“How in the face of a burning, changing, and shifting world does one train an instinct for the essence of what is going on? At the turn of the last century, the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche suggested that humans needed a “Sixth Sense” to survive what then seemed like insane madness: the Industrial Revolution. He didn’t mean by this that we should all go study history. At least that wasn’t all he meant. He thought a Sixth Sense should be a feel for the rhythms of history. There was a certain pace and tone to human life, he said, sort of like a runner on a long race, and you or I would need a sense of the whole course in order to pace ourselves. Without it, we might end up slowing down at the wrong moments. Or-and this particularly worried him-we might run too fast and exhaust ourselves just as a big hill was coming up. Nietzsche thought the world was about to have to face a very steep, unforgiving incline on the way to a new kind of social order, and that most people in the 1890s were skipping along as if it was all downhill from there on out. A feeling of history, he hoped, might help. But he also felt pretty sure no one would develop this new sense. He expected tragedy. … But no one was attracted to the idea of danger in those gilded days. Very few people tuned their instincts to the age. And, as two world wars later showed, Nietzsche had been sadly correct about the impending tragedy.” – from Chapter 1. The Masters
THE SEVENTH SENSE: A NEW SENSIBILITY TO LOOK AT THE WORLD OF CONNECTION AND NETWORK POWER
I tend to be selective when I choose books. I enjoy books that weave various disciplines along the long time span, books with breadth and depth. For this reason, books that involve history always get a preferential treat in my reading order. Why? Because insight is always better gained when you look at things in the context of history. Another reason for being selective is I tend to immerse myself too deeply to a degree that sometimes I feel like I am dancing with the author on his or her rhythm. Hence, my book review to withdraw from the intensity experienced! When I finished my book review on Rifkin’s thick book, I was very much immersed in the idea of the new world evolved around the new economic paradigm in the future which seems still far off and unimaginable. Coincidentally or not, the next book I chose for my book review was making another strong statement on the future in the similar context with a shift of focus. So my dance still continues on similar rhythms.
How do you best enjoy this book? This time, throughout my book review for the Seventh Sense, I feel obliged to continuously mention Rifkin’s book. Basically, they are looking at the same world we are in but using a different framework for seeing the current time and the future to prepare ourselves for a different purpose. While Rifkin’s The Zero Marginal Cost Society is about economic paradigm shift and the new world reshaped by it, the Seventh Sense is rather about power shift and who and how to should build and shape the new world. In short, Ramo is adding a layer on top of Rifkin’s view on the future world, offering a new sense to interpret the phenomena in terms of strategic and political perspective. I suggest you also try to find the commonalities and differences between two books in this aspect throughout the read. I am sure it will unquestionably help you build a new sensibility in seeing our revolutionary time. Now, let’s delve into the key points of the book.
The book comprises of three big parts. The first part is about the revolutionary character of our era and why a new instinct is required. The second part introduces six aspects of our reality connection has brought about as key developments of the Seventh Sense. Lastly, the author discusses how to lead and shape the new world order.
PART 1. LIKE IT OR NOT, WE ARE IN A REVOLUTIONARY ERA. IN AN AGE OF NETWORK, CONNECTION CHANGES THE NATURE OF THE OBJECT.
Let’s have a short contemplation. Are we facing a world of changing power as in the nineteenth century? Is our world about to face a very steep, unforgiving incline to a new kind of social order? If the Sixth Sense suggested by Nietzsche was to read the time with a sense of history, what can be the Seventh Sense for our time?
According to the author, it is having a new instinct to know that we are in an age of constant connection not only to the Internet, but also to the whole world of networks that surrounds and defines us everywhere. Many problems we face and are puzzled about stem from the same cause-networks-and only by understanding how they work can we begin to shape this age. Otherwise, we will be helplessly used by it.
How revolutionary is our age compared to the Industrial Revolution age? What role will the “Seventh Sense” play? Here’s some thought.
