Despite the fact that human brain neurology wires us to consume and prioritize negative information and fear, X PRIZE Foundation Chairman Peter H. Diamandis believes we have never been readier to solve the world's most pressing challenges. In his talk released today from the TED2012 conference, Diamandis shares new ideas about how the breakneck speed of technology innovation will unlock an abundance of resources and productivity like no other time in human history. In speaking with Peter after a good night's rest just hours after taking the stage at TED, he shared these thoughts.
We're just 24 hours in after your talk at TED, but I am curious to know the early reaction you've received.
I was thrilled with how well it went. It is always nerve racking to present your ideas in front of thousands of the smartest people in the world. I received tremendously positive feedback and support. It was fascinating to hear people say "Are you a Peter or a Paul - an optimist or pessimist?" (referring to the TEDTalk of Paul Gilding, former CEO of Greenpeace, about the possibly inevitable sustainability crisis, also released today by TED). Much of the conversation has been around the fact that Paul and I actually did not take opposite sides. We both agree the race is on. But rather than assume it's game-over, I feel that we are more empowered than ever to attack our problems.
You started your TEDTalk with a "downer" -- a news montage of everything wrong with the world. Yet, you ended with almost unstoppable optimism that the speed of technological innovation will ultimately create a world of abundance and productivity. Do you believe our natural preoccupation with negative information accelerates innovation and progress or alternatively sends us down paths of distraction and destructive behavior?
There is no question that fear can motivate governments and corporations to do extraordinary things. Fear was one of the strongest motivators to dismantle the Nazi war machine, and the Russian's Sputnik program led us to go to the moon. In fact, curiosity is a rather weak motivator and you can actually measure the ratio by comparing the national defense budget to the national science budget... a 30-fold difference. There are real problems. People should be concerned and take action. But the bottom line is that we now have the means to take action more than ever before.
You are skeptical about the role of corporations and government. How then does the speed of innovation that X PRIZE is channeling reach mass scale if companies are not driving the right market conditions, and if governments aren't supporting the optimal policies for mass adoption?
It is really about the origination of the innovation, which is coming out of a new generation of empowered, high-tech DIYers. At the end of the day large corporations will be required to take these inventions to scale, much like Coca-Cola is rolling out a significant field test for Dean Kamen's Slingshot, a new technology that has the potential to open up access to pure, clean water on a mass scale. That's why I have much more faith in entrepreneurs because they see problems as opportunity spaces. This is one of the reasons I wrote Abundance - The Future Is Better Than You Think and am giving away the first chapter as a download -- to change the global conversation from complaining about problems to solving them. Ultimately it's all hands on deck to solve our challenges, which does not just mean only corporations and governments, but also a global network of emerging entrepreneurs and the 3 billion new voices that are projected to access the Internet in the next decade -- a group I call the "Rising Billion".
Peter H. Diamandis, MD, is the founder and Chairman of the X PRIZE Foundation (www.xprize.org), a nonprofit whose mission is simply "to bring about radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity." By offering a big cash prize for a specific accomplishment, the X PRIZE stimulates competition and excitement around some of the planet's most important goals, including health care, social policy, education and the environment. Diamandis is also the Chairman of Singularity University. He has degrees in Molecular Biology and Aerospace Engineering from MIT and an MD from Harvard Medical School.