abundant food.
For example, Plenty, a pioneer in vertical farming, grows crops in 30-foot vertical towers and produces yields of up to 350-times more per acre while using a fraction of water and land compared to traditional farming. Plenty is building a 120-acre campus which will create up to 20 million pounds of produce per year.
MORE EVIDENCE OF ABUNDANCE
In the previous section, we looked at some compelling evidence for Abundance tied to our Metatrends Series. Below let’s examine more evidence, some of the most compelling trends I’ve seen that will hopefully help you to cement your Abundance mindset.
1. DECREASE IN VIOLENT DEATHS
Let’s begin with perhaps the most-difficult data to believe, something that surprised me, and may shock you: on a global level, deaths from internal conflicts decreased in 2022.
Though the risk of nuclear war and the tragic conflict in Ukraine have received significant media coverage, a number of other conflicts around the globe recorded declines in deaths—including in Syria, Nigeria, and Somali.
Of course, any number of human casualties is a horrific number, and mitigating the risk of nuclear war will call for an extraordinary number of well-fed, well-educated, and hyper-connected human minds.
Ultimately, the goal should be to record zero civilian deaths by political violence—and we’ll only get there if we’re able to visualize this data-driven, optimistic scenario.
2. DECREASE IN POVERTY
Between 1820 and 2017, the number of people living in extreme poverty decreased from 95% to 9% of the world’s population.
As authors of Superabundance, Dr. Gale Pooley and Dr. Marian Tupy remark, “Sub-saharan Africa, the world’s poorest region, now enjoys access to food that is roughly equivalent to that of the Portuguese in the early 1960s.”
The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the living conditions of the world’s most vulnerable populations. Yet the U.S., for example, quickly helped mitigate this increased hardship, and ended up achieving the greatest reduction in extreme poverty rates within 5 decades in 2020, due to measures like expanded food assistance and jobless benefits, paired with Economic Impact Payments.
3. DECREASE IN INFANT & MATERNAL MORTALITY
In the year 1800, nearly half of all newborns did not make it to 5 years old.
Between 1950 and 2020, global infant mortality rates decreased by 80 percent.
In the graph below, you can see the stark decline in infant mortality within the U.S.
On top of that, between 2000 and 2017, the world recorded a 38% decrease in maternal mortality rates.
There’s much work to be done in increasing access to healthcare in developing countries (and for vulnerable populations within the U.S.). But there’s no doubt that women and children are safer today than at any time in human history.
4. INCREASE IN LITERACY
Literacy rates and the global reduction in extreme poverty go hand-in-hand. Give someone the ability to read and write and you provide them with the means to lift themselves out of poverty.
Between 1900 and 2016, global literacy rates skyrocketed from 21% to 86%.
Much of this increase owes to the demonetizing cost of smartphones and the global deployment of cellular telephone networks, coupled with other exponential technologies.
5. INCREASE IN DEMOCRACIES
In 1971, the world had 31 democratic countries. By 2017, this number more than tripled, up to 96.
Despite countless headlines on backsliding democracies and increasing authoritarianism, the world remains predominantly democratic: a fact unthinkable in the early 1800s, when the number of liberal democracies was zero.
These advancements at least partially owe to how converging technologies have been democratizing, demonetizing, and dematerializing access to products, information, and services for people everywhere.
So, what exactly does Abundance mean? Is it as simple as more money or more stuff? Or the ability to do what you want, when you want?
For me, a world of abundance isn’t about creating a world of luxury for everyone. It’s about creating a world of possibility.
Perhaps the best measure of abundance is that of TIME, a topic investigated by Matthew Ridley in his excellent book Rational Optimist; in my book Abundance; and most recently by Drs. Marian Tupy and Gale Pooley in Superabundance.
All humans have one thing in common: 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week, and 365 days in a year. It’s how we use that time that differentiates our quality of life, our wealth, and ultimately our access to abundance.
Can you turn on the tap water in your kitchen, or do you need to spend an hour traversing to the river with a bucket? Can you take your private jet, or do you need to go through TSA and spend an hour at LAX? Can you use Google/Bing/ChatGPT to instantly find the information you desire, or do you need to spend hours searching in a library?
Perhaps the most meaningful measure of abundance is: “How much of your time does it take you to acquire a specific good or service?”
Ridley explored the concept by looking at the price paid for an hour of light (as expressed in work time at average wages). In England, artificial light was 20,000 times more expensive in 1300 A.D. than it is today.
