Why 2012 was the greatest year ever and why the future is bright

Why 2012 was the greatest year ever and why the future is bright

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“The best way to predict the future is to create it yourself.”
Peter H. Diamandis

Well, we’re still here! It turned out that the Mayans just ran out of space on the old calendar. The end of the world didn’t happen – at least not the way some people expected. But in fact, it is a whole new world now, with the potential for even greater opportunities. Despite the recession and all you might have seen in the news, never in the history of the world has there been less hunger, less disease and more prosperity.

Yet, so many people breathe a sigh of relief when an old year ends, pessimistic and glad to see the back of it. But do they do anything significant to ensure that they make the new year into their best yet? Or do they bring those old attitudes, thoughts, beliefs and ways of being into the new year – and end up in the same old state after next Christmas? We have so much to be grateful for, and optimistic about, so turning our attention to such things can set us up well for the future.

List all the good things that happened last year. What gave you greatest cause to celebrate?

If you make one new year’s resolution at all, resolve to be optimistic. We’re not talking blind over-optimism here – chasing dreams. We’re talking practical positivity – optimism with enough of a dose of reality to ensure that your feet are on the ground – taking firm steps towards the achievement of your goals.

Optimism is what enables entrepreneurs to override normal ‘loss aversion’. Like the fight or flight impulse, loss aversion is an emotion rooted in evolution, that helped our ancient ancestors survive scarcity and uncertainty. It’s an unwillingness to take chances, because the pain of loss is twice as strong as the pleasure of gain. But loss aversion produces short-term thinking, focussing on immediate events, bad news and being blind to longer-term potential, trends and good news. There’s actually a great deal of good news – and lots to make us optimistic. The world’s a much better place than the media might have us believe!

The UK and the US might be experiencing hard times, but morale during the British Jubilee and the Olympics was high. Life expectancy was 78 years of age 10 years ago, but is 81 now. Death rates for both lung and breast cancers have fallen by more than 30% over the past 40 years. Cold winters still kill people, but the number dying each year has halved over the past half-century.

Despite storms, fires, hurricanes and tsunamis, the speed of recovery in the richest countries shows spectacular resilience. As developing countries become richer, we can expect the death toll from natural disasters to reduce even further, since they will be better able to afford to prepare for and manage such events. If you think the environment is suffering, consumer demand for more efficient cars and factories has meant that consumption of fossil fuel in the richest countries fell by 4% over the last seven years while their economies grew by 6%. A decade or two ago, we were afraid we’d run out of the means to generate energy, but alternatives were discovered. The use of solar power is doubling each year. Within a decade it will be a primary form of energy generation, and with its costs falling – it will soon be cheaper than other forms of energy. Recent breakthroughs in gas ‘fracking’ technology also mean that we now live in an age of potential energy abundance.

Advances in medicine and technology mean that people across the world are living longer. The population of those living to be 100 is doubling every decade.The average life expectancy in Africa reached 55 in 2012, whereas 10 years ago, it was 50. The number of people dying from Aids has been in decline for the last eight years. Deaths from malaria have fallen by a fifth in 5 years.

War in the past has been one of the biggest killers of healthy humans, but throughout the world today, most people know little of it. The Peace Research Institute in Oslo says there have been fewer deaths through war in the last decade than at any time in the last century. Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler suggests that “humanity is now entering a period of radical transformation where technology has the potential to significantly raise the basic standard of living for every man, woman, and child on the planet.”

The world is changing, at a rapidly accelerating rate. Today more people have access to a mobile phone than to a toilet. In 15 years’ time, the average £500 laptop is likely to be computing at the rate of the human brain. Personalized medicine based on genetic information—an industry that didn’t even exist 10 years ago—is growing at 15% a year and will reach £220 billion by 2015.

Progress has actually been spectacular. Poverty is being alleviated at the fastest rate ever recorded. In 1990, the UN’s Millennium Development Goal to halve the number of people in extreme poverty by 2015, was met in 2008 – seven years early. At the current rate of decline, poverty will reach zero at around 2035. Global inequality is also lower than any point in modern times.

Our technologies in computing, energy, medicine and a host of other areas are improving at such an exponential rate that they will soon enable breakthroughs we can barely imagine. Robotic surgeons – developed for the army during battle, and now used in knee-replacement surgery – could soon be adapted to perform simple urgent procedures in developing countries where doctors are scarce. “Vertical farms” in cities can potentially provide vegetables and fruits on a mass scale.

New technologies have allowed do-it-yourself innovators to achieve amazing progress – in engineering, medicine and synthetic biology – with few resources, so we don’t have to depend on huge corporations or national laboratories. More individuals and companies are taking things in their own hands. Take the work of geneticist J. Craig Venter, beating the U.S. government in the race to sequence the human genome, and the increasing interest of techno-philanthropists like Bill Gates in tackling world problems like hunger and disease. Thanks to technology, even poor individuals are able to help themselves more effectively, alleviating their troubles.

Better medical care will soon be available for the poorest people on a global scale, along with clean water, more food, and more education – through the various technological tools we have, or soon will have offers, a great humanitarian vision and an optimistic perspective on the future.

It’s a wonderful, brave new world after all. The news is good, and the forecast is even better. You have permission to be optimistic. And you also have a role in this revolution.

What are you looking forward to this year?
What steps are you taking to make these good things happen?
What will you do, to make your world a better place?

You can choose your own future, and your own fate. There are so many incredible goals you can achieve with optimism, creativity, will and action. The world had its best ever year last year, and it looks set for incredible years in the future. There’s no excuse! Make this your best year yet. Build on good things, and make things even better in subsequent years.

In fact, make the rest of your life the best of your life! Happy 2013!

Further Reading:

Too Much Information by Marc Winn

Power of Thinking Big by Marc Winn

Abundance by Peter Diamandis (Amazon Link UK, US)

If the above topic, or indeed any of my blogs are of interest to you, then contact me and let’s talk! Drop me an email at getintouch@marcwinn.com.

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