25 Jan The many reasons to be excited about America’s future
Every 30 or 40 years, Americans become incredibly pessimistic. They begin to believe the nation is falling behind in competitiveness and innovation, that their children will not be as well off as they themselves have been, and that some other country will own the future. They fear that the United States will go the way of the British Empire in the 20th century.
This may be the country’s greatest advantage, because it causes it to maintain a level of humility and to constantly reinvent itself. But the fears are completely unfounded.
The United States is in fact in the middle of a dramatic revival and rejuvenation, propelled by an amazing wave of technological innovations. These breakthroughs are delivering the enormous productivity gains and dramatic cost savings needed to sustain economic growth and prosperity. And they are enabling entrepreneurs to solve the grand challenges of humanity, the problems that have always bedeviled the human race: disease, hunger, clean water, energy, education, and security.
Through advances in computing whose rate of acceleration Moore’s Law describes, faster computers are being used to design faster computers. And these faster computers, in turn, are making it possible to design new forms of energy, smaller and more powerful sensors, artificial-intelligence software that can interpret the massive amounts of information that we are gathering, and robots that can do the mundane work of humans. It is even becoming possible to redesign human cells and other organisms. Almost all fields of science are becoming digitized, enabling them to start advancing at exponential rates.
The really good news is that the world will share in the prosperity that this American reinvention is creating.
There are 1.2 billion people with no connection to a power grid, for example, and another 2.5 billion who can get power only intermittently and so use fuels such as kerosene for lamps. Kerosene is a dirty fuel that, according to The Economist, costs as much as $10 per kilowatt–hour— which is about 50 times more than Americans pay for their energy. Worse, kerosene fires are epidemic in Africa, and their toxic fumes cause respiratory ailments that kill hundreds of thousands per year. This is all about to change: within a decade and a half, we will have the ability to harness the power of the sun and wind to provide 100 percent of the planet’s energy needs. The cost of clean energy will fall to the point that it seems free. We will be able to light up every corner of the globe and allow children in Africa to be able to study when they get home, to equip all homes with heating and air conditioning, and to produce unlimited food and clean water.