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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on March 7, 2012
Abundance is the most enjoyable, exciting and motivating book I have read in a long time. Over the years I have read many books about the future, particularly about the technology of the future and how it will affect our lives. 32 years ago I was sitting here under the skylight of my then unfinished home architectural office reading another book that got me excited about the future: Alvin Toffler's The Third Wave. He was telling me that in the near future, many of us would be working at home "telecommuting" and that there would be a personal mini-computer in most homes, as common as a refrigerator, I think he said. I was all charged up about this wonderful future, then realized it was the middle of a week day, I was in my home office, and there was a computer on my desk, very primitive by today's standards, but a "personal mini-computer" nevertheless.
But 1980 was quite a ways back on the still close to flat part of that exponential curve of technological progress that you may have seen in some of the magazine articles about Abundance, the book. I read it as a Kindle application on my iPad, PC, and iPhone seamlessly going from one to the other, depending on whether I was in my office, the kitchen, on the Stairmaster at my club, or in bed. On the PC or my iPad, I could click on any of the many highlighted references and be taken to the appendix and returned to where I had been reading with another click. On the PC, an internet reference in the text or appendix would take me to that external referenced article or graph or website. On the iPad, it would also take me back to where I was reading in the book when finished. This was the most elegant and useful integration of a book with Kindle technology that I have seen to date. Had the publisher chosen to allow Amazon's text to speech feature, I would have used my Kindle too.
That may seem a little off-point, but I include it to illustrate just one of the changes we have so adapted to in those 32 years that we just take them for granted. Dr. Diamandis makes a seemingly air-tight case for an exponential acceleration of change to solve the problems that face us now and in the future, whether it is in energy, scarcity of resources, health, education, and even freedom. He seems to share much of the vision of the future of his colleague Ray Kurzweil, who is referenced and quoted in the book, along with many, many other experts. Dr. Kurzweil and Dr. Diamandis are the co-founders of Singularity University. (singularityu.org) There are many excellent talks and other resources on the web by both of them, including a very recent fifteen minute or so talk by Dr. Diamandis at TED (ted.com). Just the existence of Singularity University and TED.com are confirmation of the rapid and impactful changes in communication and education discussed in the book. They include an interesting quote from The Rational Optimist where the author of that book, Matt Ridley compares the cross-pollination of ideas facilitated by communication to the mixing of genetic information in the natural world.
There were a couple of things in the book that I frankly wish were not there. Why the authors drag the name of Sarah Palin into a discussion of confirmation bias strikes me as inappropriate and more of an example of their own confirmation bias than hers - but then they would say that is just my confirmation bias. Less annoying but still a negative mark to me was a contradiction in two references to Thor Heyerdahl, the Norwegian explorer who sailed the raft Kon-Tiki across the Pacific in 1947. In the first they refer to Kon-Tiki as a raft, which it was, but in a reference a few pages later they describe the process of building it as if it were a dugout canoe, which it was not. Yes, I know - trivial, but it undermines the credibility, at least to me.
But I don't want to make too much of my small disagreements. This is a powerful, optimistic, well documented and well written look at our future. That future is coming, whether we like it or not, so we had better get our minds ready to recognize it as it occurs. I suppose the one concept that keeps reoccurring to me in the days since I finished the book is the thought that the ideas that may change my life in unforeseen ways may come from some kid in Nepal or Siberia or Somalia. He or she may be a part of the bottom billion now, but how many more potential Mozarts or Einsteins or Hawkings or Edisons or Whitneys or Fords or Kamens are out there to be discovered and allowed to blossom? How many will take their dirt-cheap laptop and connect up with the Kahn Academy or something like it and learn to create world-changing products or ideas?
As the creator of the X-prize and his many other accomplishments, Peter Diamandis has in my mind reserved a very honorable place in the future history of the world. With this current book, I think he has shown us how exciting and wonderful a history that is likely to be.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Definitely two stars here for the topic and some scattered info on things that could improve life on this planet (Dean Kamen's water extracting device; urban farming;in vitro protein food). That alone could have made this book great but in actuality it could have been 30 pages long.
Here are sections that were just filler:
-Chapter Three and Four.
These sections just go on about people being too pessimistic about the future. Though sometimes that may true I dont see why it required to thick chapters on it, when it could have been two sentences.
-All of Part Six.
This was confusing. I thought there already were solutions to these problems but now Diamandis and Kotler spend a silly amount of time talking about incentives to make inventions and dealing with failure when they dont work. All valid points but at best worth a paragraph or two.
I have to say I was reminded of going to some get rich quick seminar where you find out the the secrets are being positive and not being deterred. Gee, let me make note of that.
Though well intentioned I believe the authors are just caught up in the futurism movement and see a chance to write a book on the topic without following through. They know people will read it because of the great topic.
They also go way off topic (space travel?? nice to know you worked in that area but I can't think of a more wasteful use of resources right now) and contradict themselves (well the solutions for distributing water are a ways off so in the mean time just take shorter showers).
They also tiptoe around the gorilla in the room: rich and powerful people have a long history of not only blocking advancements they cannot benefit from but also exploiting the working class and corrupting technological advancements (eg: Monsanto/UnionCarbide, Apple, and pretty much the whole free enterprise sector). There may be some steps made to advance things in the future but until we figure out this greed problem and lack of human compassion i think we are on a hamster wheel. [granted the book does make note of disruptive technologies but doesnt spend much time on it].
The tipping point for me was the authors own definition of abundance. In the first sections they point out that people won't be able to live like Donald Trump but will have enough to get by. So in other words there will still be a sliver of people living luxiourious lives while the masses will still have enough somehow to get by. I thought abundance meant you had more than enough. I guess they think differently. But calling the book "Dont worry you will survive somehow but don't expect to ever live the fancy life" would fly.