Let me tell you what is going to happen: In coming years there will be a struggle between those who have the Seventh Sense-who are born with it or trained to it-and those who don’t. This is already under way. New, networked forces all around us are attacking old, established ones in business, politics, warfare, and science. Then-because those who don’t have the Seventh Sense for network power will lose these contests, as anyone who tries to stop the future always loses-a new age will begin. This new age will involve violent, historic wrestling among different groups with different versions of the Seventh Sense. Competing interests and ideals and aims will guide these contending forces. Networks will fight networks. Some of the plans of these connected-age groups will be good, others evil; and anyhow, the winners will be ruthless. Then-and this is where it will get particularly strange and incredible-there will be a battle between those with the Seventh Sense and the very systems of connection, machines, and intelligence they have built. Human instincts will compete against the machine instincts. – from Chapter 1. The Masters (8. p30)
We are now in the earliest stages of a shift that promises to be still more consequential than the one that enlightened and industrialized our world over several centuries after the Dark Ages. What I want to do is explain the nature of that shift. Fundamentally it involves a change in power. Those people and ideas that prospered in the past may not do so well in the future. And ideas that are coming out of nowhere, that look surprising and impossible and difficult to believe in, may fire up people whom we could never imagine to control our future. The essence of the shift under way is best captured by the prodigious explosion of different types of connection emerging around us now-connections to finance, trade, information technology, transportation, biology-and the innovative combinations that follow these and other fast, fresh links. – from Chapter 2. The Age of Network Power (1. p32)
The author lastly discusses some of the latest puzzling phenomena that the U.S. and the world experienced, citing American war in the Middle East as an example. He defines it as ‘a surprising and important feature of our age.’ Again, historical contemplation helps us recognize the revolutionary characteristic of our age that the network connection produced.
It was hard not to notice that one of the U.S. military’s main aims-reducing the number of terrorists-in recent years appeared backfiring. This dynamic was an irritating feature of many global problems. In spreading market capitalism ever wider, for instance, the world was also digging an ever-deeper moat between rich and poor. In trying to make the world modern with more connection, we were lashing ourselves to some very unmodern risks. And in waging the most expensive war on terrorism in human history, the United States was uneasily discovering that it was creating more terrorists. This puzzle, it turned out, marked a surprising and important feature of our age, one that resonates far beyond the war on terror. Big, expensive and well-designed systems that thrived and dominated for decades now increasingly find themselves demolished by new, fast moving forces that live on networks. It’s not just militaries. Think of giant global media companies or manufacturing plants. … But the real reason the new baffles the old is deeper. … We honestly don’t understand what network connections can do to a market or a military enemy any more than figures hundreds of years ago knew what steam engines might do to sailing. History remembers the steamship builders, of course, but there were decades of perplexity and resistance to new ideas until fresh language and science could justify the switch. We’re in this same sort of early moment with networks. – from Chapter 3. War, Peace, Networks (2. p.61-62)
Some things do sound familiar, don’t they? Rifkin has clearly elaborated on these aspects and predicted the fall of the big industrial giants, citing that the centrally integrated organizational model that served for the Second Industrial Revolution doesn’t fit in the new decentralized and lateral economic model. What are two authors commonly referring to? Network. Connection.
PART 2. SIX CHARACTERISTICS OF OUR AGE AND WHAT THE SEVENTH SENSE TELLS ABOUT THEM
So what sort of sensibility is required in our revolutionary time? As mentioned above, many things happening around us are incomprehensible and get us puzzled. It’s only when we can see through the fundamental shift invisibly taking place that we can successfully lead and build our future. The author clearly states that power is pushed into networks resulting in whole new arrangements in new businesses, fortunes, war zones, education, medicine and safety. So the Seventh Sense requires to understand the critical aspect of networks and interpret the phenomena that have evolved around networks. Below are the six points.
Concentration and Distribution
Networks distribute power more than ever in our human history. At the same time, they concentrate more influence into new companies and protocols. The Reformation and the Industrial Revolution began to pull power free to the liberated citizens from the hands of priests, kings and warriors in the hierarchical feudal order and the following capitalism and democracy began to give politics to the majority and prosperity to a growing middle class. But the networks in our age both concentrate and distribute power with unprecedented intensity. We are witnessing a sign of power in billion-user firms. The more distributed users are connected to the core, the more concentrated power those firms will become. Much of the world has not yet fully connected, so there are tremendous potential of fortunes and concentrated power to be emerged in this revolutionary era.
Complexity and Unpredictability
There is an important distinction between being complicated and being complex. Networks are made up of many complicated pieces and when these complicated technologies are connected on networks, an “unpredictable” complexity emerges. Complex systems then have a propensity to “create.” From millions of interactions, social networks such as Facebook emerged. ISIS emerged. Financial crises, political movements and shared-car services emerged in the same context. This process will only accelerate.
