Abundance vs disruption: dramatically different views of the future

At this month's TED conference, there was animated debate between two sharply differing views of the future.

ONE: The future will be one of scarcity and disruption.  Economic growth has run up against the limits of what our planet can offer. 

TWO: The future will be one of abundance, driven by technological innovation. We're only just starting to tap human potential. 

The first view was eloquently represented in this talk by Paul Gilding, the second in a powerful talk from Peter Diamandis.  After they spoke, I brought them on stage to debate each other directly. Here is the footage of that debate, which quickly became the main talking point of the conference, with the TED audience split nearly 50/50.

What makes the debate especially fascinating -- other than the fact that, um, our entire future is at stake here! -- is that on top of the factual debate, there is another whole layer around the tools of persuasion. Which is the more powerful motivator to persuade humanity to shape a better future: fear or hope -- or perhaps some nuanced combination of both?  

I can't easily think of a more important set of questions we should be thinking about!

Do you agree? And who do you think won this particular debate? 
18 responses
Although there is an abundance. There is enough evidence to show that people and organisations are not willing to share.
Unfortunately, despite governments are barking about change, they are not biting with big enough penalties!
In the grasp of my lifetime [I'm only in my twenties] we do not have a unified structure to stop the economic divide from continuing.
**This is how-ever the best place to start putting money into the underdogs. to spread economy, rather than selling out to big enterprises that could take an 80% cut and still not have financial difficulty. Funnily enough, some of these companies are happy to fund political parties, but not sponsor the country of the politics'.
**We need innovation now!
Abundance is only relevant in a differently structured society - a society of access, not ownership, of collaboration, not competition, of compassion, not arrogance, of cyclical, not linear consumption, for all we have is this one planet.

The current economic system relies heavily on scarcity to operate. Scarcity of a product increases its perceived value, and its abundance decreases it. And money, which is supposed to be a means to an end, itself becomes a lifetime goal for most people. Instead of being a measure of the value of resources, it becomes a resource. Towards what purpose?

Nothing short of a total rethinking of society from the ground up could really end this. We need to redesign the world around us, the whole system is corrupt and volatile, like a house built on quicksand. The more we try to stabilize the collapsing house, the more time and resources we waste in the mud. We need a parallel system, another house that would simply make the old one obsolete.

But to achieve all this, a dramatic paradigm shift is needed first. Knowledge based economies are still emerging, and the open information channel that is the Internet is still not available to everyone on this planet. Yet people are slowly but surely beginning to realize that there is something wrong with the world, with the way its operations have been organized and its resources distributed among the population. A new conscience is forming, one that, once having reached critical mass, will change our history forever.

"...who do you think won this particular debate?"

I'm both an optimist and a realist, recognizing that both speakers presented plausible futurism. Neither speaker "won" -- nobody can win a futurism debate. The real winners are the TED audience. As vdsabev wrote, we cannot continue "consuming" as if consumption is the end-all of our existence. The very term "consumer" has become unhelpful in defining capitalism.

Since we began harnessing fossil fuel, it has been effectively "free." But we're now entering an era when energy costs are becoming a very real limiting factor to economic prosperity. Just 10 years ago, energy accounted for roughly 7% of avg household income. Today, it is over 12%, and by 2020 possibly as high as 16 to 18%. Peak oil theory was predicting this two decades ago, and now we are here, skimming the asymptote. We've entered the asymptotic era.

Vdsadev talks of "collaboration, not competition" -- and that's good -- but we need healthy competition in all manner of innovation going forward, as Diamandis implies. Evolution is built on natural, organic competition. But I truly sense we're experiencing new forms of globalized empathy and cooperation, fueled by emerging connective / participatory media. Human evolution must recognize and embrace new ways of defining our collective reality without disincentivizing individual creativity.

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