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Will Innovation Save Us?

X-Prize founder Peter Diamandis says innovation will save us and “The Future Is Better Than You Think.”

This Oct. 4, 2004 file photo shows SpaceShipOne and X Prize team members posing with a U.S. flag carried aboard the spacecraft after its successful flight into space and landing at Mojave, Calif. From left are prize sponsors Anousheh Ansari and her brother-in-law, Amir Ansari, Peter Diamandis, chairman of the Ansari X Prize Foundation, project backer Paul Allen, SpaceShipOne creator Burt Rutan, pilot Brian Binnie and Sir Richard Branson.   (AP)

This Oct. 4, 2004 file photo shows SpaceShipOne and X Prize team members posing with a U.S. flag carried aboard the spacecraft after its successful flight into space and landing at Mojave, Calif. From left are prize sponsors Anousheh Ansari and her brother-in-law, Amir Ansari, Peter Diamandis, chairman of the Ansari X Prize Foundation, project backer Paul Allen, SpaceShipOne creator Burt Rutan, pilot Brian Binnie and Sir Richard Branson. (AP)

Between global warming and gas prices and melting ice caps and the Mayan calendar of apocalypse, it’s awfully easy to slide into a funk on the future these days.  Peter Diamandis says cut it out.

The doomsayers, he says, don’t factor in innovation.  And innovation is going to save our bacon.  Bring us an age of abundance.  It’s in gear already.  It’s going to get better.  But is it?  Are we lined up, fundamentally, to innovate our way out of drought and food shortage and energy crisis and over-population?

This hour, On Point:  big innovation, and the road ahead.

-Tom Ashbrook


Peter Diamandis, chairman and CEO of the X-Prize Foundation and author of the new book The Future Is Better Than You Think.

Robert Atkinson, founder and president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

From Tom’s Reading List

The New York Times “But we idealize America’s present culture of innovation too much. In fact, our trailblazing digital firms may not be the hothouse environments for creativity we might think. I find myself arriving at these doubts after spending five years looking at the innovative process at Bell Labs, the onetime research and development organization of the country’s formerly monopolistic telephone company, AT&T. ”

Wall Street Journal “The timing of “Abundance” is propitious. Given that we are besieged by Christian end-times soothsayers, Mayan-calendar doomsayers, gloomy environmentalists and the warnings of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which just advanced its Doomsday clock to five minutes to midnight, how can anyone be optimistic? With seven billion people now pressing up against the Earth’s carrying capacity, certain problems can seem intractable. Isn’t pessimism the appropriate response? Who is right, the optimists or the pessimists?”

 HuffingtonPost “As we move further into the presidential campaign, we’re going to hear a lot about the ways we’re lacking and where we fall short. And though the conversation has rightly and finally shifted to the need to grow the economy, much of it is still dominated by hysterical and destructive demands to impose deficit-cutting austerity even before the economy gets back on its feet (which would only increase, not cut, the deficit).”

Excerpt: The Future Is Better Than You Think

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  • JustSayin

    Monopoly kills innovation, and the Washington/Wall St elites LOVE monopoly. Innovation happens at the cutting edge of competition, and Monopoly seeks to stifle or stomp out competition.

    If Ma Bell had not been broken up, we would still be using rotary phones, and paying $80/Mth for what Bell would tell us is the most advanced technology in the world, which even at the time was a total lie.

    Small companies cannot afford to purchase the senate like big companies can, and thus cannot get the bailouts, subsidies (preemptive recurring bailouts), market protections, government no bid contracts, and protection.

    There is little point in small companies even trying to publicly innovate, because without the ability to purchase senate protection, they will be raided, or legislatively destroyed.

    Even building new corporate innovation at universities is becoming difficult with all research being “sponsored” by some massively powerful entity or cartel.

    If you don’t think we live in a land of fascist monopoly, then ask yourself this; when was the last time you saw a TV advertisement for a company that you never heard of before.

  • Yar

    “The Future Is Better Than You Think”
    The Future is better ‘when’ you think.  Innovation is your responsibility.  As gas approaches 5 dollars per gallon, you are being innovative as you consolidate trips and reduce your fuel consumption.  Adaptation is one trait that makes humans a dominate species at the top of the food chain. Don’t rely on the herd to make decisions, think for yourself.

    • nj_v2

      All well and good, but individual action only can go so far. Systemic and institutional problems that are baked into into our infrastructure require systemic and institutional solutions.

      • Yar

         I want Raspberry Pi, I am interested in agricultural robotics.  Can one person make a difference? I hope so.
        All action starts with a single synapse.  Read Honeybee Democracy by T.D. Seeley.  I agree that we have problems built in.  I think some are too comfortable while many others have too little to eat.  There are conditions that create optimal adversity. I want to teach a machine to pick a tomato, a bean, and a pod of okra, all at just at its perfect point of ripeness.  I think with enough experimentation, I could get a robot to harvest saffron.   We have machines that can do the work of hundreds of people, you would expect it to make our world a better place to live.  So, why is 70 percent of cotton still picked by hand?  What would a saffron robot do to the lives of people who currently feed their families harvesting threads of saffron.  We must also care about those who our inventions replace.

    • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

      “The Future is better ‘when’ you think”

      Brilliant. I think you have a future in bumper stickers (Forrest…)

      The downside is many Americans are suffering from too much passive media, too much wrongly focused anger, not enough reading of anything of substance, and a chronic case of small-mindedness.

      There is also a “class divide” when it comes to plain old ‘thinking.’

      Santorum ‘thinks’ / says going to college and potentially learning how to think better and know more is for snobs. God help the X Prize if he’s elected.

    • Jasoturner

      The future’s not what it used to be…

      • Yar

        That’s what happens when Biff gets into the time machine.  
        What is the depth of a freshwater column in ocean water to make reverse osmosis work solely by gravity?

        • Jasoturner

          Interesting question.  I am going to guess you need about 1,000 psi differential pressure for salt water RO.  A water column produces something like 4/10 psi per foot of column height close to the earth’s surface.  So that’s about 2,500 feet – a half a mile.  Sound right?  Or is this not the question you are asking?

          • Yar

            Salt water is .0755 pounds per gallon heavier than fresh water.  If a column of fresh water is suspended in a column of salt water, what is the depth required to use gravity as the only force needed to move fresh water across the membrane?
             You are the engineer.  
            I think it is about 20,000 feet. A combination of a deep water membrane and a submersible pump can lower the cost of reverse osmosis to generate fresh water from the ocean.

      • nj_v2

        Today is just a future yesterday.

  • Gul Du Cory

    I would be fascinated to see what would happen to human civilization if some sort of effective cold fusion were discovered.  What if energy were suddenly limitless and essentially free?  What if it was orders of magnitude more difficult to extract money and work from one another?

    This is the only innovation that would REALLY change things.  Any other advance simply enters our current paradigm and becomes a commodity used to make us sit up and bark.

    • JustSayin

       Unlike the utopian Star Trek vision, where all needs are met, but somehow sloth is eliminated, I think unlimited energy would result in 90% sloth, and 10% creativity.

      If you feed people they just grow larger and larger until some part of their anatomy is destroyed by the overburden of fat.  Free energy would likely follow the same demographics.

      However creative sloth would be the emerging market. Because the massive global unemployment caused by free energy would require it.

      • Corythatcher

        I respect your perspective.  Do you believe an advance such as I have suggested is undesirable?

        • JustSayin

           Not at all. I want a Mr. Fusion as much as everyone else. We just have to be careful of the ying and yang of technology. And although I took a shot at the sloth aspect of free energy, I think I would try to be creative and join sloths as well.

          After all sloth could easily be equated to freedom (and many of us like our freedom).

          Energy can be viewed as form of power wielded to control the populace of the world. It is not a power that is easily given up. Even now decentralized energy production like solar, is viewed as a threat to centralized power.

