Tag Archives: optimism

The Future Is Better Than You Think – It Will Be a Future of Abundance, say Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler

Let’s take a hopeful break.

“Because we’ve never seen it before, exponential change makes even less sense. “

I am immersed in the book Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think by Peter Diamindis and Steven Kotler.  It is a surprise to me that I am.  My nature is to be somewhat negative, a borderline pessimist.  The authors tell me this is not entirely my fault.  We evolved this way.  Our brains require attentiveness to danger, and so we see danger before, and more often, than anything else.  We are not attuned to see the possibilities.  We are attuned to see the dangers.  Before, fear kept us alive — fear is what we look for, what we (think we) need.

But, the future may just be brighter than we had realized – better than we think.  Part of the reason is the pace of discovery. And even though it appears that innovation has “slowed down” dramatically, the reality is that it has slowed down only “recently.”  But, over the longer haul of the last few centuries, the pace has been breathtaking, leaving us panting to keep up.

In Abundance, the authors quote Kevin Kelly, What Technology Wants:

Waterwheels were not becoming cheaper every year (five hundred years ago).  A hammer was not easier to use from one decade to the next.  Iron was not increasing in strength.  The yield of corn seed varied by the season’s climate, instead of improving each year.  Every 12 months, you could not upgrade your oxen’s yoke to anything much better than what you already had.  (that last line is my favorite line – R.M.).

But now, my modern marvel, my iPhone, is practically a dinosaur.  My wife’s is newer, better, cooler than mine, and my son’s is newer, cooler, better, and “stronger/faster” than hers.  (My next new one is coming soon.  It’s my turn again on our family plan – I can’t wait).

Today, I learn about a book, and I order the sample pages immediately on my Kindle App for my iPad.  (Just now, I interrupted my writing of this blog post, clicked over to Amazon, and ordered the sample pages of What Technology Wants.  When I open my iPad in just a few minutes, they will be there).

And that’s just the small corner of my world.

Every day, if we can avoid the polarizing political fights that we see and hear every day, there is some new breakthrough to read about.  We really do feel like the breakthroughs are coming – against Alzheimer’s; some kind of clean energy solution; so many more.  (No, I’m not as confident that the Dallas Cowboys will return to their glory years anytime soon.  There are some areas where the deck may simply be stacked against that “better future”).

The Extreme Future will indeed be good, wonderful (i.e., filling us with wonder).  Our need is to become just a little less fearful, and a whole lot more fearless.  “Fearlessness is like a muscle:  the more we use it, the stronger it becomes.”  (Abundance).

“For most of history, if your dad was a baker, you were a baker,” wrote Kevin Kelly.  But today – well, today, the average young adult has a job that he cannot even make his grandmother understand, much less is he working in the same job as his dad or grandfather or great-grandfather…  In fact, today, it is as likely to be the “she” who can not explain to grandparents what her job entails.  It is simply too far outside of their context.

On some days, I speak to retired people, many of them in their late 80’s, and up.  I asked a recent group how many of them had a Facebook page.  Not one!  Then I asked how many of them had ever looked at a computer screen or a smaller screen at anyone’s Facebook page.   Again, not one.  I told that to a man who is still learning to live with the new technology, and he described how his 7 year old picks it up faster than he does.

Yes, they do.  And with the new tools of today the new breakthroughs will come at an increasingly fast pace.

Just consider (again, from the book, Abundance):

Twenty years ago, most well-off US citizens owned a camera, a video camera, a CD player, a stereo, a video game console, a cell phone, a watch, an alarm clock, a set of encyclopedias, a world atlas, a Thomas Guide, and a whole bunch of other assets that easily add up to more than $10,000.  All of which come standard on today’s smart phones, or are available at the app store for less than a cup of coffee.
If the Bible tells us, “where there is no vision, people perish,” then the inverse is also true:  “where there is vision, the people flourish.”  

Tomorrow could turn out to be just a whole lot of fun.


By the way, Dr. Peter Diamandis, one of the authors of Abundance, is the Chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation.

Accentuate the Positive — Johnny Mercer’s Anthem for Difficult Days

Johnny Mercer

You’ve got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
Have faith or pandemonium’s
Liable to walk upon the scene

— Johnny Mercer

On the Wednesday, November 18 broadcast of NPR’s Fresh Air, Terry Gross had a wonderful concert of Johnny Mercer music.  This would have been Mercer’s 100th birthday. Lyricist and composer Johnny Mercer — born Nov. 18, 1909, in Savannah, Ga. — wrote or co-wrote more than 1,000 songs, including American Songbook standards like “Skylark,” “That Old Black Magic” and “Come Rain or Come Shine,” and “Moon River.”  You can read about and listen to this particular program, here.  I promise you, it’s worth it.  (This program was worth my entire year’s membership to KERA)

Johnny Mercer died in 1976. Fresh Air marks the 100th anniversary of his birth with an in-studio concert starring Rebecca Kilgore and Dave Frishberg.

During the opening medley of Mercer music, they performed a portion of this terrific song:

Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive
– Words and Music by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer

Gather ’round me, everybody
Gather ’round me while I’m preachin’
Feel a sermon comin’ on me
The topic will be sin and that’s what I’m ag’in’
If you wanna hear my story
The settle back and just sit tight
While I start reviewin’
The attitude of doin’ right

You’ve got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
And latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between

You’ve got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
Have faith or pandemonium’s
Liable to walk upon the scene

To illustrate my last remark
Jonah in the whale, Noah in the ark
What did they do just when everything looked so dark?

(Man, they said “We’d better accentuate the positive”)
(“Eliminate the negative”)
(“And latch on to the affirmative”)
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between (No!)
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between

(Ya got to spread joy up to the maximum)
(Bring gloom down to the minimum)
(Have faith or pandemonium’s)
(Liable to walk upon the scene)

You got to ac (yes, yes) -cent-tchu-ate the positive
Eliminate (yes, yes) the negative
And latch (yes, yes) on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between
No, don’t mess with Mister In-Between

I have been reading books, and reviews of books, and posting about books (for example, this post from just this morning), that talk about what went wrong, and how deep a hole we’ve dug for ourselves.

And, I admit that just looking on the bright side of life does not fix the problems.

But I found myself captivated by this set of lyrics, thinking what a great message for us all in these difficult days.  Maybe we do need to “Accentuate the Positive” at least a little.  No, I am not recommending blind optimism — or blind anything.  But I do think that if we see some solutions to pursue, we ought to believe that they have a chance to work as we pursue them.

By the way, this Mercer song was written in 1944 – a pretty tough time for this country, and our world, as we were in the midst of World War II, and we really did not know how it was going to turn out.

Last night, I spoke for a group of sharp and connected women.  Two months ago, to the same group, I presented my synopsis of the book The Coming Generational Storm.  One woman said “I hope tonight’s book is more hopeful – more optimistic.”

Well, I agree.  I think I need to remind myself that I should, pretty regularly, ACCENTUATE THE POSITIVE…

Thanks, Terry Gross, for a terrific hour of radio – and to Johnny Mercer, for this wonderful reminder of the power of hope and optimism.