Book Review: Future Perfect Present Empowerment: A Road Map for Survival into the 21st Century by William Williams
Due to the near-universal myopia of the genre of books known as “current events” I generally avoid them. I picked up Future Perfect Present Empowerment because it was on the recommended reading list for ThinkReliability’s Cause Mapping courses. Therefore, when I picked up the book I had no idea that it was primarily a book on current events.
Nonetheless, once begun I was dragged into the realm of “Congress has stolen our democracy” and “we the people” need to “take back our government.” We need to “get out and vote” in order to create “reform.” However, having read a few books on current events in my day, this one was actually worth reading despite a few flaws.
Let’s start with the positives, which are actually quite significant.
The first major difference is that the author steps back and places his assessment in a framework that literally goes back to the beginning of time. The second major difference is that the author extends his predictions billions of years into the future. These two differences alone place current problems in a continuum that most current events books, almost by definition alarmist, neglect: our lifetimes are but blinks of an eye in the life of the planet, which is very brief in the life of the universe. The author places current events in historical context.
The third major difference is that the author explicitly outlines his epistemology, or how he determines and uses truth. There are few books in the mainstream presses that do this.
There are a few weaknesses as well. First is the adoption of the Labor Theory of Value [Wikipedia], used to make predictions about the elimination of human labor through robots. Ludwig von Mises was far more useful and accurate in his Subjective Theory of Value [Mises Wiki], but I’ll leave exploration of that concept for another time.
The second weakness is a Disney-like version of history where European settlers committed intentional genocide against innocent natives living in harmony with nature and each other [as in Pocahontas], the Civil War was fought over slavery, and World Wars 1 and 2 were fought against tyranny to “make the world safe for democracy.” Again, I must leave elaboration on the reason these mental models are inaccurate to another time and place.
The third weakness is in the “turning points” identified in the road to American decadence and decline. A far more detailed study of western decadence has been proffered by Jacques Barzun in From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life. If a mental model can be considered “a useful simplification of reality” then the Williams explanation of decadence is oversimplified. The War Powers Act and the elimination of the line-item veto are blips on a long, long timeline. Reversing these two acts of Congress are considered by the author to be cornerstones of “restoring democracy.”
The astute reader will have rightly concluded from the previous that the book is rather weighty and ponderous. None other than the author himself acknowledges this fact several times. He reminds himself that the reader is most likely to be someone less mentally capable than himself, so he invites you to peruse potentially problematic [to you] portions of his compendium several times.
Nonetheless, I will be leaving out many of the details of the author’s Plan for Restoring Democracy and Plan for Establishing Utopia because there is much cream to skim.
Key concepts are either recurring themes or strong individual points made with a fairly general application. Books with a more theoretical bent will have more “key concepts.”
- Techniques for reliable establishment of truth [see also: Wikipedia on epistemology] are provided as a mental armory for understanding the laws of the universe:
- The Truth-Meter, a epistemological device to “detect” truth. On the low end of the Truth-Meter is opinion. On the high end is prediction and confirmation. In the middle, and that standard accepted by the author, is preponderance of evidence.
- Cause and Effect, based on the premise that there are no random events. The present is determined by the past and determines the future. Therefore, in order to shape the future, decisions must be made in the present.
- Occam’s Razor: when an event’s cause is not known, the explanation requiring the fewest assumptions is tentatively accepted. For a more comprehensive description, see the Wikipedia page.
- The Black Box Technique, presented as “the most powerful weapon in the [mental] arsenal,” is used to determine what is occurring when we have no direct knowledge. By putting a “black box” around the event and confining the discussion to the details of the inputs and outputs, and then subjecting explanations to Occam’s Razor and testing against the predictions, an operating knowledge of the boxed system can be reliably developed. The technique is split into seven steps:
- Determine the accurate past and present.
- Predict the real future using established cause-and-effect relationships.
- Predict the (realistically) idealized future using Einsteinian Thought Experiments (see below).
- Determine the causes of the idealized future by using cause-and-effect relationships to determine what needs to be done now to “cause” the predicted “effects.”
- Determine the difference between the causes and effects leading to the “real future” [the one dictated by inertia] and the “idealized future.”
- Compile a plan to substitute the desired causes for the default causes.
- Sacrifice present comfort to ensure that the future state is shaped to our liking.
- Complexity as Ally—the more complex a system is, the more “gates” we have to learn about it.
