Creative Chaos Futurist Peter Diamandis challenged builders to entertain new ideas that would disrupt their businesses.
Creative Chaos Futurist Peter Diamandis challenged builders to entertain new ideas that would disrupt their businesses.

Is Peter Diamandis a visionary or an escapee from The Big Bang Theory? Even the fictional physicists portrayed on the popular TV show probably wouldn’t venture into the realm of unexpected and seemingly impossible ideas inhabited by Diamandis, a medical doctor, engineer, author, and self-described “astro-preneur,” who might be best known for his enthusiastic promotion of personal spaceflight. He has cofounded many companies, including Planetary Resources, whose goal is to mine asteroids. It sounds like science fiction, but you can’t dismiss Diamandis as a dreamer when past and present investors include the founders of Google and Microsoft.

A few years ago, Diamandis and futurist and inventor Ray Kurzweil started a nonprofit institution called Singularity University to spawn leaders who could address “humanity’s grand challenges” through “the development of exponentially advancing technologies.” Another Diamandis creation, the X Prize Foundation, operates on the premise that financial incentives are the mother of invention, and the bigger the reward the greater the competitive fervor among individuals and groups of inventors to solve problems that in the recent past were tackled solely by governments and corporations.

In May, Diamandis shared his vision with builders, suppliers, and other industry executives attending Builder’s annual Housing Leadership Summit in New York. His unshakeable belief that there’s a technological answer to all of life’s challenges led him to some provocative predictions about where housing could be headed.

For example, Diamandis foresees robotics playing a significant role in new-home construction within the next decade. “Robots will be doing all of your building for you for the cost of electricity,” he averred.

Far from being out of the realm of possibility, the robotics idea has been kicking around for a while: In 2009, CBS News reported on Behrokh Khoshnevis, a scientist at the University of Southern California who for a decade had been working on Contour Crafting, a process by which a concrete mixture–depositing, one-armed robot layers rows atop each other until a structure forms.

And MIT recently developed CNSILK (for “Computer Numerically Controlled Silk Cocoon Construction”), a robot/silkworm that supposedly can sense its structural environment and build around it with silk fibers for the construction of woven habitats.

Diamandis’ larger point is that most major innovations were once considered little more than crazy ideas, so builders must be open-minded enough to allow their ideas to breathe, or risk being suffocated by progress. “It’s up to you to figure out how to disrupt your business before someone does it for you,” he says.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: New York, NY.