Concentration of Power and Vulnerability
One feature of networks is that the more connected systems become honeycombed, the more power will be concentrated into the core(kernels), making it vulnerable to the hackers who aim to break into the system and master these kernels of power. To control a system everyone connects to means to control anyone who connects and to anything including Finance, Trade and even Politics. Also, it indicates that history may be decided in secret by manipulation of the algorithms or network designs at the core.
The New Caste
According to David Priestland, an Oxford professor, there are three distinct and interacting groups(castes) in European history-merchants, soldiers and sages. We see a new caste joining them in our networked age. Young and technically savvy, this is the caste that controls many of the systems on networks we all depend on. Also because so much of what they do is basically opaque and invisible to us, they alone can be the creators of universe and lawgivers. The nations and companies(or terror groups) that train and equip them best will have an incalculable advantage in the future. The newness of this group is both great advantage and greatest danger because, while they may know much about networks, history, politics and philosophy do not yet influence their thinking. To them the world can appear as a machine to be coded.
A topology refers to any kind of map that can be rearranged as a result of connection. If Moscow and Saint Petersburg are always four hundred miles apart in geographical terms, in topology term, they can be as far apart as the fastest connection between them-for example, about 0.3 milliseconds on a light-speed fiber-optic cable. This is a new and invisible set of landscape that will decide much of our future. The webs where stocks are traded, cyber-attacks occur, imports are moved, or biological data are recorded and studied-each of these is a landscape where maps can change in an instant due to connection. An appreciation for tone and movement on network topologies counts and masters of the Seventh Sense see wired topologies shot through existing landscapes in this same way. Even though those topologies are often invisible, it’s important that we try to picture them as real, as places where fortunes will be made and lost and war fought, and every bit as influential physical geography.
Compression of Time and Liberty of Velocity
The acceleration from horseback to train to plane speed happened over a period of 150 years. Each new acceleration diminished the impact of distance. Speed kills distance. There’s a phrase describing this process-“space-time compression,” first identified in 1966. If the battlefields of power has been over the control of space and territory for most of human history, now it will become about the control of time.
If ‘liberty’ meant the tearing down old barriers to influence, security and knowledge, enabling citizens to really live and make decision for themselves in the past, the compression of time will provide the meaning of more than liberty in our age of networks. The human desire aspires for doing more with less and living more with the time we have on connected world. Speed matters and compression of time matters for this reason. The best future political and economic arrangements will need to do more than simply liberate us-it should enable and permit us to compress time. Governance systems that slow down the ability to get the best data, to learn faster, to squeeze more time and health and knowledge from the networks around us will have to explain why they are standing in the way of total speed. Just as the idea of a democracy was shocking once, this concept of a political and economic system tuned not merely to liberty but to the compression of time will force us to remake a lot of our institutions. Nations, corporations and ideologies that can deliver this liberty of velocity will grow, thrive, and accelerate. Those that can’t, slowed maybe by history or blocked by social or ideological design, will miss the turn if they are more obsessed with control than speed.
PART 3. RESHAPING WORLD ORDER
So, what’s the most powerful features of our age? or of any age? The author saw ‘the nature of the age’ in the nineteenth century as a “Cult of Offensive” enabled by the combination of machines and guns that inevitably drove humanity into wars and sufferings. Once explosive energy is built, it appears unavoidable not to burst into certain actions and forms. So the author perceives the energy currently building up in our age as a “Cult of the Disruptive” enabled by the combination of networks and weapons and warns this reordering of power will produce a fight over topological spaces. In what shape is this reordering to be manifested?
Inside-Or-Outside via Gates and Gatelands
Gates? He is not talking about Bill Gates, although he mentioned him once. Citing firstly “Increasing Returns” of the economist Brian Arthur’s HBR study in 1996 as opposed to the classical economics theory of “Diminishing Returns”, and secondly “Power Law Distributed” characteristics of tech firms, the author states that, for gated and connected systems such as Microsoft, as fast as they come into the single winning business, near monopoly is set up rewarding benefits for being inside for users. The benefits gained inside being so huge, more users pile into the gateland enabling the reach of the system to grow exponentially. This makes the cost of not joining into the gateland so expensive and creates a dynamic of winner-take-it-all and losers-get-nothing.