But when Ridley extended the equation and examined the cost of light per hour of earned average wage over time, he found even bigger savings:
- TODAY (light bulbs): One hour of light costs you <0.5 second of work.
- 1800’s (kerosene lamp): One hour of light cost 15 minutes of work.
- 1800’s (tallow candle): One hour of light cost >6 hours of work!
- 1750 BC (Sesame Oil Lamp): One hour of light cost >50 hours of work!!
“Abundance occurs,” Drs. Pooley and Tupy write, “when the nominal hourly income increases faster than the nominal price of a resource.” They exemplify this by noting that “the amount of effort required to buy 1 basket of 50 commodities in 1980 bought 3.5 baskets [of the same commodities] in 2018.”
Abundance also occurs when we shift from atoms to bits, and when we digitize and dematerialize products and services—which in turn leads to demonetization and democratization.
When we went from photographic film to digital-pics, the marginal cost of photography went to zero. The same happened with YouTube, GPS, digital music, video games, search, and ultimately thousands of apps available free on your smartphone.
Because the incremental cost of replicating and transmitting a digital product or service is essentially zero, our digital world is creating an ever-increasing world of abundance.
Scarcity Mindset: In a world of scarcity, there’s a limited pie. If your neighbor gets a slice, then you get a thinner slice. This is a world of limited resources and zero-sum competition.
Abundance Mindset: But when you have an Abundance Mindset, rather than slicing the pie into thinner and thinner slices, you simply bake more pies.
This is the future that exponential technologies enable.
5 FORCES INCREASING ABUNDANCE
Without question, we are marching toward increasing abundance, not just for the wealthy, but for every man, woman, and child on the planet.
I’ve identified five forces which are synergistically uplifting humanity – forces which give me the greatest hope and confidence in our future of abundance.
1. More Minds = More Abundance:
Most people believe additional humans on Earth means more hungry bellies to feed.
But in reality, more humans means more minds creating solutions, creating food, energy, and knowledge.
Drs. Pooley and Tupy discuss this in Superabundance, noting that “every human is born with not just a new stomach, but also a new mind.”
The authors note that for every 1% in population growth, research shows a whopping 3 to 4 percent increase in personal abundance.
In other words, it’s good news that the global population is larger than it’s ever been.
One of Elon Musk’s greatest concerns when I interviewed him April of 2021 was the potential dangers resulting from a decrease in human population – fewer minds and less labor to drive innovation and production.
As the authors of Superabundance suggest in the graph below, population growth is directly related to resource availability and superabundance.
2. More Connected Minds = More Abundance:
Abundance is not just about the number of people on the planet, it’s the connections between them.
It’s also about their access to knowledge through Google and ChatGPT, over 5G and Starlink... and the speed of their knowledge exchanges.
A century ago, if you were born into an isolated village without a school, library, phone, or television, your chances of advancement were slim to none.
Today, 60% of the world’s population has access to the internet, and there are more mobile handsets than humans on Earth! Your ability to rise out of poverty is greater than ever before.
Between 2021 and 2022 alone, 200 million people gained access to the internet.
With the global deployment of systems like SpaceX’s Starlink, which aims for 30,000 low-Earth orbit satellites covering the globe, we are on the verge of delivering multi-hundred-megabit connectivity to every human on the planet wherever they live.
The point is this: in today’s hyper-linked world, solving problems anywhere helps solve problems everywhere.
3. More Capital = More Abundance:
Despite the ups and downs of the global economy, the amount of capital accessible for entrepreneurs to solve problems over the past decades remains staggeringly large.
Crunchbase reports that in 2022, worldwide venture capital totaled $445 billion, about a 35% year-over-year decline from venture capital in 2021 ($681 billion).
But the real story is revealed when looking at US venture investments over the past decade where it grew approximately 10-fold from $32B in 2010 to $332B in 2021.
At the same time, the power of an invested dollar has massively increased. Every invested dollar now gets your further than ever before.
Here are just two examples:
DNA Sequencing: The cost of sequencing your genome has fallen >10-fold over the past decade, from approximately $5,000 in 2012 to under $500 in 2022. On top of this, the results of DNA sequencing are now clinically relevant, and far more valuable than they were just a decade ago.
Cloud Computing: Bezos’ Law states that “a unit of [cloud] computing power price is reduced by 50 percent approximately every 3 years.” By several estimates, the net average of 3-year price reduction figures in cloud computing between 2008 and 2017 exceeded Bezos’ Law, at a -58% price reduction—while superior ECU and RAM performance reflect a significant increase in value.
