Will the Future be Abundant?

2 November 2023
Industry Commentary

I was invited yesterday to a live taping of an hour-long debate and audience Q&A on the topic “Will the Future Be Abundant?”. The debate will be released in December via public radio, video and the Open to Debate podcast.

Arguing “YES” was X Prize Foundation founder and Singularity University co-founder Peter Diamandis, co-author of the best-seller Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think and a forthcoming sequel Scaling Abundance. Arguing “NO” was geopolitical strategist Peter Zeihan, author of the best-seller The End of the World Is Just the Beginning: Mapping the Collapse of Globalization. Xenia Wickett moderated.

If you follow my books and the New Florence blog, I tend to be an optimist about how technology continues to improve how we work, live and play. So, I am usually more aligned with Peter D, but Peter Z made some great points why we should not continue to project based on the prosperity of the last few decades. Below are some of my rough notes from Peter Z’s points

  • At the end of WWII, our bribe to the world was globalization. We used our Navy to open the seas so that anyone could go anywhere and interface with any partner and access any commodity. Selling to any market if In exchange you would join us against the Soviets and it worked, and it generated the greatest prosperity and security the world has ever seen. But the Cold War ended in 92.
  • We’re now aging whether it’s Spain, or Italy or Germany or Japan or Korea or Taiwan or China or Thailand. We now have mass retirement and we have to come up with something that works without investment or consumption or production.
  • China is a country that exists because of globalization and demographic change. It’s utterly dependent upon globalization for access to raw materials, and access to markets, but it’s also the fastest urbanizing country in history, which means it’s the fastest aging population in history. They’ve already aged so quickly and so far that consumption led growth or cost competitive production has already faded into memory.

I expected each to fall into neat optimist v pessimist camps but actually both of them in different ways came across as STEM-driven innovation optimists. Unlike so many of us who just focus on information technology (and especially AI), the two touched on health, energy, agriculture, education, transport, access to water among other challenges. They mentioned nuclear fusion, mental acuity, large scale desalination, GMO and hacking genomes, flying cars, next-gen education and more. They also talked about silicon and AI, and Peter D actually used a bot to summarize his positions.

Sounds like more abundance if we can only keep politicians at bay. In fact, my favorite line from the debate came from Peter D when asked about the political mood in the country

“I count on entrepreneurship and capitalism to solve problems. I never depend on the government. Period. End of Statement.”


Please make a point of watching the show when it is publicly available next month.


Peter and Peter debate 2