      • Anonymous

         Many have proposed that as the difference in societies near the Equator and the Temperate Zones (even the North and South of the U.S,).

    • nj_v2
    • Jasoturner

      I think it a good bet that if something like fusion energy were to be developed, it would be controlled by huge corporations, and would not be free.  It would cost what the market can bear, and not a penny less.

      I also wonder what people would do if they were not wage slaves.  I don’t know that many people who use their free time creatively, though I do no some.  There is an argument that mastering and practicing a skill or trade for pay is itself a worthy way to live one’s life.  Compared, perhaps, to watching American Idol or somesuch…

      • Cory, Lord of the Nerds

        Sadly, you are probably right.

  • OffShoreForGreed

    I’m a techie. In the early 2002 I was training off-shore techies for my job. Five of them for one of me is what the compnay could get from it. I eventually got laid off and they continued on the new projects. If the corporate/wall-street greed model continues, give it 50 years and U.S. will be second-rate.

    • Jasoturner

      I’m not sure it’s going to take five decades.  It’s already starting to feel like England around here.

  • Hidan

    Doubtful innovation will save the U.S. since (unlike before) such innovation would immediately be outsource to undercut American Competition for a higher profit margin. Even if this is done with Government/Private Corporation working together the outcome will be the same.

    If onpoint is going to hold up Apple and the likes or ones that are going to save the U.S. economy than where screwed. Apple and the likes can only sell such products because they literally use slave labor to do so. 

    • Hidan

      If onpoint is going to hold up Apple and the likes that are
      going to save the U.S. economy than were screwed. Apple and the likes
      can only sell such products because they literally use slave labor to do

  • Ellen Dibble

    I suppose you can divide innovation into two tracks:  

    track A:  Earth First; planet-oriented, focusing on preserving endangered species, water supply therefor, stabilizing against the more disturbing planetary events, weather and geological, reshaping continents faster than people can accommodate; or track B:  People First; human-oriented in the more political sense, focused on people being able to make the most of their lives and those of their children, whether you call that paid efforts or unpaid volunteerism under the aegis of Big Brother.  But I do think that track B will dominate at the expense of track A, that the two will be in a sort of conflict, until it begins to be apparent that track B depends on the success of track A.   Here’s to all the secretaries of state who have to preside over this reorientation of innovative energy.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Wes-Nickerson/100001436729213 Wes Nickerson

      There is one more track, the traditional dominator culture business model, track C: Profit First. What can we convince people they need, spend as little as possible to make, and charge as much as possible to distribute, at any cost to planet and people? Unfortunately, track C continues to monopolize our society, our economy, and our politics at the expense of tracks A and B.

  • gemli

    The example in the excerpt of producing cheap aluminum is a real innovation, as is creating effective vaccines and other medical interventions that reduce misery and extend life.  But lately, innovation seems to be synonymous with creating new ways to blanket the world with social media.  There are new Androids and i-whatsits being produced by the hundreds of millions, with new models obsoleting the old every three or four months.  Technologies are brittle, and in a constant state of flux.  (I could only read the above book excerpt in Internet Explorer, but had to use Firefox to make this comment.  Sheesh.)

    Everything we do is being relegated to The Cloud, making it easier for corporations to control, throttle, and charge us for every word we read, every call we make, every movie we watch, over and over again.  The real value of instantaneous access to knowledge is being overwhelmed by an instinctive imperative in the human psyche to exchange masses of pointless information, and a willingness to pay whatever it costs for the next “fix.”

    The future was better, a few decades ago, when innovation was occurring at a manageable clip.  New technologies could be built upon, providing a reasonably firm foundation that wasn’t changing every 10 minutes.  Yes, there are lots of neat things today that we couldn’t do then, but innovation is being driven by pandering to 14-year-olds who addicted to the crack cocaine of The New, needing to play video games while texting to their network of three thousand Friends.  Meh.  Not for me.

  • Jasoturner

    “Innovation” is not going to save America, though perhaps it will improve the world.  At the risk of offending my fellow Americans, we are not smarter, more creative or more ambitious that the rest of the world’s citizens (you want to see ambition and drive, go to China.)   So we no longer own the innovation space.

    Furthermore, innovation does not necessarily benefit large numbers of people.  Look at Facebook or Google.  These firms are often called out as innovators in exploiting and expanding the potential of the internet.  But they don’t employ that many people, and they don’t employ blue collar workers, except for the facilities staff.

    And even if there are huge technical breakthroughs, most blue collar work done with those breakthroughs will be done off shore, where it is cheaper.


    I recall working in an energy consulting firm about 15 years ago.  The commodity market was about to be deregulated.  The engineers around me were talking about how they were going to do commodity deals and make a bunch of money.  This was “innovative” at the time.

    I thought, hmm, one guy is probably all you’d need to serve most of the large commercial customers in Boston.  You don’t need twenty engineers to do that.  Hell, you probably don’t need engineers at all.

    I left that firm and was not surprised to see it out of business within the year.  Because, in fact, your really did only need a couple of people to put together the deals.

    Sometimes, the pursuit of the innovative actually undermines the tried and true…

    • nj_v2

      Thumbs up!

    • Anonymous

       There is an existential problem overhanging the whole human race: the disaster from continued use of fossil fuels for energy. But turning to sustainable forms of energy use does NOT require new innovation, although it should not be discouraged. But what IS needed is political WILL to move to sustainability at full speed with the fully adequate technology extant today. Then as it is implemented, the ways to improve (innovate) the technology will appear to those observant and ambitious to win in the marketplace. But GOVERNMENT must set the field for this to happen and provide incentives to those who try.

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    Innovation solves old problems by creating new ones.  That’s the nature of every innovation since human beings learned to handle fire.

    • Anonymous

       But the new problems do not have to be worse than the existing ones; in fact that is part of what underlies the term, “sustainable.”

      A great improvement to the current transportation costs (note that the environmental costs are not paid directly, which allows them to be nearly invisible, at least to understanding them) would be public transportation between cities (trains, less airplanes) and “light rail” between housing and business/manufacturing clusters within the city with “Zip Cars” providing transportation in less dense locales.

  • AC

    i’m all for this message; but caution practicing professionals to be responsible for their individual surroundings and ethics….i’ve seen both in my field.
    Course, I myself, am wonderful  (:

  • Robdel

    “Innovation” in and of itself does nothing. It’s just a tool which allows us to leverage our capabilities. The problem with leverage is how you use it (it works both ways).  In the end the fruits of innovation are only as good as the people, systems and organizations using them. I’m not sure I would share your optimism….

  • Patrik

    I just don’t see scientific innovation halting overpopulation, which is a pet peeve of mine that I, with a growing many, have warned of since my later days of High School.  It will take a mentality and lifestyle change for something like that to happen.  Perhaps, social innovation.

  • Daniel

    We need to educate our way out of these problems. Will innovation fix Google’s disregard for privacy, prevent reckless wars, cure social and economical inequalities, or stabalize our financial institutions? In the past decade, I’ve seen innovation expand, rather than fix these problems.

  • Kim from Charlotte, Vermont

    I would really like to believe this, and I don’t doubt that we have the ability, but what we have seen is that moneyed interests – big oil and other corporate entities who want to maintain the status quo – will prevent innovation from happening. Is it necessary to squelch their power in order to move ahead?

  • Roy-in-Boise

    A large part of the future of mankind is the development of Fusion for electrical generation. It appears that France, Japan and Germany is leading in this area. Sadly the US is lagging in this area not only in participation but also on focusing or believing that this is the ultimate in alternate energy. The analogy of aluminum during Napoleon’s dinner hits the nail on the head in this regard.

    • Anonymous

       The development of fusion for energy will ALWAYS be 40 years away, as it has been for the last 60 years; at least until the “containment problem” is solved.

