Humanism means constant striving to improve people's lives -- better health, better nutrition, better education, better housing, better prosperity, better longevity, better safety, better human rights, better child raising, better enjoyment of living, etc. Virtually everyone on Planet Earth (except perhaps murderous terrorists) embraces humanism.
In many ways, humanism is triumphing. Warfare has almost vanished in modern democracies. The average lifespan has nearly doubled in the past century. The standard of living keeps climbing.
Now a new book -- Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think by engineer-doctor Peter Diamandis -- raises hope that humanistic benefits will skyrocket in coming decades.
He thinks do-it-yourself "maverick innovators" will make more high-tech breakthroughs that boost living conditions. For example, engineering genius Dean Kamen built a device that purifies water with minuscule amounts of energy, which may curtail African diseases -- and cyber billionaire/electric car manufacturer Elon Musk of SpaceX has opened the realm of commercial space travel.
The book says new "techno-philanthropists," such as Bill Gates of Microsoft, are using their wealth for many humanitarian causes to reduce suffering. Diamandis hopes they will offer big cash prizes to adventurous risk-takers who pioneer human improvements. In fact, Diamandis is doing so himself through his X Prize Foundation, which funds various projects.
The book points out that technological advances snowball, building upon each other. Some current hopeful efforts:
* The lab-on-a-chip is a small device that performs many medical diagnoses from a drop of blood or saliva. Used by patients themselves, it may streamline medicine and cut costs.
* A British tech firm has joined India's government in producing a tablet computer that costs only $35, opening the Cyber Age to poor families.
* Chris Anderson of Wired magazine has developed a civilian drone aircraft that costs only $300.
* The Kahn Academy provides 2,200 free online video lessons on topics from molecular biology to U.S. history. The site receives 2 million visits per month.
Amid all the dismal, depressing, daily news, it's refreshing to know there's a brighter side offering hope for better times ahead.