Your biweekly dose of all things exponential
Issue 12

China being the next AI superpower? Supersonic travel disrupting air travel? Robotic tree climbers? Virtual concerts breaking records? The end of diabetes as we know it? We are living in the most extraordinary times ever and this issue gives a teaser as always on what you can expect over the next few years.

Folks, we’re just over a month away from the inaugural Abundance 360 Summit in Dubai. An amazing line-up of speakers and faculty from Singularity University are slated to dazzle the C-level audience with their provocative insights - head over to if you are keen on applying.

Exponentially Yours,
Aman Merchant
P.S. You can contribute by sending us tips, and by encouraging your colleagues to subscribe.

Peter’s Perspectives

In 2018, China’s government put out its plan to lead the world in AI by 2030.

As Eric Schmidt has explained, “it’s pretty simple. By 2020, they will have caught up. By 2025, they will be better than us. By 2030, they will dominate the industries of AI.”

And the figures don’t lie. With a $14 trillion GDP, China is predicted to account for over 35 percent of global economic growth from 2017 to 2019 — nearly double the U.S. GDP’s predicted 18 percent. And AI is responsible for a big chunk of that. In 2017, China accounted for 48 percent of the world’s total AI startup funding, compared to America’s 38 percent.

As discussed by Kai-Fu Lee in his soon-to-be-released book AI Superpowers, four main drivers are tipping the balance in China’s favor:
1) Abundant data
2) Hungry entrepreneurs empowered by new tools
3) Growing AI expertise
4) Mass government funding and support

Peter “Live”!

Every week, Peter video-captures for his community the most exciting new developments he comes across in his many interactions with different stakeholders from across the world. This week’s video is about the potential disruption of commercial aviation…

Supersonic Travel?

Supersonic jets may soon disrupt the transportation industry, with start-ups like "Boom" shooting to have commercial aircraft for 500+ cities by 2035. These jets could cut international travel time in half.

However, it's important to think of the pros and cons of this technology so that concerns can be addressed by companies early on in the adoption cycle. A recent study says that if supersonic jets become commercialized, we may subject city populations to loud, disruptive sonic booms every five minutes.

Would you ride in a supersonic jet? Would you tolerate a few sonic booms every now and then if it means halving international travel time?

Amazing Possibilities

What it is: A team of researchers just developed a new capsule device that may one day allow patients to orally ingest any number of drugs, notably including injected insulin. Inspired by the self-righting shape of the leopard tortoise, these smart pills — “self-orienting millimeter-scale applicators” (or SOMA) — can continuously attach to the gastric wall regardless of how they land. Containing tiny, spring-loaded needles, the SOMA then autonomously inject periodic payloads of medication into the top layers of a patient’s stomach tissue. In a preclinical trial evaluation involving insulin delivery, SOMA was even shown to provide equivalent drug exposure when compared to insulin injections under the skin

Why it’s important: Particularly in the case of diabetes, SOMA and similar needle-containing smart pills could transform drug delivery, eliminating the laborious daily injections required of over 415 million diabetic patients worldwide. As explained by MIT’s Robert Langer, “We are really hopeful that this new type of capsule could someday help diabetic patients and perhaps anyone who requires therapies that can now only be given by injection or infusion.” While still in the early proof-of-concept stages, such smart pills could give rise to everything from vaccines-in-a-pill to oral replacements for intravenous drips. Such a paradigm shift could prove monumental, enabling demonetized immunizations for _all_ children, low-cost emergency treatments and automated self-care on unprecedented scales

What it is: In an excellent example of biomimicry, italian researchers replicated the unique hydraulic actuation system that climbing plants like vines use to grow and climb. Essentially, plants deploy different concentrations of the molecule cytosol to cause water to flow to a desired location in the plant’s structure (osmosis). As the water flows, the plant’s structure changes shape. The researchers replicated this phenomenon in their lab-made “tendrils" by using plastic tubing, a 1.3V battery, and a solution of small ions. Applying a voltage caused the ions in the solution to behave like cytosol and enabled the plants to curl and grow. While roboticists have implemented osmotic actuation before, this development marks the first time that the soft robot can reset after its curl and climb.

Why it's important: The rapidly approaching trillion-sensor economy will transform our understanding of our bodies and the world around us. Similarly, the trillion actuator economy enabled by soft robotics will give unprecedented control of our environment. Imagine the ability to instantly change not only the layout of your apartment, but the millimeter-scale details of your couch design, kitchen table, or standing desk. What new possibilities emerge when technology can interact with the physical world?

What it is: Fortnite Dance Fortnite, the world’s most popular massively multiplayer online game (MMOG), recently launched a shared experience centered on a 10-minute mini-set from electronic artist DJ Marshmello. Leveraging lessons from past gamewide events like its rocket launch, Epic Games teased the show with virtual posters, and even displayed visuals of the stage construction. An estimated 10 million concurrent users viewed the concert, with players emoting and dancing throughout. Epic monetized the event with in-game purchases of special skins and other virtual items.

Why it's important: This digital concert is a massive validation of what’s possible in the metaverse even without VR. Millions of users from around the globe participated in an entirely virtual live experience. What opportunities do you see to bring your community together in similar ways?

What it is: In a new feat for type 1 (T1) diabetes research, scientists at UC San Francisco have generated fully mature insulin-producing cells in the lab from human stem cells. Given T1 diabetes’ destruction of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas, researchers have long attempted (in vain) to produce lab-grown versions of these cells. However, only now has a critical facet of beta cell maturation been discovered: a process by which cells separate from the pancreas to form islets. By replicating this process artificially, UCSF’s team found that the cells’ development suddenly accelerated. Most importantly, however, once transplanted into healthy mice, these lab-grown “islets” yielded fully functional cells that produced insulin in response to blood sugar.

Why it's important: Up until now, T1 diabetic patients have been limited to treating symptoms through frequent insulin injections or otherwise face the risk of invasive pancreas transplants. Even in the latter case, however, only about 1,000 out of 1.5 million patients in the U.S. are able to get such transplants in a given year, many of which are unsuccessful. Generating, let alone transplanting, fully mature lab-grown beta cells has long been an elusive dream in regenerative medicine, one that could finally offer a cure to this autoimmune disorder. Now capable of bringing these cells to maturation, UCSF’s scientists are charging forward with new research to ensure safe transplantation into diabetic patients, thereby ensuring healthy insulin production for life.

Experience A360

With less than 5 weeks to go before the inaugural Abundance 360 Summit in Dubai, we bring you an exclusive radio interview done by Peter in his recent visit to Dubai during the World Government Summit.

Want more conversations like this?

At Abundance 360 Dubai, Peter's 360-person executive mastermind, we teach the metatrends, implications and unfair advantages enabled by breakthroughs like those featured above. We're looking for business and government leaders who want to change the world. The program is highly selective. If you'd like to be considered, apply here.

to go before the Abundance 360 Dubai Summit on March 26-27, 2019

Read past issues of the Exponential Times: Issue 10 | Issue 9 | Issue 8