      But there is enough energy incident on a square mile of Arizona desert to power the whole earth for years. And the technology to capture it and make it available to people exists today. It is not as efficient as it will be, but there is NO reason not to start building it now before the earth reaches the Climate Change tipping point, which is imminent.

  • John in Vermont

    Our technology – the ability to drastically alter the landscape, the ability to save marginal infants and prolong life spans – are also the forces that are leading to our destruction.  Humans respond with innovation primarily to a perceived crisis – otherwise, we’re quite indolent.  The crisis of overpopulation and sustaining all those people – is bearing down on us and we’re not doing much.  Most of the Earth’s other problems are all rooted in this overarching one.

    I’d like to hear Peter’s Polyanna outlook on this.

  • miro

    Innovation is important, and we can still lead the world, but while innovating and automating we need to solve the problem of distribution of work. 

    Kurt Vonnegut recognized this problem in his first novel, “Player Piano.” Fewer and fewer of us have good, stable jobs — our society is moving towards a 3-class society, the wealthy, those with sustainable jobs, and the under caste. The last are consigned to low wage, often temporary and part-time, work.

    We should also innovate in our conceptions of what we need and what is important in life. So much of what we produce is useless trash when it comes down to it. A re-evaluation of values is in order.

  • JustSayin

    If Dean Cain has invented a GECK, then I’m a little worried for the future, and will be waiting for my letter from VaultTec.

  • Katmorgan13

    While it is true our brains are hard-wired to scan for threats and danger, it’s also true that we are hard-wired to see possibilities that aren’t threats. And both capacities are survival-oriented. Check out positive psychology research, particularly Barbara Frederickson’s studies supporting the “broaden-and-build” theory.

  • Roy-in-Boise

    We should take Coca Cola seriously. This is a company that  is reinventing itself as a water production company. In a couple of decades Coca Cola will be known more for clean water than soda pop …

    • Terry Tree Tree

      ONLY at greater cost to the consumer!

  • john

    The obstruction of sustainable alternatives to our current fossil fuel based economy will perhaps derail such bright visions of the future. Remember I.G.Y.? The International Geophysical Year… what happened? Species go extinct on a regular basis. We are not exempt from that possibility. Hope he’s right but it ain’t gonna happen without some kind of fight… if at all.

  • http://twitter.com/aloysiusokon Aloysius Okon

    Well, progress is all well and good, but how is that sustained if governments can’t get their act together to solve problems that affect us all?

  • nj_v2

    Sounds like all the answers will come from wondrous techno-fixes.

    The Big Problem: Every technology has a series of unintended, unanticipated, unforeseeable, and, to some extent negative consequences.

    Nuclear power was going to be “too cheap to meter.” Fukushima, Chernobyl…

    Automobiles would provide mobility, freedom, connect the country. Air pollution, 36,000 deaths a year in the U.S. alone, water pollution from winter salt use…

    Synthetic pesticides and fertilizers would help feed the world. Pest resistance, environmental pollution, human health effects…

    Sorry, but there are no magic, silver, techno bullets.

    • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

       But we also have cured diseases and fed many more people than was possible in the millennia gone by.  We live longer.  We know more.  The implied solution in your comment is to go backward, but that’s not going to happen.

      • nj_v2

        Many of those advances are not sustainable. We’ve been able to feed more people only because of profligate use of fossil-fuel energy and synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Production of these materials is also dependent on petroleum, and there is a long list of problems with synthetic pesticide use (pest resistance, environmental degradation, human health issues…).

        The fossil fuel era is coming to an end, which will undermine the industrial food system. Production methods utilizing high amounts of synthetic inputs is similarly unsustainable.

        How do you propose to grow food in the future when the inputs that the current system relies on are no longer available or cost 10 times what they do now?

        • AC

          what does any of that have to do with our capacity to change course and continue improving our circumstances?

          • nj_v2

            So, tell me how we should “change course” and feed the current and growing world population in a sustainable way.

          • AC

            this is not my field, but i’m sure you can google up agricultural technologies. maybe you will be the one to find a way. historically, nature has balanced populations through famines & disease. Currently, there are still these problems, but they are very localized. Your question could focus on stabilizing population growth instead, not how to feed it. I think it would be great if we had more gay people; that’s one of nature’s built-in checks…..

          • AC

            i realized i forgot war. war & the fight for hunting ground/resources have been with us since cavemen. that also kept a population in balance with it’s environment

        • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

           So how many of us have to die to enact your proposals?  Not that you’ve told us what you want us to do.

          • AC

            hee hee!

          • nj_v2

            How many farm workers have died or fallen ill growing the food we currently eat?

          • Anonymous

            How many will die if the humans on this earth do not stop burning fossil fuels for energy starting NOW? Biofuels can replace coal in existing plants and concentrated solar can be combined with gas plants synergistically (both create steam to drive a common turbine) just to start. But residential and commercial buildings can be retrofitted to reduce the use of energy, saving nearly half the heating, cooling and lighting costs of today.

            How many lives will that cost? The problem is more how many will it SAVE!

      • nj_v2

        Why is that implied in what i said, and not what you said earlier, which looks to be about what i said in slightly different terms?

        [[ "Innovation solves old problems by creating new ones.  That's the nature of every innovation since human beings learned to handle fire." ]]

        • AC

          because we’re none of us actually ‘God’ ? there’s a learning curve before we reach that all knowing status…

    • AC

      your commentary implies humans don’t strive to get better, or learn from our mistakes – why would you think so?

      • nj_v2

        Along with “striving to get better,” humans (in the form of powerful, vested interests) rig, game, and manipulate the system to profit those who control the system.

        It’s naive to think that any technological development is always done with everyone’s best interests in mind.

        • AC

          who cares? there will always be those, like myself, with a different hope – & that will be what we work towards.
          Also, i think the world is much smaller, it’s getting to harder to hide when you committ a crime – whether you’re a petty thief or a world leader….

          • Terry Tree Tree

            The criminals at ‘Massacre Energy’, that killed 29 miners, have how many ‘life’ sentences among them?
               THEY innovated how to kill more for more ‘profit’?
               GREEDY killers are STILL free, and WILL BE free, while 29 workers will NOT be with their families?

  • nj_v2

    “Cell phone penetration”? At what price? How many abused Chinese workers does it take to give an African GPS access? Where does the electronic waste from phones and other e-junk go when their useful life is over?

  • Kevin

    Tom, be quiet and let the guest speak. You’re being very rude.
    And you’re being schooled by the guest. Take notes.

    This is a welcome departure from On Point’s normal doom-and-gloom outlook on the future. It’s great to hear a voice that points out the obvious, that SO many things are TREMENDOUSLY greater than they were just a few years ago.

  • Jared

    We need to remember that innovation is a way of thinking, not something you can touch and feel. The use of innovative thought applied to existing technology and systems will help wean us from our current situations. As a small farmer I dont have a tractor or pickup truck. I use a 30 year old car that I built from junkyard parts for less than $1000 as a work vehicle and it gets over 50 MPG. It is a vw turbo diesel rabbit and with my beefed up suspension it can carry 1000 lbs of animal feed without a hickup, and it can run on waste vegetable oil. No new shiny parts, just innovative thought.

  • AC

    what he’s saying is true – i’ve been with my company almost 6 years, yet have only done 1 study. it’s hard to get R&D work because it bills to overhead. usually, i’m stuck on working projects….

  • Roy-in-Boise

    In France there are cave paintings that are next to other that were done 5000 years apart.  A little patience and a sense of the human timeline can go a long way. Human evolution takes time.

  • Anonymous

    Solar energy sounds great, except: 1) there is winter in Arizona with often 50% less sun, 2) the northern U.S. needs clean baseload power — and modern nuclear power such as the advanced AP-1000 reactor with passive safety can meet that challenge.

