SXSW 2013

Futurist Byron Reese speaks at SXSW on how technology will solve the world's problems

Byron Reese: How technology will solve the world's problems

austin photo: news_bryon reese

An unimaginably bright future awaits humanity — one without disease, hunger, poverty, ignorance or war.

Sound like a dream? Not so. According to Byron Reese, futurist and chief innovation officer at Demand Media, technology will forever eradicate the world's most vexing problems, most of which are themselves inherently technological problems.

This certainty of radical human advance is not a baseless wish or hope, but is based on trends and technologies we can see already, Reese says in his new book, Infinite Progress: How Technology and the Internet Will End Ignorance, Disease, Hunger, Poverty, and War (Greenleaf Book Group, March 2013, $25.95).

At SXSW Interactive, Reese will present "Perfection: Algorithms to Optimize the Human Existence" at 5:30 p.m. March 11 at the Hilton Austin Downtown. His book signing is taking place at 6 p.m. at the Austin Convention Center.

"Looking back across history, I see how human ingenuity and new technologies have eliminated previously insoluble problems," says Reese. "With technology accelerating at ever-faster speeds, we should expect all the problems that technology can solve to be solved: hunger, disease, ignorance, and so on."

In Infinite Progress, Reese synthesizes history, technological advancement and vision to tell the story of how technology has driven massive societal change. He cites examples as varied as the invention of the printing press leading directly to the Protestant Reformation, and how the invention of air conditioning weakened ties between neighbors as more people spent hot evenings indoors.

He then looks ahead at the dramatic technological advances we know are coming — advances relating to genetics, robotics, healthcare, nanotechnology, GMOs, and more — and explores how these changes will create vast wealth, end disease, alter government policy, redefine human rights, and forever change the social structure of the world. Infinite Progress presents our future and human potential with a carefully reasoned understanding of the transformative effects of technological change in history.

He asserts, among other things, that:

  • Food will be free in the future
  • All jobs that can be done, in theory, by machines are literally dehumanizing and will not exist in the future
  • A guaranteed minimum income for everyone will be a feature of the future, and no one will have to work for "a living"
  • The end of the farmer: why and how technology will replace him (and why that's good news)
  • English will be the only language in the future
  • Energy will be free

Reese, whom Bloomberg Businessweek credits as having "quietly pioneered a new brand of media company," compares the Italian Renaissance to the Internet Renaissance, asking, "aren't we seeing an explosion of these same things at a spectacularly more massive scale?" 

He goes on to tell of a day where there is no poverty and everyone can reach their maximum potential, where “every Curie can discover her radium and every Da Vinci paint his Mona Lisa.” With rational and researched optimism, Reese sees the world destined for progress beyond our imagination.

See Reese at SXSW on Monday, March 11.