How Tech Will Transform The World in 10 Years
Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler on everything from flying cars to health care
In their new book The Future is Faster Than You Think, space entrepreneur Peter Diamandis and peak performance expert Steven Kotler take us through some of the many ways technology is rapidly changing. In fact, according to the bestselling authors, it’s changing faster than anyone expected — and the world we’ll be living in a decade from now will look quite different from the reality we see today. Diamandis and Kotler chatted with Wake-Up Call’s editor Lisa Ryan about some of the massive changes coming down the line.
Lisa Ryan: We’d like to start by asking you about the overarching theme of your book: The future is, as your title states, faster than you think. Steven, can you touch on the surprising ways that technology has accelerated faster than anyone imagined?
Steven Kotler: In our earlier books, we talked about individual technologies that are starting to accelerate along exponential growth curves. The classic example that everybody’s familiar with is Moore’s Law, which says the number of transistors in your computer doubles every 18 months while the cost stays the same. That’s an exponential growth curve. Once you can program technologies in the ones and zeros of computer code, it jumps on the back of Moore’s Law and starts to accelerate exponentially.
The technologies that are now doing this include biotechnology, nanotechnology, computation networks, sensors, robotics, AI… the list goes on. What’s so radically new and different is that these formerly independent lines of technology are starting to convert. Flying cars is a classic example. It’s sci-fi technology; people have been dreaming about it forever — and it’s suddenly here.
At the heart of flying cars, there’s convergence between six or seven different exponential technologies: Materials, science impacting, robotics, impacting artificial intelligence and so forth. That’s what produced flying cars. As more and more of these convergences happen, things that were considered absolutely other-worldly and insane just two or three years ago are going to be part of our reality.
Peter, we’re at the start of a new decade. Can you tell us how this rapid technological acceleration will come into play in the next ten years — in the health arena?
Peter Diamandis: Health care today is really sick care, where the system takes care of you after you’re sick. Because of that, it’s extremely expensive. In the future, health care becomes predictive, preventive and personalized. Based on your genome, based on what you’re eating, based on your microbiome, we will be able to predict that something is going to happen — and we’re going to stop that from happening in the first place. Drugs will be designed, not for everybody, but for you.
In what ways will this huge shift in the technological world affect how countries govern — and how they interact with each other?
Kotler: There are two sides to this coin. The one side is: can governments actually keep up with the rate of change in the world? And then there are a lot who would come down against it. The classic example that we talk about in the book is Estonia. They’ve embraced e-governance at a level that kind of no other country has. You can do everything online in Estonia. You can pay your taxes online in five minutes. You have a blockchain back healthcare record that’s nationalized. It’s totally private. It follows you around. Things along those lines.
Estonia believes they’ve literally saved 700 years worth of work — meaning they’ve removed 700 years worth of red tape from the government system. So what this allows for is much more nimble, interesting, collaborative, cooperative and democratic ways of governing… should we want to go in that way. It unlocks some really amazing, wonderful possibilities. But who knows the way of the world on that one.
Diamandis: One thing I’ll add: What’s happening over the next five years globally that no one is speaking about — is that we’re about to connect everybody on the planet. In 2017, we had half of the world connected, about 3.8 billion people. By 2024, after the launch of three giant satellite networks and the deployment of 5G, we’re going to be able to connect 8 billion people.
So we’re in a world that is hyper connected — and a world that is more connected with the free flow of information is a world that is safer. One of the challenges we have is still going to be the censorship in Russia and China of the internet. But there are lots of technologies, including AI, that will help people around such censorship.
And what do you say to people who are afraid of technology’s expansion?
Kotler: This is why we wrote the book: There is a pervasive fear of the future.We have what’s known as “loss aversion” and the cognitive bias that basically says whatever you have today, if it’s taken away, you’re terrified that whatever’s going to replace it is going to be worse. This is a built-in feature of our neurobiology; this is just part of being human. So that fear is totally, completely, perfectly natural in a sense.
Every major industry on Earth is going to be reinvented over the next 10 years. But if you look at what’s coming, what’s driving it — there are patterns. Every time a technology becomes exponential, it goes through a typical life-cycle, from digitalization through democratization. As these technologies come out, even if we’re afraid of them, they actually end up really empowering the individual.
Diamandis: People are scared about the future because they don’t understand it. We fear what we don’t understand. The purpose of this book is to give people a vision of where the future is going — so that people can become optimistic. It is critically important to create hope and a vision of a compelling and abundant future for people.
Because when people have hope — and they see the future as compelling and abundant — they come at it with a much more positive mindset. The future is amazing. We are uplifting billions of people on this planet. And while people might be fearful of the change, the fact of the matter is that we are de-monetizing and democratizing access to energy, water, food, entertainment, healthcare, and education.
For millennia, we have struggled to survive as a species. These technologies are giving us a break from survival; they’re allowing us to strive towards a higher purpose in life.
In that vein, can you touch on the topic of aging? How will the rapid expansion of technology affect our life spans?
Diamandis: The belief is that, this coming decade, we’re going to be able to add at least 10 healthy years on a person’s life — by addressing cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s. And while we increase a person’s lifespan by 10 years, the world doesn’t stand still during that period. We are seeing extraordinary accelerated growth in AI and CRISPR technologies — and the acceleration of these technologies will, during that 10 year period of extra healthy living, perhaps buy you the next 10 years.
Kotler: When I was growing up, and when Peter was growing up, heart disease was fatal. If you had heart problems, you were done pretty much. And that’s starting to shift. Heart problems are no longer a death sentence. Cancer is no longer the death sentence as it once was. This decade, the same thing’s going to start to happen to brain diseases. We’re just going to see more and more and more of this.
Lastly, I know this must be a tough question because there’s so many things that are going to change — as your book really clearly points out. But are there any advances that you are particularly excited to see?
Diamandis: For me, there are two of them. One of them is brain computer interface, as we start to connect our brain to the cloud. The second is the expansion of the human race into space.
Kotler: Maybe it’s just the old school, sci-fi geek in me, but flying cars blow my mind. And the Holodeck, which we grew up watching on Star Trek, is being built right now — and we’re going to see it before the end of the decade. Those two things blow my mind.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
This originally appeared in Katie Couric’s Wake-Up Call newsletter. Subscribe here.