    • Anonymous

       The problem is that getting nuclear power online in less than 15 years is highly UNLIKELY as much as even the strongest advocates might want; and Climate Change will not wait, just like gravity does not stop accelerating a falling body so someone can put a firefighter trampoline under it.

      • Anonymous

        China is building the AP-1000 with modular parts at a fast pace– about five to seven years.  See Wikipedia:

        The Sanmen Nuclear Power Plant in Zhejiang will have six units. Site construction for the first two began in February 2008; operation is scheduled for 2013–15.

        The Haiyang Nuclear Power Plant in Shandong also has six units planned. Site construction for the first two began in July 2008; operation is scheduled for 2014–15.

        China wants to have 100 units under construction and operating by 2020, according to Aris Candris, Westinghouse’s CEO

  • Sharon

    come on, Tom, support the new paradigm, and point the way!

  • Joe Gleason

    Yes, Earth is bathed in energy.  It is easily harnessed by very simple technology.  An intuitive inventor in Quebec has been growing food year around for years, using “zero-point” energy to help heat greenhouses.  This same, basic technology came to me twenty years ago.  I have several devices which harness this energy.  It is still dangerous for such inventors to be too visible, but a number of devices are going on the market, nevertheless.  please do not reveal my full name on the air.

    • Anonymous

      Yes, Joe Gleason, your fine inventions will be safe from pilfering! Imagine the uproar if your name was revealed on the air… as opposed to these internets!

  • MJ

    Those on the planet with money and resources need to support innovation, etc. rather than being obstructionist because they may not have a piece of the action. I believe there are alot of great ideas and inventions that are and have been systematically sunk (i.e. Tesla) because of the interests of the power brokers that may want to keep the status quo. We all need to blow the whistle when the nay sayers try to drag us down. “yes we can!”

  • Longfellow’sEvangeline

    Everyone else will get ahead of USA because their legacy (tax deductions) and profit centers are not tied to the new technology.  The lobbyists will fight to hold on to the deductions for the old industries, and keep the tax payers from contributing to the new, and providing jobs to our own citizens.  America only likes  to do things where they are the first with the most and can colonize and rip and burn.  Well, get a brain, you tea baggers, math, physics, material science is basic in all parts of the world.  They are swishing past us.  Vroom  Vroom  Leave the tea baggers behind.  The rest of the world is on coffee, or  drinking tea in the refined Turkish style.  They can rest and enjoy their beverages, discuss what they are going to do next, while US Congress destroys our country in the name of their personal friends and family, and we pave the way with exemptions, and listen to their propoganda.   They are the “Great Job, Brownie” party.  They will be picking a new ‘bushwacker in chief’ any day now, to replace the current crop of candidates, and we won’t know anything about their ‘ways.’   He/she/it it will not be battle tested in the primary/caucus cauldron.  It will be another Cheney puppet.  Oh, carry-on wit yourselves, you charming skalliwags, sons of the Tidewater and Texas.  

  • BHA in Vermont

    AFFORDABLE home based solar and wind – BRING IT ON!
    I have the space.

    • Terry Tree Tree

      It’s affordable NOW, if you use off-the-shelf-parts, and stay UN-connected to the grid, with it!
          Go for IT!

  • carl christian

    Innovation won’t save us; the wisdom to use the innovations that leave the dignity of human beings intact is what will save us. Unfortunately, the pace of most technological innovations these days more often precludes the necessary quiet solitude in which to find wisdom. I suggest E.F. Schumacher, Wendell Berry , and the current PBS-featured documentary on the Amish as ‘innovations of thought’ that Peter Diamandis might very usefully temper his creative but not necessarily deeply or carefully considered analysis of the entirety of human history. Also, perhaps add a great deal more patient deliberation into his quest for utopia… 

  • AC

    love kahn!!

  • AC

    i’m glad he’s calling that caller out – she was so alarmist & negative? of course there will be only a few in the billions that are thinkers, that’s the way it’s always been!

    • AC

      i think it’ll take at least another 20,000 yrs before we’re most of us ‘enlightened’….

    • llomas

      That caller WAS so negative and I felt there was underlying racism there. Thank God not everyone in the world thinks the way she does or we WOULD be doomed!

  • Ehdoss

    Peter overlooks the Law of Diminishing Returns.  No matter how many transistors you cram into a cell phone tomorrow it won’t improve my life.

    It’s all a con.  The next few billion additional opinons only confuse the issues.

  • Glenn Koenig

    Technical innovation won’t solve our problems with human attitude.  What about racism?  Bullying?  International conflict? Economic collapse?  Technology has an impact on these things, yes.  But it takes a lot more than technology and entrepreneurship to  improve these things.  Finally, what about our relationship to nature?  How much damage have we done to the planet with technology so far?  We need a fundamental attitude change – toward true respect and understanding of our integral relationship with nature.

    • Anonymous

       The anonymity that technology (Internet) provides to bullies (particularly teenagers, who tend to be less thoughtful of consequences) is one non-improvement of technology that continues to be in the news these days.

  • nj_v2

    Solving big problems depends as much on viable, inclusive institutions of human interaction (governments, economies) that allow wide citizen participation in the mechanisms of power as on technology. All i hear is talk of techno gizmos.

  • http://profiles.google.com/rickevans033050 Rick Evans

    The idea that Africans are making the same superficial “Angry Birds” use of cell phone technology is ridiculous. Ask the African farmer who using his mobile to negotiate a better price for his coffee crop or the family who receives remittances via cellphone transfers. Don’t extrapolate western teen use of mobile technology to the rest of the world.

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    We’re seeing here the contrast between two attitudes–optimism and pessimism.  The pessimist believes that any improvement must be done from the top down and with great force, pulling people up.  The optimist believes that if we give opportunity to everyone, many will climb up on their own.

    • AC

      i think you’re right. i was confused for a moment, but this is exactly what is happening here….i will ignore the ‘hopelessness’ of some commentary.

    • nj_v2

      Those seem to be your own projections about the meanings of optimism and pessimism. There are other possibilities for what those (could) mean.

      • AC

        well. my projection & meaning says we can fix problems. the pessimists seem to say ‘nothing will ever change’.
        maybe they lack the energy to sit down & think of a solution. what was it Oscar Wilde said about critics being unimaginative…

    • Anonymous

       But it will take GOVERNMENT to ensure that all DO have equal opportunity. The business monopolies that are building today (fossil fuel cartel, etc.) are attempting to stifle competing energy sources. Look at how they demand the continuation of THEIR tax breaks while opposing incentives for sustainable energy sources.

  • Dh001g

    There is a great planet money story about how cell phones allow people in Africa access to banking that isn’t corrupt. Thats a big deal, and shouldn’t be overlooked. Also, the Urbanization of the third world will pay big dividends. The callers who urge caution about taking a rosy future for granted are also right. We have to choose that future. Really it is a political decision. We actually have the technology to fix the world right now (think less cars, more cities, less waste.) we just have to choose to use it for something besides bigger houses and angry birds. The US standard of living wont be affordable to everyone. I truth we can’t even afford it anymore. That is a good thing. We can still have a great standard of living, it just might involve working less, less consumption for us in the west and more urbanization and more consumption elsewhere in the globe. 

  • Mbelle

    What if the title is changed to “The Future CAN Be Bright. Let’s Get Busy.”

  • Synrgst

    The silly lady who asserts poor people in Africa will only waste opportunity is unfamiliar with how most people from the continent are responding already. There is incredible drive. That’s being proven with established programs like micro-lending and open source development tech – especially amongst women. It will increase as opportunities expand

  • manganbr

    The problem with this abundance argument is the notion that you can adopt indifference about government inefficiency or oppression. Solving the political problems in this country and globally matter, and if we don’t solve those at the same time, communication technologies and energy innovations are not going to be magic bullet. Look at Syria or China; politically rebellion may be fomenting with the aid of new technologies, but without global support the movements are very limited. 

