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Diamandis offers his view of the future in Distinguished Speakers Series talk

Peter Diamandis, during his Distinguished Speakers Series lecture. .

Innovator Peter Diamandis gave the second lecture in this year's Distinguished Speakers Series on Nov. 14. Photo: Joe Cascio

By ROBBIE JOHNSON

Published November 16, 2018

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“The world I’m looking toward is all about can we create a world in which every man, woman and child has access to all the energy, water, health care, education and knowledge that they desire? ”
Peter Diamandis, founder
XPrize Foundation

There was a gleaming element of optimism within Peter Diamandis when he spoke at the most recent installment of UB’s Distinguished Speakers Series on Wednesday. He told a large crowd in the Center for the Arts that this is the greatest time to be alive in the history of humankind.

“The future is better than you think and much faster than you think. This is the most amazing time to be alive, no question,” said Diamandis, an international pioneer in the fields of innovation, incentive competitions and commercial space. “The only time more amazing than today is going to be tomorrow. Each of us have power at our fingertips that the greatest kings and queens [didn’t have]. We may not know it or realize it, but what each and every one of us can do is extraordinary if you’re passionate and you want to do it.”

Diamandis said that following his passion is what led him to where he is today. After graduating from Harvard Medical School, he turned toward entrepreneurial pursuits, launching the XPRIZE Foundation, a non-profit organization that manages public technological development competitions to benefit humanity. He has also founded companies like Human Longevity Inc. to find ways to increase the healthy human lifespan.

Those pursuits opened Diamandis up to a world that he said is changing so quickly that every aspect of human life will be altered in the next 30 years.

“None of us truly understands how fast the world is changing,” he said. “There’s a series of convergences occurring over all the exponential technologies that are going to speed things up. I think the reason we don’t truly understand how fast the world is going is that our brains did not evolve for the world we’re living in. We have not had a hardware or software upgrade in millions of years.”

Peter Diamandis and Tom Ulbrich on stage for the Q&A.

Peter Diamandis (left) answers a question posed by Tom Ulbrich, executive director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership in the School of Management. Photo: Joe Cascio

Much of Diamandis’ presentation focused on the idea of technology’s exponential growth. He gave as an example the fact that computing power has seen a 27 billion-fold improvement, along with a sharp decrease in cost since 1971, and that by 2050, a $1,000 laptop will have the computing power per second of every human brain combined.

“We’re driving the cost down for almost everything. An autonomous, electric Uber will be five times cheaper than owning a car,” he said. “You don’t have to get car insurance and you don’t have to worry about parking, fueling or your child getting into a car accident.

“At the end of the day, do we really love driving in traffic? If I gave back two hours of your day, what is that worth to you?”

Not only will life be easier because of innovations like self-driving cars, which Diamandis said will be the norm within the next 10 years, but he also said life will be longer due to genome mapping and editing, as well as stem cell research.

“I believe that in the next decade we’re going to create the ability to add at least 20 healthy years onto people’s lives. [Our] question is how to make 100 years old the new 60.”

The staggering growth of technology also will create a world that lacks scarcity, Diamandis said.

“Each of you have more computational power than the Defense Department had 20 years ago.

“Things that used to be scarce are becoming more and more abundant. Eventually there will be nothing scarce, and the idea of scarcity will be a thing of the past,” he said.

One example he gave was regarding the production of synthetic diamonds. What is perceived as a scarce resource can now be made in a lab at $5 a carat because of exponential technological advancement.

He also said the scarcity of the internet will be eradicated due to development of the 5G network and things like Google’s Project Loon, where balloons travelling 20 kilometers above the Earth’s surface will have the potential to connect anyone to the internet.

“In the next six years, we’re going to connect every single human on the planet [to the internet],” Diamandis said. “It’s a massive idea, and it still blows me away to think that 4 billion new minds are going to be connected that have never touched the web before. Four billon new consumers and inventors. What are they going to want to design, invent, discover and consume? They represent tens of trillions of dollars flowing into the global economy that no one is talking about.”

Diamandis touched on the economic effect that all this change will produce during a Q&A following his presentation. He said he sees a world where people can devote their time to their passions and benefit humanity.

“A lot of people are working jobs not for the purpose of they dreamed about being a cashier or stocking boxes,” he said. “That’s where the job was, and that’s where they were able to earn money for their family, insurance and so forth. Good for them for doing what it takes, but imagine a time where those things are being done by automatons, and we’re able to then partner with AI (artificial intelligence) and robotics on things we dream about, whatever it might be.

“I want to separate work into two things: Work to make money and survive, and work for meaning and purpose,” he said. “I do think we’re going to separate those two things, and I do believe that we’re going to see universal basic income.

Diamandis said that idea may seem too perfect and that it’s like he’s living on Mars, but it’s something he believes will happen with all this technological change and what drives him.

“The world I’m looking toward,” he said, “is all about can we create a world in which every man, woman and child has access to all the energy, water, health care, education and knowledge that they desire? Where a woman can give birth to a child and know that child has options? It’s not about a world of luxury; it’s about a world of possibility.”