A Brief History of a Perfect Future

A Brief History
of a Perfect Future


This book began in the back of an Uber four years ago. Chunka and Paul were heading to the airport following a long day working with a group of business leaders on future strategies. The group had high ambitions based on many of the technology advances we’ve described in this book but were hobbled by a wide set of challenges and didn’t see a way forward. Unlike those business leaders, however, Paul and Chunka weren’t resigned to that vision of the future and wondered if there wasn’t some way to provide one that was far more hopeful yet still plausible. Chunka was regularly using Future Perfect exercises in his advisory work with senior managements, and Paul had begun using a Laws of Zero concept in some of his presentations. By the time they got to the airport, they agreed to merge their nascent ideas and attempt to write this book. 

But an awful lot of other things had to happen first, well beyond the voluminous research and workshopping of ideas that go into a book like this. In particular, the pace picked up when their old colleague Tim Andrews joined the project. Tim sharpened and broadened the thinking in a host of ways, in particular related to systems thinking, to AI, and to a number of the implications, including for the future histories of health care, trust, and government services. The effort soon became a bit of a family affair, too. Beyond the encouragement (and forbearance) we’ve always received (and appreciated) from our spouses, our kids really leaned in to the effort. Tim’s two sons, Paul’s two daughters, and Chunka’s son and daughter stretched our thinking in any number of ways, in particular related to the climate issues our generation is leaving them and related to social justice. 

We thank them for their thoughts and encouragement, even when that meant a kick in the pants. Especially when that meant a kick in the pants. We realize there’s no room for complacency if we’re to get where we need to be by 2050. We love you guys. 

The finished product really began to take shape once Booz Allen came on board, so we offer special thanks to Kristine Martin Anderson, who sponsored the project on behalf of the firm. Kristine, who leads the Civilian Services business at Booz Allen, thought the book resonated with the firm’s values and history of innovating at scale and connected us with a vast array of experts at the firm. She also read the book numerous times herself—even setting aside time at the beach—and suggested any number of improvements. 

Among those Kristine pulled into the fray, Dave Sulek provided steady guidance and numerous examples, especially on government services. Katie Hermosilla helped us sketch out the first draft of the chapter on the topic—she began a vignette set in 2050 with a made-up character named Connie Citizen, and we considered changing the name to Katie Citizen in her honor. 

Rich Goffi provided crucial help on energy, electricity, and climate change—he sharpened our thinking on where the cost curves could go from here for solar, wind, and batteries and offered considerable nuance about the many implications of moving to carbon-free energy sources. Mike Miller, Joel Fetter, and Ben Getto added important thoughts on energy and electricity, as well, including on ARPA-E, which we think is such a good example of how government can drive needed innovation, in cooperation with the private sector. 

Christina Marsh, Elise Roberts, and Jim Rojeski were part of the “book club” Kristine suggested to provide continual feedback to us as the project progressed (and, as it turned out, some much-appreciated encouragement from time to time)—Christina kept us honest in many ways, including on the challenges that driverless cars will face among her fellow Bostonians, and Jim was a sort of philosopher king, acquainting us with principles from an astonishingly broad amount of reading and thinking. The three were especially helpful on health care, as were Jocelyn Lewis and Kim Dalferes. Ravi Nagarajan, Jesse Goraya, Jeff Tunkel, and Steve Buchanan were core readers, too. 

Kelly Rozumalski and some of her team made extensive comments that shaped the section on trust and privacy, and long conversations with Adam Weiner and Patrick Gorman also helped greatly. Frank DiGiammarino provided guidance on government services and on what government’s role should be, and Stephen Labaton helped us shape the Intro and Laws of Zero section early on. Kevin Vigilante and Bill Phelps made valuable comments, too. 

That brings us to Pam Rich and Guy Snodgrass. Pam coordinated many of the activities at Booz Allen, on behalf of Kristine, and somehow maintained her good humor even as many of us tensed up as deadlines came (and sometimes went). Guy, demonstrating his skills as a former Top Gun instructor and squadron commander, herded the proverbial cats as he helped generate feedback from Booz Allen’s subject matter experts and, as a published author of two books of his own, proved to be an extremely careful and helpful reader of the manuscript. Thanks, as well, to Becky Rogerson for her usual organizational skills and attention to a million details. 

We also want to thank a wider circle of mentors, colleagues, and friends who have shaped our general thinking and sharpened the ideas and details in this book. They didn’t have time to spare, but they spared it anyway. They read the manuscript. They offered stories. They made this book better. So we’d like to heartily thank: Vince Barabba, Seth Bergstein, Kathy Blake, Dan Bricklin, Larry Cohen, Michael Golden, Paul Growald, Adam Gutstein, Mira Irons, Chris Khoury, Karen Kmetik, Tom Kunetz, Andy Lippman, Jim Madara, Cheryl Martin, Toby Redshaw, Mark Richards, Karl Ronn, Ken Sharigian, Nancy Sulek, John Sviokla, Larry Weithers, and Steve Zwick

Special thanks to Shannon Carroll and Mark Maltais. Shannon did an amazingly thorough copy-edit of the book, eliminating repetition and streamlining the logic, while always smoothing and polishing. Mark, the design genius we had the pleasure of working with in our days at Diamond, volunteered his time to walk us through numerous issues, and the book is the better for it. 

Thanks, too, to Alan Barnett for indulging all our thoughts and changes on the cover and for doing such a lovely, careful job both on the cover and on the interior design and layout. Also to Brian Carroll and to Shannon Carroll again for giving the book such a hard proofreading scrub. The Carrolls have an allergic reaction to mistakes in grammar and just about anything else, and we’re confident that those two bright 20-somethings found whatever were left in the manuscript. On the odd chance that one or two snuck through, blame us authors; we clearly changed something after their eyes made their final inspection. 

Final thanks to two extraordinary people: Alan Kay and the late Mel Bergstein

Alan won’t surprise you, as his name is sprinkled liberally through the book. But we still want to thank him for having inspired us for so long and for always challenging us. We drew on another of Alan’s famous lines, that the right context is worth 80 IQ points, when we named Diamond’s thought-leadership magazine Context back in the mid-1990s, and, in many ways, that’s been our guiding light for our careers: We’ve tried to find the right context for understanding and solving business issues, especially related to innovation. This book is really an exercise in trying to find the right context for planning for the future. 

As for Mel: Beyond founding Diamond on the then-radical, now-obvious notion of digital strategy nearly 30 years ago, Mel was especially meaningful to Chunka and Paul, who had the privilege of knowing him both before and after Diamond and considered him a friend. When Mel was a mucketymuck at Arthur Andersen & Company, now Accenture, and Chunka was a newbie hire, Mel decided Chunka’s little AI project was cool and introduced it to Alan Kay, beginning the decades-long connection between them. When Paul covered technology at The Wall Street Journal, Mel was one of his favorite quotes and consistently provided keen insights—leading Paul to a very early piece on what became the massive IT outsourcing trend and even to a prediction of cloud computing … in 1989. Mel would have been all over this book, and, even though cancer took him far too early, we tried to keep his memory as a little voice in the back of our minds as we wrote this, hearing him tell us to be broader, to be deeper, to be more inspiring, to use more examples, to cut the crap and get to the point—all with a big, warm hand clasping our shoulder as he made us feel much smarter than we are. We hope we did you proud, Mel. Mazel tov!

Start Reading Now

Get 3 Free Chapters

Start Reading Now

Buy the Book

Inquire Now

Buy the Book in Bulk

Sign up to be on the official Perfect Future team. We will send you a free 3 chapter preview. We’ll also keep you up to date about our efforts and how you can help invent the future.