  • Craiga

    Wonderful perspective. I disagree with the general view that larger entities (i.e. government agencies) are not key innovators. Didn’t the US government plant the very first seeds of the internet. The internet being not only one of the biggest innovations in the history of mankind, but also it sounds like it is the basis of your guests entire outlook on the future!

  • Anonymous

    Your guest confuses information with actual opportunity and assumes his rich-world problems are the same as those in the poor-world. So tell me: if I have a flat tire and no jack or no lug wrench, pray tell, how will access to Google help me deliver my chickens to market? If my village has no rainfaill, how will access to Yahoo give my livestock a drop to drink today?  Amazingly, your guest actually had the brass to say that tribespeople in Africa would actually benefit from access to music? Books? Forgive my sarcasm, but “that solves everything!” 

  • Mary N Brown

    It is so great to hear a positive message about the future.   For those who do not believe that making information available to those in remote areas struggling for the basic necessities of life – energy, food, water will lead to innovation, look no further than William Kamkwamba of Malawi whose success in bringing electricity to his community was described in “the boy who harnessed the wind” 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Wes-Nickerson/100001436729213 Wes Nickerson

    I worry about a corporation like Coca Cola having control of the water supply. They are an amoral corporation. They have no morals. They will only do what is best for their bottom line, not what is best for the people. With Coca Cola in charge of the water supply they will have control over life itself, sell the water at a premium to the rich and let the poor die of thirst.

    Don’t trust the corporations. Inequality in the world is increasing. Technology by itself cannot improve the world. Only the power of people can do that.

    The following is from Wikipedia:

    “The Coca-Cola Company has been involved in controversies and lawsuits related to allegations of human rights violations and other unethical practices.”

    “The company has been criticised on a number of environmental issues. An issue with pesticides in groundwater in 2003 led to problems for the company when an Indian NGO, Centre for Science and Environment, announced that it had found cancer causing chemicals in Coca-Cola as well as other soft drinks produced by the company, at levels 30 times that considered safe by the European Economic Commission. This caused an 11 percent drop in Indian Coca-Cola sales.[20][21]”

    “There are charges that the Coca-Cola Company was involved in the violent repression of a union at several of its bottling plants in Colombia, South America. As of August 2005, when PBS’s Frontline ran a story on the controversy, Coca-Cola strenuously denied all allegations of union-busting and murder of union leaders. Shareholders and U.S. colleges[28][29] have boycotted Coca-Cola to try to put pressure on the company to approve a full-scale, independent investigation of the charges.[30]”

  • ACW

    With necessity as the mother of invention it stands to reason that truly new ideas will be coming out of the developing parts of the world. Maybe not new medicines but answers to the pressing day to day needs.

  • Ehdoss

    When will Peter’s 100-mpg car be on the market?

    Today western society is driven from oil and coal.  Solar is still way out as a dependable low cost energy source.

    Food production is still heavily dependent on oil / natural gas for fertilizer production.

    • Ellen Dibble

      I think modern economies are also “driven” from oil and coal.  If all the oil and gas and coal industries were rather suddenly kaput, the crashes globally would be devastating to the planning of every individual and corporation.  Even with innovations already in place, the economies have to accommodate.   Roads need bike lanes, or lanes for mini-scooters.  Power lines need to enable individual generators from geothermal or solar or whatever to be directed into the grid, as well as from the grid.  Jobs need to be redistributed from old technologies to new ones.
         So I think economic flexibility is the keystone here, maybe even more than innovation.  And that economic flexibility depends on political flexibility, and there are plenty of rich people with vested interests and political power, starting with the property owner down the street who doesn’t want eminent domain to preemptively displace one hand’s breadth of his property for the public good.  So politics is a lot slower than innovation.  
          Science waits on Americans to step out of our pride in the past and step into the future.

      • Anonymous

         A hybrid car with a diesel engine could deliver 80 mpg a few years ago; but the Nissan Leaf, though range constrained today (reportedly around 60 to 70 miles in practice), is only a small (?) battery improvement away from a 150 mile range. And that car pays only about $1 for the energy equivalent of a gallon of gasoline. So in money outlay, it does get about 100 miles in gas gallon cost equivalent.

      • Terry Tree Tree

        Better to build your ‘renewables’, NOT connected to the grid, for MANY reasons, especially cost!

  • Eric

    Innovation requires education and that simple fact means that the US is GOING to fall behind the rest of the world. There are too many bulky institutions in this country that will hold up innovation that needs to be speedy and fast tracked. Innovation will come from places that don’t have these bottlenecks.

  • Anonymous

    Your guest further contends that “true” innovation comes from outside the usual corridors of big business. Well, Jobs and Woz might not have produced the Apple were it not for a fortuitous visit to XeroxPARC where they saw the original point-and-click mouse. Tech innovation comes from geniuses from the rich world, whether or not they work/worked at big tech companies. For your guest to suggest that a smartphone will enable a Masai tribesperson to come up with the “next big thing” that your guest can monetize/turn into stock options is on its face vulgar. This guy is truly shameless. His notion of “abundance” is so clouded by his vulture-capitalist narcissism it is emblematic of the classic trickle-down mindset that’s polluted the common good.

    • Anonymous

       Individuals from all walks of life, with education in software and access to a computer platform CAN create an app for computers, smartphones or notebook computers. BUT (a BIG “but”) it takes the GOVERNMENT to provide everyone (not just the elite few) the education to achieve this capability.

  • Graham (in Nashville, TN)

    It seems obvious that the truth is somewhere in the middle of “Abundance” and Gloom-and-Doom. I think the guest is wildly optimistic, but I also think we NEED optimism. More importantly, we need people with deep pockets to invest in optimism. Pessimism, and doomsday scenarios are easy. 

    Just that “slingshot” innovation alone is huge, and reason for optimism. It doesn’t solve the world’s problems, but it is a major address towards one of the biggest. 

    Likewise, putting cell phones in the hands of Masai warriors does not mean they’re going to use cloud-computing 3D modeling to invent the next solar panel – but it does mean they can monitor seed prices and not be gouged by unscrupulous buyers. Unfortunately, increased “penetration” of the cell phone market also means insane demand for rare earth metals, so you create new problem by solving another.

    Again, pessimism is easy. It’s time for a hopeful voice.

    • nj_v2

      There’s a case to be made for not conflating hopeful and optimistic

      Some dictionaries give them as synonymous, but i like Cornell West’s distinction.

      “Last, but not least, there is a need for audacious hope. And it’s not optimism. I’m in no way an optimist. I’ve been black in America for 39 years. No ground for optimism here, given the progress and regress and three steps forward and four steps backward. Optimism is a notion that there’s sufficient evidence that would allow us to infer that if we keep doing what we’re doing, things will get better. I don’t believe that. I’m a prisoner of hope, that’s something else. Cutting against the grain, against the evidence. William James said it so well in that grand and masterful essay of his of 1879 called “The Sentiment of Rationality,” where he talked about faith being the courage to act when doubt is warranted. And that’s what I’m talking about.”– Cornel West, from the 1993 commencement speech at Wesleyan University (full text at humanity.org)

  • Anonymous

    There is one area where innovation in new technology is NOT needed, though just implementing different technologies that exist today will bring improvements just as a natural human process: mitigating the effects of the release of CO2 from burning fossil fuels.

    Humans ALREADY know how to extract available energy sustainably; it is just the fossil fuel companies that are stifling the development and use of them. One of the ways they do this is to claim that new technology is needed and we should “wait” for it. But meanwhile they reduce their own spending on such research, while claiming they are working to provide the world “clean” energy.

    Maybe if taxes on energy companies rose to 90% with the ONLY exclusion being that given to universities for science and technology development, then something might happen.