Our world shuffles into a new order now and Macht is expressed by all kinds of in-or-out borders. What the Seventh Sense reveals as it feels our new power arrangements is gates. Everywhere. The world is not one big, flat equally connected topology. It is filled with closed and gated worlds. Facebook. Bitcoin users. Doctors with privileged access to genetic databases. Members of the New Caste. Those revolutionary investors on Sand Hill Road. These all are gated, in-or-out worlds. The internet. The FTSE 100. Your Apple or Android operating system. In our connected age, the act of drawing lines between points is also an act of drawing a line around those points. It is not simply that we’re enmeshed in networks now; no, we’re enclosed, even entrapped, by them. While the great ambition of Cecil Rhodes’s era was the expansive conquest of territory-the more territory, the more Macht-in our own age, power is in the construction and control of gated spaces. Gatelands. – from Chapter 9. Inside and Out, (3. p235)
War and Peace via Hard Gatekeeping
If you don’t shape, you are shaped. Are you the gatekeeper or the gatekept? The author points out the absence of the grand strategy for the global politics that will ultimately decide the war and peace in our revolutionary era and makes a daring suggestion: Hard Gatekeeping.
A fundamental problem of global politics: How will the world be ordered? You don’t have to be a foreign policy expert to have a sense that new forces are at work, that the system of states and nations is changing in ways that are not yet quite understood. So much in our lives has been revolutionized in the past few decades-how we communicate, how we shop, even how we think. Businesspeople wonder how markets will be ordered. Politicians worry about how political systems will be reshaped. But the overarching question, the one that will decide war and peace, may matter most of all. And in that area we are embarking on a period of really historic change. There will be nowhere to hide from its impact. The networks, it turns out, tell us what the future of world order will likely be. And they reveal, as a result, the strategy that the world’s leading power, the United States, should pursue. It is not, as you have probably guessed, the strategy that an older and industrial view of power would ever have suggested. – from Chapter 10. Hard Gatekeeping (1. p255)
The loss of a position of decisive influence in the networks the world will rely on-not just the internet-but all the linked systems of research and data and DNA-represents just such a potential threat. … Are you the gatekeeper or the gatekept? This is the fundamental question of self-determination and power that emerges from the nature of our age. And it calls for Americans to consider a new approach to national security, one that might be called “Hard Gatekeeping.” – from Chapter 10. Hard Gatekeeping (2. p257)
‘Hard Gatekeeping’ means the construction and development of secure, carefully designed communities to manage everything from trade to cyber-information to scientific research. Following the lesson of technology companies, where entire industries are dominated by single winning companies and the cost of being excluded from gatelands of finance or information will be nearly total, the author urges us, especially the United States, to work with the fact the gated network orders are powerful. The author further develops definition, goals and important principles in developing the Hard Gatekeeping.
Lastly, the author describes a future where Artificial Intelligence plays dominant roles in highly connected world and where humanity, us, will stand. The current leadership may not be able to cope with the fast changing reality and not provide a shield. The best way is we, the citizens, become our own shield not to be managed and manipulated by unknown and incomprehensible forces.
Much of our future will be decided by highly concentrated, connected systems that move at very rapid velocities and are spliced everywhere with the accelerant of artificial intelligence. We are all preparing ourselves to be subjugated, in a sense, by these systems and by their masters. Our best defense will not be to wait for wise leaders. They are unlikely to emerge by themselves from a system engineered for an old order-and just getting rid of many of the confused leaders we have now will be hard enough. Any strategy based on hoping for great leadership is too risky for all of us. No, this is better, I assure you: to rely on ourselves, to use the inheritance of the Enlightenment-the revolution that made us citizens and not subjects-to ensure that we’re not made subjects yet again, by forces we can’t understand won’t manage to control. – from Chapter 11. Citizens! (4. p298)
CONTEMPLATION: A STRATEGIC GUIDE TO STATESMEN TO LEAD OUR REVOLUTIONARY AGE
Where power goes, fortune goes. Where power is created, fortune is created. If you don’t shape it, you will be shaped. It’s a matter of your survival. Especially in a revolutionary era.