- Einsteinian Thought Experiments are a tool for extending our information when only a few things are known about a system. Combined with the Black Box, these two tools are mentioned most frequently in the book and are the most fundamental. For more information, see the Wikipedia page.
- A modified Newtonian “first law of motion” says that things continue as they are until they reach either growth limits or external forces that change their course.
- Anomalous Data, or unexpected information that does not fit with the rest (like a 50,000 year-old skeleton with a wrist watch on it), is key to developing new insights.
- Subtraction: when knowledge of one period disappears, knowing about what came before and what happened after allows you to “subtract the difference” and make inferences.
- “Survival of the fittest,” as coined by Charles Darwin, is better phrased as “survival of the efficient.” Small advantages can be exploited to yield large advantages over rivals.
- Four critical abilities fully describe the dominance of human beings over all other species on the plant and also predict which of the human societies will dominate over the others. Societies that are able to do these things the most efficiently will have the greatest advantage over competitors.
- To accurately think in the future
- To plan for the future
- The appropriate social structure necessary to implement the plan
- To have the necessary sense of sacrifice in the members of the society to carry out the plan
Useful features are like pages, diagrams, or tables that one might bookmark or dog-ear for quick reference. Books oriented toward application will generally have more “useful features.”
- Truth-Meter (p. 8)
- Mega-Knowledge Model of fundamental knowledge as a sequential whole and contains every cause-and-effect relationship ever to have existed (p. 362)
From the dust jacket:
Can we live healthier, longer and happier lives?
Can we preserve our endangered environment and conserve our limited resources?
In short, is Utopia possible?
William B. Williams, the author of Future Perfect maintains that it is not only feasible but that it is achievable in our lifetime. The basis for this stunning statement is a unique system of logic outlined in Future Perfect, a system that enabled him to retire a self-made millionaire at the age of thirty-nine. Williams now shows us how to apply this powerful system to solve the myriad of social, economic, and political problems we now face in America and in the worldwide community.
In a remarkable synthesis incorporating an astonishing range of historic and scientific data, from the beginning of time to the present, he analyzes the cause and effect relationships of watershed events that have resulted in the world we now live in. He then charts a road map to the future, giving us a preview of what lies ahead if we continue our present course. And finally, he compares this reality with the attainable ideal that is possible if we begin now to implement long term plans to solve the seemingly insurmountable problems we currently face.
Future Perfect is more than an illumination of tomorrow. It explains how we got to where we are today, what lies ahead, and what we can do to improve the quality of our lives and our world. It will challenge our deepest assumptions but the irrefutable logic of Williams’ system verifies how solutions to problems are within our power to effect if we use our ability to think about the future and have the courage to act. Future Perfect can, if we heed its teachings, enable us to regain personal and societal control of our lives and, as informed citizens, regain economic and political control of our country. As Williams so clearly demonstrates, we must act now if we are to survive into the 21st century and beyond.
Table of Contents
Introduction: The Gauntlet Tossed Down
Chapter 1: The Black Box Technique
Step No. 1: Determine the Accurate Past and Present
Chapter 2: Take No Prisoners
Chapter 3: …in Some Warm Pond
Chapter 4: Bye, Bye Bronty; Hello, Bonzo
Chapter 5: From Caves to Cowsheds
Chapter 6: The Rise and Fall of Human Societies
Chapter 7: Democracy Triumphant
Chapter 8: How Not to Run a Business
Chapter 9: The Theft
Chapter 10: The Results of the Theft
Step No. 2: Predict the Real Future
Chapter 11: The Present to 2020
Step No. 3: Predict the Idealized Future
Chapter 12: The Present to the End of Time
Step No. 4: The Causes, Step No. 5: The Difference, Step No. 6: The Plan, Step No. 7: The Sacrifice
Chapter 13: The Only Possible Solution
Chapter 14: Conclusions
Key Terms from the Index
Africa, automatons, big bang, Bill of Rights, Black Box Technique, Britain and the British, Campaign Reform Act of 1974, China and the Chinese, congress, constitution, decadence meter, democratic party, DNA, Egypt and the Egyptians, Einsteinian thought experiments, Europe and the Europeans, four critical abilities, Germany and the Germans, Greece and the Greeks, homo sapiens, house of representatives, Japan and the Japanese, Jefferson (Thomas), law of survival of the efficient, Madison (James), neanderthal man, religion, republican party, Rome and the Romans, Russia and the Russians, senate (U. S.), Soviet Union, Survival of the Efficient (Law of), United States, World War II