The future according to visionaries

Back in 2015, a joke went around about how short we had come of the advanced, gadget-filled 2015 predicted in the 1985 classic, Back to the Future II. Where were all the flying cars and hoverboards? That future, and in fact a much more radically advanced future, may be a lot closer than we generally think. In The Future Is Faster Than You Think, entrepreneurs and authors, Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler, lay out the technologies of the future and how innovation is accelerating at an incredible rate.

Nobody knows the future, obviously. But Kotler and Diamandis are in a better position to make predictions than most. Both are highly educated thought leaders in the fields of cutting edge technology. Diamandis, for instance, is a founder of both the X Prize Foundation and the Singularity University, two major institutions fueling innovation in future technology. This book is actually the third in a trilogy, following up on previous titles Bold and Abundance.

The Future Is Faster puts forth a simple idea: Today’s cutting edge technologies are converging in such a way that the pace of innovation is rapidly accelerating. In other words, the technologies of 5G, artificial intelligence, robotics, and quantum computing—among others—work in tandem so that growth in one area leads to growth in all the others. In a way this seems obvious, but Diamandis and Kotler lay out in detail how dramatically things are already changing across every aspect of life, from entertainment to education.

A key idea laid out in the first part of the book is the list of seven forces that will drive the acceleration of technological and economic growth. All seven forces work together in tandem to create a positive feedback loop. For instance, the more technology advances, the more it saves us time doing menial everyday tasks. This allows innovators to spend more time innovating and less time doing anything else. As a rather mundane example, think of how much accumulated time having a dishwasher saves you. Then consider that Diamandis and Kotler predict that in the near future, AI will negotiate leases on your homes!

Another force is longer lives. The more medical technology advances—and it is advancing a lot—the longer people will live. Things like 3D-printed organs will not just extend peoples lives, it will extend their productive, working years as well.

All these forces converge, just as modern technologies are converging. This will create absolutely staggering exponential growth. The flying cars, hoverboards, and whatever else our sci-fi fantasies have dreamed up are just around the bend. So the authors promise.

Space exploration, 3D printing, and AI are all very cool. It is impossible not to share in the authors’ contagious enthusiasm about just how cool and innovative all the technologies they talk about are. It remains to be seen whether the very fast, very cool future is as bright as Kotler and Diamandis predict.

Certainly, the convergence and exponential growth they describe will most likely come to pass and most likely make everyone’s lives much more convenient and free from constraint. No complaints here. On the other hand, it is hard to see how quantum computing or block-chain will make selfish people any less selfish or the criminally minded any less criminal. In fairness to the authors, they do address some concerns and predict the challenges as well as the accomplishments of the coming decades in Part 3 of the book. Still, the utopianism is strong with this one.

That being said, The Future Is Faster Than You Think is an exhilarating and enlightening read. If you’re even slightly interested in cutting edge technology or current events, you should definitely give it a look.

The Future Is Faster Than You Think is available for purchase here.

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