Things are happening all the time. But it’s only those who have a penetrating insight to these happenings that can create opportunities, build fortunes and shape the world. We have Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Sergey Brin, Larry Page and other young New Castes such as Mark Zuckerberg on the list. And how many new names will be added to the list when we assume this revolutionary era lasts for a few more centuries just as the Industrial Revolution did in the past? A common theme of above names is their business is built on the connected network and its power. Their business models either invented themselves as totally new players or crashed existing market players. Given the faster pace the world is moving in, potential opportunities in limited time given to us can seem only elusive if we don’t act quickly. Then how do we act quickly if we don’t have an insight to read the nature of our age and the driving force behind it?
The author guides us to develop the Seventh Sense for penetrating the evident but invisible force that is shaping our age. And he leads us to ponder on what and how to do in our disruptive and revolutionary time and for more tumultuous future. Clearly, this book is aimed for the statesmen, policy makers and leaders who are in the position of influencing a world order, let alone us, the citizens.
What I Enjoyed
First, the network power and its new behavior interpreted in terms of concentration and distribution are exciting and amazing. His descriptions using physics and oriental philosophy-yin and yang-convincingly illustrates the powerful dynamics of connected network. Also, how this dynamic created the ever widening gap of wealth and influence along with the crashing of the middlemen and middle class is compelling.
The leap we have to make in understanding our network age-and by this I don’t just mean the Internet, but really any connected system you’d care to consider-begins with this idea: In connected systems, power is defined by both profound concentration and by massive distribution. It can’t be understood in simple either-or terms. Power and influence will, in the near future, become even more centralized than in feudal times and more distributed than it was in the most vibrant democracies. Network power, we might say, exists as a skin of billions of tied-together points linked to vital, centralized cores. Our world is filling with countless connected devices and people at an unmeasurably quick pace, but we are also constructing centralizing companies, protocols, and systems. Biological research so complex it once demanded billion-dollar labs now takes place on lab desktops(distribution) that quickly reference immense cloud-based genetic data sets(concentration). You can snap high-quality videos with your phone (distribution): and you share them with millions on a connected central stage such as Instagram(concentration). A financial engineer can design an new trading instrument(distribution), but hope for profit depends on instant connection to busy, price-setting markets(concentration). -from Chapter 4. The Jaws of Connection (6. p116-117)
Networks create concentration and distribution. As a result, they rip apart many existing structures. Look at our worrisome global economy. The extreme concentration of wealth and massive distribution of work to ever-cheaper sources of labor run with this same logic. Just as my father’s middleman role in health care is torn apart, so the world’s middle class is pressured from above and below at once. Their jobs disappear to machines and Vietnamese sweatshops(distribution). Financial gains, meanwhile, accumulate ever faster to those at the center of the system, endowed with more information, opportunity, and-in every sense-connection. -from Chapter 4. The Jaws of Connection (6. p118)
It seems Jeremy Rifkin didn’t really see the concentration or monopoly characteristic of networks even if he mentioned briefly on Google quoting one study. Rather it’s Peter Thiel who correctly penetrates the nature of this dynamic and this provides a clue on why he advocates monopoly and the power law. He correctly saw how Google is shaping their reality on the network.
For me, this ‘concentration and distribution’ sounds like another concentration of wealth and power to the new class in the coming future just like capitalism has done during past centuries. If the previous and exsiting concentration of wealth has been toward the energy, telecommunication and finance magnets(yes, they are on top lists on Fortune 500), the future wealth concentration will be for such new powerful companies on networks! Also, despite the unprecedented liberty granted to us in the form of ‘distribution’, the disappearance of middle men and middle class due to its dynamic is also mind-blowing.
Second, the author’s attempt to explain the ever puzzling world affairs using a framework of chaos science and ‘complicated vs. complex’ concept is very insightful and proper in time. What’s happening on network is like a unpredictable complexity behaving around. Linear thought doesn’t provide a clue to understand the dynamics and is bound to fail to predict the future. What we’ve missed so far was that our whole world system has been being shaped around and on connection and network that requires a totally different line of reasoning.
Rifkin in his book also mentioned that the current capitalist economic theory fails to prove current economic behaviors because it misses the laws of thermodynamics that explains much of the missing part. I would say the key point is that most of our current economic and political activities are reshaped on the connected network, so only the chaos theory or the law of thermodynamics can help explain the phenomena properly.
