This is a book review with a difference, as I am going to use it to illustrate the importance of you conducting your own critical thinking to any theory, narrative or model being presented to you by anyone. Even the greatest models and theories have flawed assumptions and the more complex the subject matter that is being modelled the greater the probability of both flawed and missing assumptions. So, as well as reviewing this wonderfully insightful book, I will ‘question 2 key assumptions’ within it as examples to illustrate the importance and practical application of ‘critical thinking’.
As the world moves towards ever more uncertain times, the future of humanity is unbelievably difficult to predict. The world is so complex with endless numbers of variables to consider, when the miscalculation of just a single variable can change the entire equation of any given prediction. As difficult as this task of predicting the direction in which humanity is going, the author of this book makes a wonderful fist of doing just that.
Peter Zeihan presents some fundamental insights and perspectives about ‘what makes the world go around’, several of which I personally had previously, not fully appreciated as being as important as they are. Whilst I learned a lot from reading this book, as I write this review, I wanted to convey to my book of the month subscribers the importance of applying ‘critical thinking’, something I have been learning about and teaching leaders for many years. Critical thinking includes questioning the assumptions of any model, theory or narrative and its underlying data, especially the ones you yourself may assume to be true.
Even when any given model, theory or narrative is constructed by the most insightful and smartest people like Peter Zeihan, critical thinking is essential. 2 relevant quotes that come to mind in the context of critical thinking are words of my mentor Dr John Demartini “There are truth and lies in everything, including what I say!” and the very simple yet profound words of Albert Einstein “Question everything!”
In line with these great quotes, my book review of this well researched, sizeable book about the big picture complexities of human behaviour is an ideal opportunity to apply the principles of critical thinking.
Peter Zeihan cleverly examines human history to establish the probable future patterns of human activities, he then combines these historical patterns with the following key variables, to predict what the future might look like:
- Geography and geology,
- Natural resources and energy,
- Agriculture and Farming
- Transportation Systems and Supply Chains
- Industrialization and Technology,
- Economics and Finance
- Demography and Culture
- Politics, conflicts and military capability
- Climate change
To what extent have you previously considered some of the following facts and insights that are explained in the book? …
- Throughout history including now, seas and waterways are by far the most cost-effective way to transport the majority of goods
- The growth of mass containerised transport over the last 50 years has dramatically reduced the cost of imported goods
- Historically piracy inhibited the commercial growth of shipping and free trade.
- Since the 20th Century, the strength and expansion of the US Navy has been the single most important factor in enabling the exponential growth of free trade across safe international trading routes.
- A product as simple as the ‘average pair of jeans’, involves physical or service elements from 10 different countries, before you purchase your pair of jeans from a shop.
- Typically, the average computer involves physical and service elements from over 30 different countries in over 100 different locations around the world.
- China and Japan are 2 of the largest economies in the world, yet they have a disproportionately small share of the world’s key energy and natural resources.
- Unlike most countries in Europe, Russia, Canada and the USA are each energy and food independent.
- China’s economy is fraught with government subsidies such as the manufacture of cheap steel, these subsidies are creating inefficiencies and quality issues that will ultimately impact the global economy.
- If the US Navy were to stop protecting certain shipping routes, supply chain issues would seriously impact the food, energy supplies and economies of many countries in the world.
The author presents his own conclusions as to what such insights will mean for the future of the world and you may agree or disagree with him. His direct or implied conclusions include that, due to finances, politics and war there will be an expansion of global food and energy supply chain shortages over the coming decade. Particularly for those countries whose economies are more free-trade dependent than others, such as Europe, China, and the Middle East. The author explains why he sees there being a breakdown in global supply chains and that this above all other factors will cause energy and resource dependent China to be much worse off than energy, resource and independent countries like the USA, despite the fact that China has an immeasurably healthier balance of payments deficit than the USA.
These are just a very few examples of the many insights that you will read in this book. Insights that may well get you to ‘recalibrate’ how you look at the world. After, applying my own ‘critical thinking’ I largely agree with many of his observations and conclusions, but not all of them.
This sizeable book was written in the early part of last year, so incorporates some aspects of the recent post-covid craziness emerging in the world.
The author presents with great certainty his understanding of our world and I found myself agreeing with many of his points and insights and questioning others. Like any ‘model of the world’, even the greatest models, they use a bunch of assumptions and some of those assumptions are sound and others are more questionable.
So, whilst acknowledging the quality of the extensive research and insights provided by this book, I will identify and question just a couple of key assumptions, including one assumption the author makes and another assumption that appears to be missing from the book. The missing assumption was actually pointed out to me by my client Dan, who originally recommended the book to me.
Missing Assumption Example: ‘Future innovations may solve future predicted challenges’
In a number of the author’s well predicted predicaments facing the world, he does not factor in the impact of future innovations.
A good example of this is around the ‘unsustainable nature’ of solar and wind power and electric vehicle batteries. I completely agree with the author’s concerns about there not being enough lithium and cobalt above and below ground to ever produce enough electric batteries for even half the number of cars on the planet. Add to this the massive environmental damage the mining of these rare resources and the disposal of these limited lifespan highly toxic batteries, as technology currently stands electrified vehicles are definitely not a sustainable option for the world!
