Living in an Age of Abundance

We are living in age of miracles was a takeaway from the presentation by Ramez Naam, Chair for Energy and Environment of Singularity University at VERGE’s GreenBiz conference. As background, Singularity University isn’t your typical educational institution, starting with its purpose, which is, “We’re building an abundant future together.” With the rise of automation and artificial intelligence, everything will change as co-founder, Ray Kurzweil writes, “….we won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century—it will be more like 20,000 years of progress.”

The reduction in the cost of solar energy production is an example of an enabler of a world of abundance. In the above interview, Naam expresses amazement at the rapid drop in the costs of solar and how new records are regularly being broken and that, in the sunniest places on earth, the cost of production is half the cost of natural gas or coal-powered plants.

Since the above interview, the price of solar set another record low of 2.42 cents per kWh (unsubsidized) for a project in the United Arab Emirates, which is a reduction of greater than 50% in 2 years. Granted, this is a sunny part of the world, but advances in energy storage may someday allow the export of these converted photons (stay tuned for a future article on a technology that might enable new ways to transport electricity).

Naam points out that renewable energy sources are changing the grid’s architecture from centralized to distributed and potentially more resilient. He points out the synergy between the changing electric grid and the evolution of mobility from internal combustion to electric. He sees significant uptake in electric cars with the steady improvement in storage, their superior performance and the simplicity of their design.

The common denominator with these developments is software, which is enabling this era of miracles and has the potential to change the study economics from looking at a world scarcity to that of a world of abundance.