  • Otterstein

    Help please.
    Say I have $100. How do I use math to make it ten times less?

    • AC

      pay a mathmeticican, their pay grade is often horrible…

    • Longfellow’sEvangeline

      Put it in Pat Robertson’s wing of the Republican wing.  Someone will get richer, and they deserve it, if they can get it from you to feed their own needs.  

    • Anonymous

       Vote Republican. The Second Great Depression awaits the execution of the next Republican president’s policies.

  • AC

    i do disagree about lessening governement’s role, in fact, i think we need more scientists & engineers in government. that way they can’t be bamboozled by shining salesmen (or friends) of companies selling soundbytes with not a chance in h#ll of actually working in our physical universe….

    • Ellen Dibble

      What do you mean?  I thought the power of companies (corporate dollars and lobbyists) was plenty rampant in government.  Private innovators, without Big Money backing them, would seem to be less corrupted, though maybe more corruptible.  
       What do you mean?  Bad ideas, like computer games to waste our time with?  Like beer to drown our sense of reality when we need a break?  Who decides what hasn’t a chance in h#ll — or where the chance is all too good?  (As in Nobel’s fertilizer, or bomb, or whatever it was…)

      • AC

        most of them pay to keep us stuck with the same old, same old….
        computer games are fun btw, it’s not bridge, but it’s a good way to enjoy downtime. ANYthing excess is bad…games/booze - ?
        what do you mean? the parameters of physics controls most everything….

        • Ellen Dibble

          Most of who “them” pay to keep us stuck with the same old — researchers with the government?  With private industry?
              What I mean about innovations that change human life for the better, or makes us able to weather the changing conditions on the planet?  Hmm.  It seems to me that lots of crucial innovations are actually kind of a mistake.  Penicillin…  All sorts of things that start with something happening a little different than expected, and some nerdish type having the time and disposition to use his or her imagination on it, and the “system” having the resources and the access/focus/targeting to be able to identify and boost that discovery into the realm of the useful.  Or sometimes human need, necessity being the mother of invention.  
             Same-old, same-old sounds like the Republicans trying to make more money off the particular insulated sort of patented solutions that they have or have had control over.

          • AC

            “Same-old, same-old sounds like the Republicans trying to make more money off the particular insulated sort of patented solutions that they have or have had control over.” Yes, though I don’t limit this behavior at all to one political group, that would be false & too easy.

      • Anonymous

        Computer games can be used to teach subjects (Kahn Institute, etc.).

        But I think AC meant that companies like those in fossil fuels use false arguments against sustainable energy sources. Therefore more scientists in government (like Rep. Holt? a physicist from NJ) will increase the likelihood of government seeing through the flimflam and doing the right thing.

        It is not a 100% guarantee, as an MIT scientist, Richard Lindzen, if elected to office would demonstrate.

  • Tcampbell

    Of course Coca Cola is “helping” with the developement of clean water.  They certainly won’t give it away or sell it for 2 cents a liter.  Fresh water will be a huge money maker as it becomes more and more rare. 
    My worry is about the redistribution of wealth that is occurring.  I’m middle class, not college educated, but not unemployed.  My wages have been stagnant as to their relative value for 20 years.

    • Ellen Dibble

      I thought I heard something about “Ding Caiman Slingshot” being able to provide water for two somethings a day, even now, whatever that means.  I suppose Coca Cola is better situated to do that, being an international corporation.  And I’d be a lot happier if they had water as their first product, since soda I have always been told is bad for you and a waste of money.  It seems to have replaced wine as the standard of healthy beverage where water supplies cannot be relied upon to be safe to drink, but then Coca Cola adds things, sweeteners, additives, nothing I would be proud to have added to my body.
          If the soda makers can be in the vanguard of making safe water available in an era of water scarcity, that is square one.  Square two is making the distribution such that the water is affordable as well as available.  I don’t blame the big corporations for this.  I think big corporations act like big corporations, God help them.  But politicians should be answerable to the people, not the corporations, and therefore should be able to see to it that the uber-rich don’t turn a democracy into a plutocracy.  Let’s be an example of how that takes place — at least try to.

    • Michele

       They are being forced to help.  In India Coca Cola has diverted billions of gallons of water from farmers who have difficulty growing their cash crops as a result.  There is a lot of anger there over Coke’s mfg practices.

  • LinP

    If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right. ~Henry Ford

    At least it’s refreshing to hear someone with fire in the belly about possibilities and the power of imagination rather than the small-, measly-minded naysayers that constantly invade our thinking and our spirit.

  • Purcell

    Experts in big organizations do defend their turf, but they also innovate.  They do both.

    Small entrepreneurs make great breakthroughs, but they also cause a huge amount of waste on hair brain schemes, they do both.

    Many perpetual motion machines have been (and continue to be) hyped by small entrepreneurs… even if you think you can, you can not get them to work.  

    You cannot change the laws of physics… even Peter Diamandis cannot change the laws of physics with a billion small startups.

    • AC

      you have no idea – i have threatened my hubby w/divorce if we got into another fight over perpetual motion machines lol!!!! i struggled myself through thermodynamics, trying to explain it to someone else is nearly impossible!!!! Still, the poor dear tries – at least he’s thinking, i can hardly complain…. (:

  • Longfellow’sEvangeline

    This video popped up on my YouTube subscriptions from another friend last night, and I sent it to my siblings for their children and grandchildren.  It was prepared for the  Jr. Chamber of Commerce.  

  • Satwa

    Wow, this guy is out of touch.

    - Fukushima has shut down North West Japan probably for a very long time to come.
    - Climate Change and pollution (ie poison)
    - Slave race being created in China, and even in the US. NPR did a story about the conditions of American workers who pick products in warehouses to send when an internet order goes through. Workers were 10 times better off in the 1970′s, and totalitarian Soviet Union had better pay, benefits, and upward mobility than many Americans today.

    He is the guy that gave an award for a hugely polluting and resource draining spacecraft! … not to mention all the gadjets he is talking about that are being taken up by billions now, are made by slaves, have built-in obsolescence, and, as a whole, are very polluting when thrown away.

    • Satwa

      However, there is good news:

      Research on the Transcendental Meditation Technique
      The research studies below were selected from over 350 peer-reviewed published studies conducted at a wide range of independent research institutions.
      Mental Functioning
      Increased brain coherence 

      International Journal of Neuroscience (116: 1519–1538, 2006)
      Increased use of brain reserves 

      Human Physiology (25: 171–180, 1999)
      Increased creativity 

      Journal of Creative Behavior (13(3): 169–180, 1979)
      Broader comprehension and improved ability to focus 
      Perceptual and Motor Skills (39: 1031–1034, 1974)
      Increased self-development 

      Journal of Social Behavior and Personality (17(1): 93–121, 2005)
      Mental Well-Being
      Increased calmness 

      Physiology & Behavior (35: 591–595, 1985)
      Increased self-actualization 

      Journal of Social Behavior and Personality (6: 189–248, 1991)
      Increased strength of self-concept 

      British Journal of Psychology (73: 57–68, 1982)
      Decreased anxiety 

      Journal of Clinical Psychology (45: 957–974, 1989)
      Decreased depression 

      Journal of Counseling and Development (64: 212–215, 1985)
      Physiological Health
      Improved health in university students 

      Journal of Instructional Psychology (22: 308–319, 1995)
      Physiological indicators of deep rest 

      American Psychologist (42: 879–881, 1987)
      Reduced illness and medical expenditures 

      American Journal of Managed Care (3: 135–144, 1997)
      Reduction of high blood pressure 

      Hypertension (26: 820–827, 1995)
      Improved job performance 

      Academy of Management Journal (17: 362–368, 1974)
      Increased job satisfaction 

