Abundance (2012) explains why our current predicament is not as gloomy as we believe it to be and presents a compelling case for ways in which we could have a future marked by abundance and not scarcity. It takes readers on a whistle-stop tour of transformative technologies, their key players and a glimpse of how these technologies could be employed to solve many of the resource problems we face today. Above all, this book reminds readers that it’s an interesting and exciting time to exist.
It’s hard to think about the future and not consider the potential dangers of war, terrorism, climate change, economic crises, population explosion and food shortages. Many of these threats seem so imminent that those who didn’t consider them when evaluating their future might be thought of as crazy.
In fact, there are underlying influences that tend to push us towards a pessimistic view of the future.
The first is the architecture of our brains – principally, the section known as the amygdala. The amygdala is always on alert for threats in our environment and, when triggered, it initiates the fight-or-flight response. This reaction served us well in times when dangers around us were immediate and life-threatening, but is not so well suited to modern society, where threats tend to be more remote and probabilistic – e.g., the economy could nose-dive, there could be a terrorist attack, etc.
The second has to do with the kind of information we receive. News and media outlets are aware that positive news doesn’t elicit the same physiological reaction as threatening news, which is why they report true to the old adage “If it bleeds, it leads” in the battle for our attention.
And so, we’re constantly bombarded with fearful images and scenarios that feed the amygdala, keeping us in a state of alert and preventing us from viewing the future objectively.
But if we look at the statistics, we would see that the industrialized world has never been safer: we’re living longer, wealthier, healthier lives and have massively increased our access to goods, services and information that our ancestors could never have imagined.
Just as they were unable to fathom the impact of technological advances such as the internet, we also cannot see what affect future developments will have on our continued progress.
The future is brighter than our brains and the media would have us believe.