Written by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler, an accomplished engineer and best selling author respectively, Abundance is based on the premise that ‘the future is better than you think’. Together they explore what the future holds for all of us, and paint a world where everyone has access to all the essentials such as clean water, food, energy, health care and education thanks to technological innovation. It is full of statistics, graphs and diagrams, examples, memories and stories, making it an incredibly scientific yet compelling read.
I enjoyed the optimistic tone. Many books addressing sustainability are negative, leaving the reader fearful of the future. Abundance takes the opposite stance, declaring that a better, fairer and healthier world is not just possible, but coming soon.
The book is jam packed with stories of amazing entrepreneurs who are making a difference. Like the ‘Smart Grid for Water’ network put in place to monitor and improve usage efficiency, or the ‘Slingshot’ that can purify 1000 litres of water using the same amount of energy it takes to run a hairdryer. Before reading Abundance, I had no idea initiatives such as these existed, and it is exciting to know that progress is being made right now rather than in 20 years.
Diamandis and Kotler also address perspectives around poverty. With issues such as the migrant crisis where people are questioning what poverty really means, they insist that contrary to belief, having items such as a smartphone does not make you rich and reveal that the average person today is richer than the president 50 years ago. The themes they addressed are not only relevant right now, but will continue to be for a very long time.
What did you not like about this book?
One thing we came to consensus on in discussion was no one was keen on the tone of the book. Abundance sometimes came across as slightly arrogant, making it inaccessible at times. Some statements were written in a you should already know this sort of tone.
Another area in which we found Abundance problematic was what Timothy Ogden alluded to, calling it”…techno-utopianism at its worst”. While it was refreshing to have a solely optimistic perspective, it was almost like they completely disregarded reality, making the book, although very scientific, have quite a whimsical and fantastic edge. As much as the reader wants to believe this world is possible, their approach didn’t really tackle both sides of the equation. Leaving the reader dreaming of this amazing potential world, with no realistic or practical steps on how the average person can get there.
What will you take away from what you have read?
We agreed that greatest theme in Abundance was the idea of the power of one. After reading, we walked away hoping and dreaming that we could change the world. It reinforced the notion of the butterfly effect – how everything you do has a knock on effect to the world around you.
Diamandis and Kotler acknowledged that ‘human beings are designed to be local optimists and global pessimists’ (p 31), however they stress that by no means should we stay in that mind-set. Technology is wonderful and has the potential to open many doors, but only when coupled with our humanity.
Compassion for others is another strong theme throughout the book – not just aiming for abundance for you, but for everybody. We may not be able to invent the next ground-breaking piece of technology for the desalination of oceans or create a brand new form of energy, but we can make a difference for people in our community even if it is just one person at a time.
Tobi Ruth Adebekun, Six Degrees