Sociologist Hans Rosling was four when his mother first got a washing machine.
It was a big day. His parents had been saving for years. Even his grandmother came for the big event. Then she proceeded to watch the entire washing process, mesmerized.
How do most women in the world wash? It remains the hard work of women to wash even today. They wash by hand. It’s a hard, time-consuming labor, which they have to do for hours every week.”
Rosling says of all the many wonderful machines that help us today, the washing machine is probably the biggest game-changer democratically-speaking, if for no other reason than it opens up time for things like reading. Yet when he lectures to environmentally-concerned students, they say that everyone in the world can’t have cars and washing machines.
And so I ask my students, ‘How many of you don’t use a car?’ and some of them proudly raise their hand. And then I put the really tough question: ‘How many of you hand wash your jeans and your bedsheets?’ And no one raises their hand. Even the hardcore in the green movement use washing machines.”
Rosling makes a case for why it’s perfectly okay for the 6 billion who don’t have a washing machine to aspire to one–in fact, it’s inevitable. Billions more are getting electricity too. His students are right to be concerned. That patently comfortable term “global warming” is happening. The real problem is that the world’s 1 billion richest people consume extraordinarily higher amounts per person than anyone else. We’re also the people the most capable of making changes to greener forms of energy.
As a wonderful response to Rosling’s outline, Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler, co-authors of Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think, have put together a well-grounded, optimistic portrait of what they describe as a possible near-term future.
Since the dawn of humanity, a privileged few have lived in stark contrast to the hardscrabble majority. Conventional wisdom says this gap cannot be closed. But it is closing—fast.”
They document how four forces—exponential technologies, the DIY innovator, the Technophilanthropist, and the Rising Billion—are conspiring to solve our biggest problems. Abundance establishes hard targets for change and lays out a strategic roadmap for governments, industry and entrepreneurs, giving us plenty of reason for optimism.
Examining human need by category—water, food, energy, healthcare, education, freedom—Diamandis and Kotler introduce dozens of innovators making great strides in each area, as well as laying out a strong case for how and why we should care and be involved.
Because in the end, we should all feel like Hans Rosling and his mother, “who learned to read because of industrialization.”