'The Perfection Point' - John Brenkus

‘The Perfection Point’ is a book that really caught my attention because it tackles a question that I asked for a long, long time.  Is there a point where we stop developing/improving ourselves?  Is there an asymptote that we approach as a species – when the laws of nature and of physics start working against progress?

It’s a fascinating thought experiment that I think is worth going through.  Anecdotally, every record that has ever been set – has been broken.  Every generation has whole-heartedly believed that they were at the pinnacle of human achievement, only for that sentiment to be rendered naïve and self-important by the following generation.  It’s this age-old short-term thinking that gave us comments such as the 1898 rhetoric: “Everything that can be invented, has been invented”, by Charles Holland Duell.

If you were to look back 20 years and try to predict the rise of technology as it stands today – it would be impossible.  As humans, we are notoriously bad at predicting the future – so anyone who claims to make such claims as a ‘Perfection Point’ ends on the wrong side of history.

But this book makes that claim.

In the book, John Brenkus attempts to calculate the absolute perfection point for a variety of sports – looking to mathematically and logically determine that physical asymptote.  Some of the examples included: ‘What is the fastest possible 100m sprint?’; ‘What is the heaviest possible benchpress?’; ‘What is the longest possible breath hold’; amongst others.  It seemed like a flawed objective (for reasons explained above) and that’s why I got the book – to see what I was missing.

I was pleasantly surprised by the way Brenkus took on the task.  He did not presume to know the future, or even to begin to understand it.  He capped his vision at the human being as we know it now – not with evolutionary or supplement-driving changes.  He built in a significant buffer for calculation error and didn’t take things too seriously throughout the book.

This I appreciated.  This way of thinking avoided over-promising and under-delivering.  While I would have enjoyed some more philosophical comments on whether a perfection point is actually possible – it was a light, enjoyable read.  Don’t expect it to change your life – but for a sport’s fan, it really is a fascinating thought experiment.

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