When Cornelius Vanderbilt died in 1877, he left an enormous estate estimated to be $100 million (the equivalent of $143 billion in 2007 by some calculations, which would have made him the wealthiest man in the world in 2007).
Yet according to Matt Ridley of The Rational Optimist, the following percentages of people today living below the poverty level in America have these conveniences that Cornelius Vanderbilt never had:
- 99% have electricity, water, toilet and refrigerator
- 95% have a television
- 88% have a mobile phone
- 70% have a car and air conditioning
It’s easy to not be grateful for the modern conveniences and tools that we have available to us and to take them for granted. With technology driving rapid change in the world, authors Steven Kotler and Peter Daimandis in their book “Abundance” layout a vision of a future of even greater prosperity for the world. They depict a world where the “Grand Challenges” as they call them are addressed and there’s food, clean water, adequate medical care, electricity, transportation, and communications available to most of the world’s population. But what’s to prevent an attitude of entitlement, of “arrival” from undermining lives of those who benefit from this new Abundance? Where are the principles, concepts, and tools that will support Sustainable Prosperity? Kotler and Diamandis make no mention of the corresponding mindsets that Abundance will require in order for Abundance to be sustainable.
“The Brower Quadrant” documents the dissipation of wealth by the Vanderbilt heirs and lays out a systematic approach to combat the entitlement mindset. This sort of thought-leadership needs to be part of the “Grand Challenges” dialogue.