“There are systems of crucial interest to humankind that have so far defied accurate simulation,” the scientist John Holland observed in a famous paper that helped establish the discipline of chaos science. Holland spent years considering these puzzling, hard-to-model systems and spotted at least one common theme: Whether it was webs of finance, such as the futures exchange, or immunological networks or our own brains, highly connected systems share what Holland labeled an evolving structure–they never stay the same. They seem to shift with an easy plasticity, in response to internal pressures or external changes. This is why so much unexpected chaos is occurring now, from government collapses to economic crises. Connection means systems take on new forms. In many cases, they become better, stronger, more adaptively fit. It isn’t simply that the unexpected appears or that there is more or less good or evil now; it’s that the systems are evolving. Holland thought the world was filled with such evolutions, no different from species’ adjusting(or not) to a hotter climate or some fast new predator. He called the networks that produce these sorts of innovations complex adaptive systems. When Holland chose the word “complex,” he was making an important distinction. Complicated mechanisms can be designed, predicted, and controlled. Jet engines, artificial hearts, and your calculator are complicated in this sense. … They don’t change. Complex systems, by contrast, can’t be so precisely engineered. They are hard to fully control. Human immunology is complex in this sense. The World Wide Web is complex. A rain forest is complex. It is made up of uncountable buzzing, connecting bugs and birds and trees. Order, to the extent that it exists in the Amazon basin, emerges moment by moment from countless, constant interactions. – from Chapter 5. Fishnet (4. p136-137)
The fundamental uncertainty of a complex process means that when we look at the world, we often forget it is taking place. It’s easier to assume that a predictable, linear, complicated logic is at work, an “a leads to b and c” sort of process: Revolution leads to freedom, which leads to democracy, for instance. That such predictions are often wrong-and that we’re so often surprised by events in economics or politics-is a reminder that complex systems like economics and elections are filled with mechanisms that upset the hopes of overconfident planners. Too often we look at some puzzle, say Iraqi politics or income inequality, and think it is merely “complicated.” We should know better. … “Macro models failed to predict the crisis and seemed incapable of explaining what was happening to the economy in a convincing manner,” former president of the European Central Bank Jean-Claude Trichet lamented in the aftermath of the cascading financial crises that hit in 2008. Markets and officials discovered that their system was not merely “too big to fail” but also that it was too connected to manage-and possibly too complex to comprehend. Trichet sounded a little shell-shocked. “As a policymaker during the crisis I found the available models of limited help. In fact, I would go further: In the face of the crisis, we felt abandoned by conventional tools.” – from Chapter 5. Fishnet (4. p139)
Third, topology and the concept of ‘compression of time’ provide a fresh perspective to look at the landscape and are valuable tools to grasp the picture of the future.
Topologies represent the landscape where the Web or the New York Stock Exchange or Hizb’allah operates. Topologies can change instantly, depending on their design, on who is connected, and as the speed and thickness of that connection shift. The topology of Wall Street in the 1920s, for instance, was largely defined by who happened to go to the trading floor on a given day; today it is a global landscape, influenced instantly by news, rumors, and real-time profit twitches from all over the planet. Just as moving a river from one place to another would radically change the utility of a bridge, changing the topology of a market or a war zone changes the shape of everything else connected to it. That Seventh Sense instinct present in hackers and terrorists and clever entrepreneurs, the one that senses how the powerful can become useless and the useless can become powerful, is earned first through a fluency with the impact of fate-changing topological shifts. To know that instant connection will demolish border security with drones or advertising with GPS-enabled messages or the role of a slow-thinking doctor with a database is to feel topological forces at work. – from Chapter 8. “MapReduce”: The Compression of Space and Time(5. p206)
Fourth, the author timely and properly elaborates ‘hacking’ and ‘cyber-security’ issues, defining them as a power and control issue. That the vulnerability of the network can even separate the control from ownership is a meaningful insight. The Petya Ransomware case happened just weeks ago in Ukraine well reflects how seriously a war can be developed into even in the form of breaking down a nation, if the conspiracy is correct.
Fifth, Humanity. As the old Industrial Revolution liberated us, coming Revolution should be aimed for the better and liberating future for humanity. And the author wants it clearly and badly! Despite the prospect that the technological advances can bring dim outlook for some aspects of our future and even possible void of proper leadership, it is us, the citizen and humanity that should protect what we care and prosper in the future. I almost got mistaken about the author when he suggested Hard Gatekeeping. But I was relieved to find his boundless affection for humanity and his perspective on what to achieve and fight for protection for our promising future. And his optimistic stance toward our homework as blessings on earth!