However, the author does not acknowledge the famous proverb that ‘Necessity is the mother of innovation’. Elon Musk the CEO of Tesla Motor cars has acknowledged that technological leaps in ‘how we generate and store electricity’ must and probably will happen in order for electric vehicles to have a significant future. So, an example of a ‘missing assumption’ in this book is that we will most probaly establish a cheaper and more consistent and environmentally friendly ways to both generate and store energy than we current have. This said, the author makes a very valid point that with our current technology, widespread electric vehicle use is a pointless and unsustainable pipe dream. He also fairly points out that solar and wind energy provide a very small percentage of the world’s energy and that the wind and the sun are not always ‘switched on’ to provide power when and where it is needed.
Let us now consider an example of a key assumption made in this book that when factored in to ‘the future of humanity’ is a game changer:
Questionable Assumption Example: ‘Manmade CO2 emissions are driving increased global warming’
Climate change is one of the key variables the author includes in his book. ‘Manmade CO2 emissions are driving increased global warming’ is a great example of a key assumption that is not ‘stated clearly’ in the book but is ‘clearly implied’ and I will explain why this ‘mainstream assumption’ is a good example of a ‘questionable assumption’ by applying critical thinking. Just because an author is talented and insightful, does not mean that we should not fully apply the process of critical thinking. In this example, you should also apply critical thinking to my analysis and try to spot where I have made questionable assumptions.
So, in this example of ‘applied critical thinking’ in this book, we will question the author’s ‘implied assumption’ that ‘manmade C02 is causing global temperatures to increase.’
You may be surprised to know that many of the most published climatologists and scientists in history disagree with this ‘mainstream climate change assumption’ and that there are two contrary key assumptions that completely remove the validity of this assumption:
1 – There is actually NO climate emergency!
2 – CO2 and human activities DO NOT significantly contribute to the current climate change that is happening!
Now I will present some evidence to support these 2 contrary climate change assumptions, then you can do your own investigations and recalibrate your position. These are the stated views of the following climatologist and scientists:
Professor Judith Curry who is one of the most published Climatologists in history states that “There is no climate emergency” and she also points out that more and more, only climatologists that agree with the mainstream narrative appear to be getting funding.
Professor William Happer (Climate Scientist at Princetown University) says the following“The climate of the planet is always changing, there is no clear evidence that the temperature increases over the last 100 years increase are man-made… I have studied CO2 extensively …. CO2 is more, good than bad! … Plants need more CO2 in the atmosphere! There is no downside to CO2.”
Professor John Christy (Climate Scientist and climate data expert)
“We have examined trends with hurricanes and storms and there has been no significant change in the last 100 years!”
“The real data, invalidates these climate change models”
“The planet has been warming by 1.5 degrees every 100 years consistently for the last 500 years (well before the industrial revolution).”
Note: Carbon dioxide is a trace element that makes up 0.04 percent of the Earth’s atmosphere. 97 percent of CO2 emissions are produced naturally (e.g. from the sea and volcanoes), only 3 percent of carbon emissions are man-made. Last year in 2022 a handful of volcanoes produced more CO2 than the whole of humanity.
See Professor John Christy’s testimony to the US Government here …
Dr Patrick Moore (Ecology scientist & Co-founder of Greenpeace)
“The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has been in decline for many years, plants need MORE CO2 not less!”
Freeman Dyson (One of the greatest scientists in history)
“I don’t need to guess people’s motives are for believing that CO2 emissions are causing climate change, but this is simply a belief system, that is not based on science.”
Professor of Geology Ian Plimer (Author of ‘Green Murder’)
”The hypothesis that human activity can create global warming is extraordinary because it is contrary to validated knowledge from solar physics, astronomy, history, archaeology and geology.”
Professor Don Easterbrook – Professor Emeritus Western Washington University
“The hottest decade in recent history is the 1930’s which was far hotter than all subsequent decades! … 500 years ago, our planet was significantly warmer than it is now, proving global warming has nothing whatsoever to do with human activities!”
Professor David Bellamy (One of the world’s great environmental campaigners)
“Man-made climate change is a load of cods wallop!”
“We need to get the facts on climate change right before we waste billions!”
Speaking prior to his death ….
I deliberately applied ‘critical thinking’ to the controversial example of ‘Manmade Climate Change’ as a ‘questionable assumption’ to illustrate how important critical thinking is. Just because a lot of people believe something to be trues does not make it true! I will leave it with you to do your own critical thinking and research and draw your own conclusions.
Science is never settled, we are always discovering and finding out more, uncovering things we did not know and realising that assumptions we once had are no longer true. The thing we must never lose is our ability to think critically, it is only through disagreement and discourse that we can make progress and gain greater insights into the highly complex reality in which we live.
I have to acknowledge the courage and commitment of this author to take on the truly monumentally complex subject matter of the premises that shape human behaviour and where humanity may be heading. The information and views he presents will stimulate and provoke your thoughts about the history and the future of humanity. The content of this book has the potential to provoke the wonderful debates that are absolutely vital for us and the leaders of our world to have, so we can better map out what we need to do to navigate the really harsh challenges that lay ahead and create an inspiring future beyond these inevitable challenges.