In a word, I would say this book is uninspiring. If you already think of yourself as a futurist (i do), you can get by this and just take it for a few scraps of useful info. But in general I can't see this book being enough to make people see a better future.
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22 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on April 10, 2012
I do enjoy reading an author who a) believes the future is going to be great and 2) backs that up with anecdotes and occasional data. Some of the arguments in the book are excellent, but the authors should have consulted a physicist. There are some real hard limits that technology is up against that no amount of optimism will overcome. Specifically, the author confuses fresh water needs and agricultural water needs, and throws around water volumes without comparing them. The vertical farm is plain stupid and should not get press. You need sunlight to make plants grow and the earth's surface is a far cheaper place to collect that light. Several chapter segments were just summaries of TED talks. GHG is very different from acid rain: a few scrubbers could take out the sox and nox, but we have to rejigger the entire basis of our economy to reduce GHG.

Despite the criticism, the book was relatively coherent and well written. It pinpoints some very interesting areas of technology that are on the brink of changing the lives of billions of people.

Also, some of the charts in the back are extremely poor, and there were several typos in the book. If AI is so great, maybe you should have a robot check your book for typos.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on March 3, 2012
Feel good and feel proud. I'm an optimist about us humans, always looking for a book with a positive view of the world This one is it. Diamandis and Kotler lay it out in a clear, readable, page-turner that reminds us what we have done and what we still can do. The technology is there, much of the 'cure' is in place to feed, care, and educate the world. The writers make it clear: If we work fast enough (get old customs and habits out of the way) the break throughs in science along with the work of do-it-yourself inventors can save the planet and the people on it without further pollution. It's already happening. Read the book. It's fun and mind blowing and will chase away the blues, no kidding. Embrace the future--it is good.
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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on February 24, 2012
I'm halfway through in a day. I haven't felt this inspired since first reading Fuller's "Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth" in the early 70s. These authors have helped "tip" the global conversation toward abundance versus scarcity in a transformative manner. This is contextual reframing on an epic scale.

Read it.

Get your kids to read it -- your parents, too -- right after you finish it. I promise your next dinner table conversation will be markedly improved.

Right after that, the world's conversation.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on March 11, 2013
The world is going to be perfect. Technology will save us. Save the poorest to save the planet. That pretty much summarizes the book. Nothing technical here.