      Academy of Management Journal (17: 362–368, 1974)
      Benefits to Society
      Reduced violent crime in Washington 

      Social Indicators Research (47: 153–201, 1999)
      Reduced war deaths 

      Journal of Conflict Resolution (32: 776–812, 1988)

      Journal of Conflict Resolution (34: 756–768, 1990)
      Reduced crime in Washington 

      Journal of Mind and Behavior (9: 457–486, 1989)
      Reduced crime in U.S. Cities 

      Journal of Mind and Behavior (9: 457–486, 1989)
      Reduced violent crime 

      Journal of Mind and Behavior (8: 67–104, 1987)

      From: http://www.mum.edu/tm_research/welcome.html

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Hill/100000932326908 David Hill

    There is a great misconception in the minds of many business and education Gurus, through lack of understanding what innovation really is, that innovation is somehow linked to higher intelligence. This misdemeanour is thrown at all and sundry. Unfortunately intelligence in itself does not lead to major global breakthroughs as the history of S&T shows. Indeed some people may be highly intelligent in solving problems but can never come up with an idea that revolutionises the future. For solving existing problems is not the same as creating a totally new concept or idea. This thinking comes from people who in the main were not excellent scholastic students but were different in their thinking and had the ability to link things together to produce something new and really outstanding.
    What we have not learnt in the West yet is that it is not the so-called highly intelligent people that we have to find but the creative individuals who are the primary asset in creating the successful tools of the future, whether they be better education systems or revolutionary technologies. The two are very different indeed. That is why the World Innovation Foundation has been saying for the past decade and a half to western governments that the West has to create the ORE-STEM complex so that these special individuals can have a place to flourish and work. In this respect it is estimated that there are between 500,000 and 1million of these ‘special’ average-intelligent people in the West who have the capacity to change ‘Our’ economic fortunes.
    But, no-one is listening and especially in western governments where the intelligent people reign there supreme also. The reason of course is because these people are perceived as being highly intelligent also, but where they lack the main ingredient to why a country will be economically dynamic in the future; that little known seed in the certain individuals that transforms nations through totally new revolutionary thinking. Not to bore people but Newton and Einstein are clear examples of poor to medium quality scholastic students. In fact in the case of Newton his contemporaries stated at the time that nothing would ever come of Newton after he lost his ‘grouts’ and was awarded the lowest BA degree at Cambridge. No, it is those illusive individuals that we have to concentrate on in finding within our western society, who are not seen as highly intelligent people, but engage and provide vast wealth through their innovative thinking, not highly intelligent thinking. The two are totally different animals. For this is the ‘golden’ secret of creating a future dynamic environment for the West and where through such thinking, the West would recapture its pre-eminence in wealth creation.
    Unfortunately western politicians have lost their way because they are possibly too intelligent and therefore we look in part at the decline that we now see. For an example here, bankers are supposed to be one of the most intelligent species within humanity and where they usually come with the highest degrees passes possible and top-of-the-class honours from such establishments as Harvard, Berkeley, MIT, Cambridge and Oxford et al. Therefore the question has to be asked, how did they and their highly intelligent government counterparts get is so horribly wrong globally and locally? The reason is that intelligence does not guarantee for a better world and where the opposite has been the case with the West reeling from trillions of accumulated debt that the people in the west now owe.
    We have therefore to stop concentrating on the misconception that high intelligence is the best driver of humanity but where others have the real answers to our dire problems. Therefore the sooner we get such vast concepts as the ORE-STEM under way, the sooner the West will stop the inevitable decline of our nations and its people. For in another 30>40 years if we do not start thinking differently, the West will be totally reeling from a state of our economic affairs which will mirror many of the dire problems associated with some of the emerging economies now. This future situation to counter-balance the economic forces building in the East will not emerge from high intelligence as history has shown us, but from special and unique individuals who are not seen as highly intelligent at all. But what they possess is of far, far more important that just mere high intelligence, for they hold the golden key of our economic redemption! 
    Dr David Hill
    Chief Executive
    World Innovation Foundation

    • Anonymous

       The additional reason not considered here is the obsession with ideology in the Republican Party where government has no role in developing the future, in contrast to the whole past of the country. Starting in George Washington’s administration, Hamilton fought for the government to stabilize the banks to create a lending environment for a growing commercial economy, to Lincoln’s support for transcontinental railroads to Eisenhower’s Interstate Highways, not to mention the space program with NASA.

      All this the Republicans throw under the bus while supporting no longer needed tax loopholes for established cartels such as the fossil fuel industry.

  • Roy Mac

    What a concept!  If only technology could keep the interviewee conncected with the radio broadcast.  More genius tech, please.

    • Roy Mac


  • Terry Tree Tree

        With the new Patent Laws, and some others passed in the last ten years, corporations, and the rich can steal ANY meaningful innovation from the not-so-rich!
        Since the innovative power of the corporations and the rich, are MOSTLY only creative ways to get other people’s money, innovation will die!  This will kill the U.S. slowly, or not so slowly!

  • Jim

    How about an X-Prize for an on-demand salt water engine ?
    It’s exhaust is fresh water.  Imagine cars, boilers, power plants AND we’re free of Middle Eastern oil interests, etc.

  • markie obrien

    Oh ya, Peter has his head out of his anal sphincter for sure. With the Sixth Great Known Extintion, desertification and human population on skyrocketing parabolic curves, the future sure looks bright. He’d do well to spend an hour or two with a Population Ecologist. But then delusion is a wonderful thing, ask any monotheist.

  • Missy

    Yes!!!! Finially! I think we will create enough innovation to move humanity forward. Change only comes when it’s too painful to stay the same. If you give access to knowledge to those who don’t have it we will move forward!!!!

  • Nancy K.

    I thought you were exceedingly rude, arrogant and bullying toward your guest Peter Diamandis today, Mr. Ashbrook. You were talking over him, interrupting him, not letting him explain anything to you or the listening audience, and you were putting him on the defensive. I thought he was remarkably polite and respectful toward you all the while. And THEN–did NPR intentionally disconnect him in order to drive home some point about the failings of innovation and modern technology? There are somewhere between six and seven billion people on this planet and you say that no one is going to innovate anything??? You are as bad as the Neanderthals who ridiculed people like Jenner, Pasteur, and Newton! I am certain there are honest people, full of integrity and creativity, who are not tied up with politicians, governments like ours (corrupt and backwards as all-get-out), or the greedy corporations, who have much to offer this world in wonderfully innovative and bright ideas just waiting to be born or to get off the ground!  If you don’t like Mr. Diamandis, then why did you invite him on your show? To make a fool of him? As for me, I am interested enough to listen to what he has to say to tune in to your program when it airs again tonight at 11 pm on my local NPR affiliate station. You often are rude to your guests… you often sound like a know-it-all. Go back and listen to your program today and you will “hear” exactly what I am saying about yourself.

    • Anonymous

       Your comment reads like you have a bone to pick. Sometimes a guest will give glib expression to flaky concepts which need probing questions to bring out so the audience understands the weaknesses as well as potential strengths of an approach. When Tom felt that Mr. Diamandis was not explaining his point well enough, he was correct in probing for more details.

      Certainly the world will need innovation, but Peter was talking like Mitt Romney does, as if everyone had the background to be able to live his lifestyle, if only they worked hard.

      The worst parts of our government are the legislator-lobbyist connection, further enabled under the Gingrich-Delay era.

      Are you really that easily turned into a conspiracy theorist that the loss of a phone connection has to be deliberate? If it was it did not last long enough.

    • Slipstream

       I think it was right of Tom to challenge Diamandis some, since his views run counter to what most thinkers seem to be saying these days.  I don’t think he was rude, and he did give his guest ample opportunity to present his views.  Tom also challenged the positions presented by Atkinson, who was saying something very different.

