Past Event On February 17, 2018

Peter Diamandis

Future Tech: Exponential Change, Infinite Possibilities

Peter Diamandis

“These devices will become our best teachers and our best diagnosticians. We’re about to democratize, demonetize, and basically make available to the planet the best healthcare, the best education, to every single human whether the son or daughter of a millionaire, or the son or daughter of the poorest person on the planet.”

Peter Diamandis

Future Tech: Exponential Change, Infinite Possibilities

Program Date: February 17, 2018

Through an array of photos, charts, and videos, engineer and physician Peter Diamandis led Richmond Forum attendees through his optimistic view of the future. A future, he says, that is better—and closer—than you think.

“We’re living in a science fiction world,” he said on Saturday in reference to the recent SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket test launch. “You tell me what can’t be done.”

Diamandis’ mission to turn science fiction into science fact has led him to begin 20 organizations with far-reaching goals like exploring and inhabiting other planets, mapping individualized genomes for health research, developing autonomous vehicles, and encouraging and mentoring the next generation of great thinkers.

It has brought him into collaboration with well-known innovators whom he counts among his friends, like Elon Musk, J. Craig Venter, and Jeff Bezos. He gained national attention when the incentive competition organization he founded, X Prize Foundation, awarded $10 million to Forum alumnus Burt Rutan for his work developing SpaceShipOne, a private spacecraft capable of achieving sub-orbital spaceflight.

To Diamandis, it doesn’t matter where or how an idea originates, or how impossible it sounds, but where that idea might lead. As he tells his Singularity University students, “The day before something is truly a breakthrough, it’s a crazy idea.”

“We are going from evolution by natural selection, Darwinism, to evolution by human direction.”

– Peter Diamandis

Peter Diamandis on the impact of exponential technologies

What drives the breakthroughs of Diamandis’ organizations and others like them is the power of exponential change. They take advantage of the rapid evolution of technology to disrupt industries and reinvent the way we live. Companies invested in their old ways of doing things like Kodak, Blockbuster, and department stores give way to newcomers, Instagram, Netflix, and Amazon, that have adopted exponential technologies as a foundation for doing business.

The implications of exponential change reverberate far beyond the corporate world. Humanity is entering an era where every single person on the planet is connected via the Internet and a global network of devices and sensors. Access to knowledge will be at unprecedented levels and 4.2 billion new voices will be added to the global conversation. New voices will beget new ideas and thus further innovation, exponential growth, and discovery.

The promises of new technologies—autonomous vehicles, gene mapping and editing that lead to an extended human lifespan, increasingly sophisticated artificial intelligence—are enticing, but raised questions from the Forum audience.

Explore the program book.

Many attendees wanted to know what effect advances in AI would have on the future of work, and whether there is a danger in machines becoming too smart. Diamandis discounted the sci-fi trope of AI as villainous, and instead believes that it’s “the greatest tool we will have to solve all of our problems.”

Peter Diamandis on counteracting negative news

As far as jobs, technology has always displaced and shuffled workers around the job market. The U.S. used to be a largely agrarian nation, and now farmers make up 2% of the population. If autonomous vehicles put Uber drivers out of work, he proposed, perhaps the drivers would become overseers of the driverless fleet.

For all of Diamandis’ optimism, he has gotten some pushback, notably from former President Bill Clinton when Diamandis gave the closing keynote at the Clinton Global Initiative in 2014. “Why are you so optimistic about the future?” the former President asked, “Don’t you read the papers?”

“Respectfully, I’m positive about the future because I don’t watch the news, and I look at the data,” Diamandis replied. The data tell a positive story: poverty is the lowest in history, mortality rates are down, life expectancy is up, and we are living in the most peaceful time in human history.

With that data in mind, it’s a simple proposition for Dr. Diamandis to believe in a future of prosperity and abundance because the path is already leading in that direction.

Peter Diamandis answering an audience question about the future of work

“Bright, articulate, and engaging, Peter Diamandis’ presentation was packed with information to ponder. I woke up this morning still thinking about the possibilities and challenges for our world’s future. This was the most mind-boggling and thought-provoking Forum program that I have ever attended.”

– Subscriber Comment

About Dr. Peter H. Diamandis

Engineer and physician Dr. Peter H. Diamandis is a pioneer in the fields of innovation, incentive competitions, commercial space, and human longevity. A serial entrepreneur, he has founded or co-founded 12 organizations. His ventures aim to explore the universe, transform industries, and solve humanity’s greatest challenges. He believes that “the best way to predict the future is to create it yourself.”

Diamandis first gained national attention with his XPRIZE Foundation, which in 2004 awarded $10 million to past Forum speaker Burt Rutan for developing a successful private passenger-carrying spaceship. In the years since, XPRIZE has awarded five other prizes to groups that designed super-efficient cars, health sensors, and precise small rocket systems; developed innovative oil cleanup solutions; and improved our understanding of ocean acidification. Diamandis governs the organization alongside trustees Elon Musk (Tesla), Larry Page (Google), and Ray Kurzweil (author and inventor) to incentivize the creation of world-changing technologies and processes. Fortune named him one of the “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders” in 2014 for his work with the organization.

Alongside geneticist Craig Venter, Diamandis co-founded Human Longevity, Inc. (HLI), a genomics and cell therapy-based diagnostic and wellness company focused on extending the healthy human lifespan. HLI is building the world’s most comprehensive database on human genotypes and phenotypes in order to research the genetic foundations of age-related human biological decline.

In the field of commercial space, he co-founded Planetary Resources, Space Adventures, and Zero-Gravity Corporation to achieve his mission of opening the space frontier for humanity.

Diamandis’ graduate-level institution, Singularity University, studies exponentially growing technologies and their ability to transform industries. The university provides educational programs and a startup accelerator to teach individuals, organizations, investors, and governments how to utilize these technologies to positively impact billions of people.

Diamandis is the New York Times bestselling author of Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think and BOLD: How to Go Big, Create Wealth, and Impact the World. A frequent speaker for Fortune 100 companies, heads of state, and global conferences, he is a leading voice in technology and innovation.

Born in the Bronx, New York, to Greek immigrants, Diamandis showed an early interest in space exploration, winning a rocket design competition at age 12. He earned an undergraduate degree in molecular genetics and a graduate degree in aerospace engineering from MIT. He received his M.D. from Harvard Medical School.

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