But it is refreshing to read a pop-science book on the issues facing humanity where things aren't all gloomy and we aren't all going to be cyborgs. Easy enough to read, so I'd buy the softcover or listen to the book-on-tape version (I bought both). It's worth it alone as an aide to help the despairing messages we are faced with continuously on the population problem, global warming, and other problems....perhaps there is a way out and we won't, gulp, go extinct - that's why I read the book cover to cover, as a counter-argument to all the doom and gloom. Yeah it's fluff, but at least its positive fluff instead of yet another doom and gloom book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on August 6, 2013
About a century ago:

"The presence of 120,000 horses in New York City, wrote one 1908 authority [...], is "an economic burden, an affront to cleanliness, and a terrible tax upon human life.""

Human history (and pre-history, no doubt) is littered with situations akin to New York in 1908. The sub title, The future is better than you think, is well illustrated when one considers that, in New York alone, over 20,000 people a year died (in the 1900s) from infection carrying horse manure. No such deaths today, of course. The fact that people still die because of air pollution is a concern, but, like what happened since 1908, one can see that the pollution problem will wane as did the horse manure one.

Abundance is about being human, believing in the infinite creativity of people in inventing solutions, not only survive, but to improve one's life beyond any reasonable expectations.

The daily news confirm the research and analysis of the authors, as seen in U.K. recently:
"Dutch scientists Monday unveiled their ambitious research project, years in the making, with a public taste test of their cultured beef in London." (L.A. Times Aug 5, 2013)". Cultured beef? no cow polluting the environment, devastating our landscape and clogging our rivers?

Abundance should be a book unveiled in first grade classes, to help children understand the immense potential of human creativity. Abundance is a rebuttal from doomsday know-all that want to replace human ingenuity by their own ignorant utopia.

Abundance reflects how harsh history has been on people that believe today is the last good day on earth, that tomorrow will be hell unless humanity goes back to the "Good Old Days" (of horse manure pollution?)

Abundance's research is current, fast forwarding those who care about the future, into the unthinkable, but almost there, new reality. The book could be read from cover to cover as novel about human nature, but is better enjoyed step by steps, as the authors develop various themes in every chapters.

I am anxiously waiting for 100 story buildings filled with hot houses floors feeding the neighborhood. "[...] vertical farms offer the clearest path towards ending hunger and malnutrition." Chapter 9 Feeding Nine Billion.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on February 25, 2012
I work on Capitol Hill in Washington DC and am often engaged in conversations centered on the rapid speed at which technology has surpassed the ability of our Congress to react. SOPA and PIPA are but one example. The Cybersecurity Bill floating around Congress right now is at the nascence of a long bitter battle between private sector businesses, the public sector, and national security. Abundance has given me the ability to quickly frame the discussion about the power of innovation and technology and its great promise and potential to achieve domestic and global initiatives. Because time is the most valuable commodity up here, I no longer compete with the clock. Diamandas and Kotler have done all the work for me; arming me with data, reference, and talking points that quickly shape conversation and inform legislation.
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on February 27, 2012
This is a refreshing anecdote to the ever-popular dystopian future tomes. Kotler's keen writing combined with Diamandis' wealth of experience provide insight into things to come. Well-researched, well-written and thoroughly engaging page-after-page. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in their future.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on February 25, 2012
Abundance is like a glass of 1985 Opus One Cabernet Sauvignon. You simply don't want to rush through this magical experience. Every page offers such a gift of exciting insight that I had to put down the book and rest my brain after each sip. Abundance is the cerebral equivalent to really fine wine. Sip, swirl, sense, then rest ...and anticipate some more.

In Abundance, Peter Diamandis teaches us that our new frontiers in science and engineering will rapidly transform humanity to a better standard of living. Peter's facts are solid, the research is impeccable and his objective is clear. We learn that not only are the necessary resources there in abundance [food, energy, health management, materials...) but, this process to improving our world is already underway and growing exponentially.

The author's objective is for our conversations to be about solving problems rather than complaining about them. You will learn from the book that through his founding missions [The X-Prize and The Singularity University], Peter is out there today improving our world. And after you finish his book, you, too, will feel empowered to help solve humanity's grand challenges.
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