  • Juan J Gallardo

    Mr. Robert Atkinson missed for a great margin when he says that Global Medium Income is only $870 USD a year.  It is ten times that when you think of a Global GDP aron 70 trillion dollars and 7 billion population.  And if you consider Purchasing Power Parity, then it becomes more than 11 thousand dollars a year per person.

  • Heaviest Cat

    I’m no Luddite but technology alone cannot solve our problems. We need a solid social structure to insure that everyone has access to it and control of it. Peter Diamandis would seem to concentrate power into the hands of technocrats. Peter also seems willfully ignorant of air/water pollution, overpopulation and other ecological crises. 

  • Heaviest Cat

    “Innovation” is often a euphemism for monopoly capitalism

  • http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=59736117&trk=tab_pro Juan J Gallardo

    I also did not like the comments on Latin America.  I shall remind you that Latin America has more than twice the territory of the US (more natural resources), almost twice the population (590 million vs only 330) and a Gross Domestic Product at Purchasing Power Parity of 6.5 trillion dollars (40% that of the US) growing at twice the rate that of the US.  You should make a program on that.

  • Anonymous

    Because things are better innovated with the abundance of capital provided by corporations, who tax the workers directly for labor, instead of having them pay their governments, squeezing from them those extra seconds of performance  so Amazon and other e-commerce services can entice buyers with free shipping. Let those Alphas develop with their ingenuity, perhaps someday they’ll come up with pills Betas, Gammas, and Epsilons can take to take away their head aches, back pains, and the fear of being penalized or terminated from work.

  • Mfcarr

    Diamandis sounds like a highly intelligent (and highly caffeinated) guy, but I guess I don’t share his unquestioningly rosey view on innovation.

    Downthread, commenter Miro wrote (very insightfully):

    “Kurt Vonnegut recognized this problem in his first novel, “Player
    Piano.” Fewer and fewer of us have good, stable jobs — our society is
    moving towards a 3-class society, the wealthy, those with sustainable
    jobs, and the under caste. The last are consigned to low wage, often
    temporary and part-time, work.”

    Diamandis doesn’t address wealth distribution, and seems oblivious to the struggles that middle class families in this country are encountering just trying to get by in an increasingly hostile, dog-eat-dog economy

    He also seems to make a huge assumption that today’s and tomorrow’s innovations will be applied for the greater good of humanity.  I guess it’s true that innovations of that sort theoretically *could* be applied for the greater good, but the experience of the last several decades suggest to me that it’s more likely that the gains in productivity made possible by innovation will benefit the wealthy much more than it will the middle and lower classes.

    In the past, people suggested that increases in productivity made possible by automation would make the 5 day work week unnecessary.  We could all work 3 or 4 days and still get the same amount of work done, and everybody would be happy!  But that never happened.  Instead, the benefits of the increased productivity went almost exclusively to the wealthiest in society.  Diamandis’s argument doesn’t seem to address this at all.

    It is innovation that made offshoring of so many American jobs a possibility, but Diamandis doesn’t dwell on that either.

    He’s obviously very intelligent, but he sounds kind of cut off from reality.  Perhaps he needs to venture outside of Silicon Valley some more and see how average people are living.

  • Jhk6

    I was struck by the part of the discussion relating to Tom’s question whether the government was a “reliable” partner in innovation (NASA was mentioned as an example) and the response was, “are you kidding me? NO!”.  Evidence that the response is not as unreasonable as some here appear to think can be found in the different ways in which the government and private, entrepreneurial organizations act.  The specific evidence that came to my mind was a direct comparison between NIH (National Institutes of Health) and the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation and how they award grants for medical research.  Quite simply, NIH, a government bureaucracy,  provides grants to people who have already made a name in research, but who are not likely to provide any new original research.  DRCRF provides grants to bright “no names”.  Put another way, check out the average age of NIH grant recipients and the average age of DRCRF grant recipients–the latter are half the age of the former.  Why?  Simple.  A government bureaucracy is loathe to take risks, so it doesn’t.  In the case of NIH, it prefers to make grants to those who already have a reputation.  But, experience shows that is precisely the WRONG way to think about it–young, bright scientists are the ones willing to take risks, not the ones who already have reputations, and it’s the young researchers who are much more likely to discover new and useful things (precisely as described by your guest).  NASA is no different–sure, lots of good things came out of NASA in the beginning, but why such certainty that what we got was better than what we’d have gotten if the entrepreneurial set had been nurtured to do.  We’ll never know, but we can guess (anybody notice that we’re now relying on the Russians to get to space–need I say more?).

    Go ahead, check out my NIH/DRCRF comparison and see for yourself.  Very illuminating and frustrating, too, when you consider the money being wasted by NIH compared to organizations like DRCRF!

    –Jim K

  • Elizabeth B.

    Innovation is/has been/will be useful in the best ways for the privileged few but for the rest it is/has been/will be a drudgery.

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  • your listener

    I have a hard time to continue listening to Peter Diamandis, he wrote a book about nothing, and everything people already knew, his approach is driven AGAIN by PROFIT/MONEY making, he IS a business man!!  

    Most callers are more intelligent than him, but he’s probably more intelligent in making profit?  I suppose….

  • your listener

    If minority of people on this planet, including myself, who can lower our living standard, then ‘maybe’ just maybe this might lift the basic living standard for more people on this planet who heavily relying on natural resources, otherwise I foresee our future would have to depend on synthetic life form, which no one knows what that would evolve into….

    It’s always easier to bring good/optimistic news to people, hyping up our futures with false sense of prosperities..We all tend to use actions to correct our own actions.., instead of inactions or less actions.., such as having less..

  • Slipstream

    When I first started listening to this, I thout to myself, Oh jeez, I cant believe it – OP is providing a soapbox to some huckster, some super-sunny techno-optimist.  But after listening to Diamandis for a bit, I found his views refreshing.  Certainly we have had enough gloom and doom visionaries in recent years, and imho that was a proper corrective to the over-optimism that existed previously and that blinded us to the problems that were growing all thru our economy.  I doubt that his view is really right – he points to some bright spots and centers of innovation, but fails to really look at any trends or explain how we will do certain things, like feed and provide gasoline and electricity for 10 billion people.  But I think we do need to have some people out there saying, yes, we can do it, we can leap forward, let’s go.

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Aug 21, 2014
In this November 2012, file photo, posted on the website freejamesfoley.org, shows American journalist James Foley while covering the civil war in Aleppo, Syria. In a horrifying act of revenge for U.S. airstrikes in northern Iraq, militants with the Islamic State extremist group have beheaded Foley — and are threatening to kill another hostage, U.S. officials say. (AP)

An American is beheaded. We’ll look at the ferocity of ISIS, and what to do about it.

Aug 21, 2014
Jen Joyce, a community manager for the Uber rideshare service, works on a laptop before a meeting of the Seattle City Council, Monday, March 17, 2014, at City Hall in Seattle. (AP)

We’ll look at workers trying to live and make a living in the age of TaskRabbit and computer-driven work schedules.

Aug 20, 2014
In this Oct. 21, 2013 file photo, a monarch butterfly lands on a confetti lantana plant in San Antonio. A half-century ago Monarch butterflies, tired, hungry and bursting to lay eggs, found plenty of nourishment flying across Texas. Native white-flowering balls of antelope milkweed covered grasslands, growing alongside nectar-filled wildflowers. But now, these orange-and-black winged butterflies find mostly buildings, manicured lawns and toxic, pesticide-filled plants. (AP)

This year’s monarch butterfly migration is the smallest ever recorded. We’ll ask why. It’s a big story. Plus: how climate change is creating new hybridized species.

Aug 20, 2014
A man holds his hands up in the street after a standoff with police Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, during a protest for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. (AP)

A deep read on Ferguson, Missouri and what we’re seeing about race, class, hope and fear in America.

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