This type of financial leverage is also true for 3D printing, computer memory, bandwidth and a multitude of other technologies.
So, while the amount of capital available for innovation has increased 10-fold, the power of that money to run experiments and do useful work has also increased 10-fold.
The mind-boggling result is entrepreneurs now have 100-fold more power to generate Abundance!
4. More Energy = More Abundance:
As discussed in Metatrend #16, increasing access to energy leads to increasing abundance. That’s because energy is the driving force behind all economic activity—from enabling education and healthcare to powering industrial processes and meetings.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that every $1 spent on energy infrastructure can generate up to $5 in overall economic activity. (As mentioned earlier, the relationship between energy access and prosperity is even more obvious when we look at electricity. According to the World Bank, a 1% increase in electricity access results in up to 1.5% increase in GDP growth.)
The World Health Organization has found that access to consistent electricity can lead to a 20-30% reduction in poverty.
To put this into context, we once hunted whales to get whale-oil to light our nights. Next, we ravaged mountainsides for coal. Next, we drilled kilometers under the ground and under the ocean floor to search for oil.
Today, few people realize that our Sun bathes the surface of the Earth with 8,000 times more solar energy than the human race consumes as a species.
Add to that a future of increasing solar cell efficiency and reducing capex expenses, a future where commercial fusion may come online this decade, and we’re heading towards a world with a superabundance of energy to power our global economy.
5. More Tech = More Abundance:
Exponential technologies are constantly digitizing, dematerializing, demonetizing, and democratizing everything... every product and every service.
We’ve seen examples throughout this Metatrends blog Series where access to more energy, more data, more compute, more manufacturing, means that entrepreneurs can create newer, faster, and cheaper breakthroughs.
We’ve seen examples where converging AI, robotics, sensors, networks, AR/VR have the potential to reinvent education, health, food production, transportation and even labor.
Technology is a force that converts scarcity into abundance, over and over again.
Here are two important examples:
Diamonds & Gems: Hardly anything would be considered more scarce than a large perfect diamond, ruby, or emerald. A perfect 10-carat diamond would be considered priceless. But material sciences are now allowing us to create large and perfect diamonds and gems for the cost of electricity, methane, and water.
In 2020, Pandora announced it would cease to sell naturally mined diamonds and switch exclusively to "lab-made diamonds." The reason is two-fold. First, mining diamonds is an incredibly environmentally taxing practice with a track record of contributing to war and human rights abuses. Second, the technology is finally here to create large-scale, perfect, demonetized lab-grown diamonds.
Today, Diamond Foundry, based in Silicon Valley, has perfected the means to create large-scale production of lab-grown diamonds to almost any size (up to 40 carats!), shape or color. They are also getting ready to produce diamond-based wafers for a new generation of computational chip-designs.
The Lesson of Aluminum: Until the 1800s, aluminum was considered the most valuable metal in the world. Napoléon III himself threw a banquet for the King of Siam, where the honored guests were given aluminum utensils while the others had to “make do with gold.”
Even though aluminum makes up 8.3% of the weight of the Earth’s crust, pure aluminum is not naturally occurring. All aluminum is bound with oxygen, silica and iron to a compound called bauxite, and extracting aluminum from bauxite was energy-intensive and extremely complex.
In 1886, Charles Martin Hall and Paul Héroult invented a new technology known as electrolysis, that changed everything. The Hall-Héroult process uses electricity to liberate aluminum from bauxite allowing everyone on the planet to have access to ridiculous amounts of cheap, light, pliable metal.
This act of using technology to turn scarcity into abundance not only decimates old-school industries—it also uplifts everyone, making the world a better place.
What product or service will you dematerialize and demonetize and transform from scarcity to abundance?
Exponential technologies are resource-liberating mechanisms, uplifting humanity and redefining prosperity.
Since the dawn of humanity, a privileged few have lived in stark contrast to the hardscrabble majority. Past leaders raised in a linear and scarcity mindset believed that the gap could never be closed. But in reality, this gap is closing—fast.
If these trends continue, we will soon have the ability to meet and exceed the basic needs of every man, woman, and child on the planet.
Abundance for all is within our grasp.
This transformation from scarcity to abundance, from expensive to demonetized, from the rich to everyone, is happening in every industry, everywhere on the globe.
It is my greatest hope that this blog and this Metatrends Series has helped to shift your mindset from cynicism to hope, from pessimism to data-driven optimism.
You can access Metatrends blogs #1 - #19 here.