The gee-whiz factor may have dimmed with respect to digital voice assistants, drones and even, among the jaded, flying cars. But in the next decade, stunning high-tech developments will revolutionize every major industry on the planet. So says futurist Peter Diamandis, founder of more than 20 leading-edge tech companies, in an interview with ThinkAdvisor.
Prominent among rapidly accelerating converging technologies are those that will extend the human life span, not merely by years but by quality years.
Indeed, to help people plan financially for feeling as vital at 100 years old as they did at 50 or 60, the advisory industry will require a transformation, argues Diamandis, who forecasts the longevity revolution to create a multitrillion-dollar marketplace.
Named by Fortune one of The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders, the bestselling author of “Abundance” and “BOLD” has just released a new book, “The Future is Faster Than You Think: How Converging Technologies Are Transforming Business, Industries and Our Lives,” written with Steven Kotler (Simon & Schuster-Jan. 28).
“For … anyone sufficiently nimble and adventurous, the opportunities will be incredible,” writes Diamandis, a super-successful entrepreneur, who has a medical degree from Harvard.
He has certainly been nimble and adventurous, having recognized big present-day tech opportunities as early as three decades ago.
Companies that Diamandis, 58, has founded or co-founded include Human Longevity Inc., genomics and cell therapy-based and focused on extending the healthy lifespan; Space Adventures, the leading space-tourism company, which has flown eight private missions since 2001; and BOLD Capital Partners, a venture capital firm with funds that invest in early-stage and growth tech companies.
In the interview, he answers questions that include: When is the best time to invest in an exponential technology? How will the health insurance and life insurance industries change in the near future? How will new business models in digital currencies impact banking and investing? What lies ahead for FAs in the next decade now that high-tech advisory has elbowed into their turf?
ThinkAdvisor recently held a phone interview with Diamandis, a Bronx, New York-born, Long Island-bred physician’s son who earned molecular genetics and aerospace engineering degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an M.D. from Harvard.
Here are excerpts from our forward-focused conversation:
THINKADVISOR: Financial advisors worried that robo-advisors would eliminate them. They’re less fearful today. How concerned should they be?
PETER DIAMANDIS: The next decade is not about displacing or replacing. It’s about human partnering with technology. The physician is going to work with artificial intelligence to do diagnoses. The lawyer will use AI to do contract evaluations. And [similar] changes will occur with financial advisors. People will do what humans do best in terms of relationships, and technology will automate what’s routine.
You’re extremely enthusiastic about the longevity revolution. Just what does it entail, and what’s it worth to business?
It’s about looking good, feeling good, walking well — being as vital at 100 years old as you were at 50 or 60. If there are technologies and therapies available that can add 10 or 20 years to your life, that’s a multitrillion-dollar marketplace. And as we add 10 years to our healthy life span in this next decade, we’ll also continue to move forward even further. We’ll have new breakthroughs that are likely to add an additional 10 years in the following decade.
How big are the investments in companies working on longevity-related therapies?
Billions of dollars. And given all the breakthroughs in sequencing [the human genome], machine learning, CRISPR technology [Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. CRISPR changes DNA and is “the leading weapon in the fight against genetic diseases,” Diamandis writes] and massive data processing, we’re now beginning to understand why we age.
What implications does the longevity revolution have on retirement?
[Technology] is pushing out aging. There are scientists now who consider aging to be a disease, and therefore our focus should not only be on how to slow or stop it, but can we reverse it? People need to understand that science is going to give us a longer, healthier life. So have you saved enough money for that?
You write that workers have a tough time saving for retirement because part of the brain shuts down when they try to envision themselves in the future. What can be done to defeat this?
Ultimately, that’s going to be the job of financial advisors, and health insurance and life insurance companies — that is, they’ll provide that service. The financial advisory world will need a transformation to help people plan properly for what’s happening.
There are six growth cycles of exponential technologies: digitalization, deception, disruption, demonetization, dematerialization and democratization, you say. At what stage is it best to invest in such a technology?
There’s no best time. The best time to invest is [when you] invest in an application of a [specific] technology. For example, 3D printing is a 30-year-old technology, but I wouldn’t have invested in it so early on [i.e., before printer prices fell, performance rose, convergences with other technologies took place and certain applications occurred].
What are some of the most important biotechnologies in clinical trials today?
They include stem cell replenishment and senolytic [drugs], which kill the “zombie” cells [aging, deteriorating cells] that accumulate in our bodies and cause inflammatory response.
What are your thoughts about controversial so-called “designer babies”?
Let’s jump into that. We’re at a point where our ethics and morals are going to change. If my great-great-great-great-grandfather in Greece was dying of a viral infection of the heart and if, way back then, I took the heart out of some other guy that was killed by a bull and transplanted it into my grandfather, I would have been burned at the stake. Now [a heart transplant is] considered to be a miracle. In vitro fertilization was criticized — now it’s a miracle.
How do you view using CRISPR to cure a child that has a genetic disease?
If your child has a genetic ailment or disease that’s fatal, at some point in the near future it will be a moral obligation to fix it. Why would you not?
Many might disagree with that mindset.
There’s going to be an argument in the not-too-distant future about why should you not give your children the best genetic information you can. [To date] these conversations have been, perhaps, inappropriate and morally challenging. But they’re going to become more and more prevalent. People will have these debates because things that used to be considered immoral and evil are now called miracles. Society’s morals and ethics change. [Further,] the technologies are becoming cheaper, more available and more accurate.
What’s an example?
A new CRISPR technology out of MIT called Prime Editing that has the potential to cure about 89% of all genetic diseases. So there’s a lot of change coming.
You write that CRISPR is “cheap, fast and easy to use.” The first gene-edited human babies have been created in China. When will generating children that way become ethically acceptable?
I don’t know. It used to be that egg donors or in vitro fertilization were considered immoral, but now there are millions of families that have babies who couldn’t before. And we have the ability to use stem cells to replenish an older woman’s ovaries so she can have a child later.
What other significant financially related tech is emerging or developing?
Digital currencies. Obviously, cash is going away to a large degree. There are new players coming in, like Good Money, which basically allows people to determine whether they’re saving in a bank or [using a digital banking platform]. It gives them much higher interest rates; and because they also get [“green”] equity shares [in Good Money], they can say, “I don’t want investments in tobacco and guns. I only want investments in renewable energy.”
What else big is happening along fintech lines?
We’re seeing companies like Apple — with Apple Pay — and Uber getting into the financial game with their credit cards. So, as money becomes more digital and increasingly global, we’ll see new business models coming out. It’s going to be a challenge as these players enter the financial markets and regulations begin to change.
What shifts do you foresee in life insurance and health insurance?
Today, life insurance is a perverse term: It’s not life insurance; it’s death insurance because it pays your relatives after you die. And health insurance isn’t about keeping your heath; it’s about paying when you’re sick. [In the near future], you’ll pay for a health insurance policy that’s intended to keep you healthy.
You have a medical degree but started out as a “space entrepreneur.” Please explain how you became so interested in what “Star Trek” dubbed “the final frontier.”
I was born in 1961. Both my parents were immigrants from Greece. My father was an OB-GYN; my mother ran his office. They wanted me to become a doctor. I ended up going to medical school, but my passion was space.
Did you ever practice medicine?
No. In my fourth year of medical school, I was running two companies. So I got my diploma, shipped it to my parents and went and focused on the space business.
What sparked your interest in space in the first place?
The Apollo program [first moonwalk, 1969] showed me what was possible. “Star Trek” gave me the vision for the future.
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