There is a lesson for us here, one that redounds onto Plato’s political question and our own: Who should rule? We feel overwhelmed by our age. So much to master: Modern warfare. Complex politics. Radically changing economics. The replacement of old technologies with new ones before we can understand them. The mastery of each of these will not be achieved by dashing success in each. So we need to cultivate a single, essential instinct. A new temperament that I’ve called the Seventh Sense. And, with that done, we can fight the wars, write the poems, make the civilizations to confront all that lies ahead. Our greatest hope in the race against the totalizing machines and those who control them, our finest insurance for liberty and prosperity instead of madness, is not in technology. Our greatest weapon will not be our bombers, our drones, or our financial strength. It will be in our own humanity. We have to accept that we are going to be gated in all the ways we’ve seen: by speed, by AI, by the New Caste. We’ll be torn apart by those new network dynamics and placed on topologies we can hardly understand. Our future fight is not about whether we are going to be enmeshed. It is about the terms of that enmeshment-and it is here that the great questions of politics will be decided. And where the protection of the things you love and care about will be braced against the crashing of an older order. -from Chapter 11. Citizens! (5. p303)
Our politics need to be redesigned. Our educational order is not yet wired for this new age. Every business will have to be reshaped, like it or not. Our foreign policy, as we’ve seen, demands a new version and direction. Our military needs retooling. Our cities demand redesign as they become wired for connected life. Our economy, our employment, our habits of trade, our management of nature and the environment-all these will be changed irrevocably by connection. A whole revolution in aesthetics awaits us too: virtually real works of art, fresh music echoing with the sound of a colliding world, new literature. Confronted with the fundamental question of a revolutionary age-What do I do?-we can see that the answer is Whatever you want. Here’s what I mean: Living in a revolutionary age gives our work, no matter what we choose to do, the potential for enduring meaning. If you want to start a new political party, develop linked systems for end-of-life care, use networks to distribute foreign aid more efficiently, study ways that network economics can solve the destruction of the middle class-these and countless other problems now take on a historic aspect. What a gift that is: To be liberated from the mundane preservation of the old. To be pressed into the work of construction. To find such significance in how we spend our time on earth. There will be a point, several hundred years from now, when the answer to the fundamental questions we now face will be decided. Magnificent new companies will be built. Governments will fall; creative ideas about politics will contend in violent moments of struggle. The quotidian pleasures of life-falling in love, discovering Picasso, watching the snow fall in a London park-will continue against a background of epochal change. … My point here has been that the antidote to all the machines and their new logic is not, in the end, to make ourselves more like the devices. Encryption alone won’t protect our privacy. Mobility won’t ensure our liberty. Speed won’t make us safe. We have to go deeper. We have to cultivate a new instinct, one intended to make us more human, in a sense, not only more technical. -from Chapter 11. Citizens! (5. p303)
Sixth, as always, I liked the author’s insights from various disciplines such as history, philosophy, economics, science, strategy, politics let alone technology. I haven’t yet met an author who can draw philosophical and political contemplation(in terms of shift of power and world order) from a deep understanding of technology. As mentioned earlier, he is following the technical development just like Jeremy Rifkin but certainly adding another valuable upper layer of political and strategic perspective. That’s awesome.
What I Didn’t Enjoy (In Terms of Perspective)
First, are the wars, battles, and struggles for power always inevitable in human history during the revolutionary era? If we don’t gatekeep, do we always end up as the gatekept? If we don’t develop the proper new instinct called the Seventh Sense, do we end up as subjugated by those who have? This is scary. If the nature of the age in the nineteenth century with guns and machines was a Cult of Offensive, does the nature of our age have to be similar in the form of a Cult of the Disruptive with networks and weapons? History repeats itself. Also, as the author mentioned in the early part of the book, ‘flux is the only constant,’ with similar forms of power struggle repeating itself throughout history. But I hope to meet a different frame that can explain future shape of power or world order.
Second, the concept of Hard Gatekeeping almost sounds like another Enclosure Movement to me. If joining Facebook is a voluntary act by a citizen’s free will, constructing borders in the cyberspace in the form of gates and gatelands sounds totalitarian. Isn’t the future supposed to liberate humanity by his/her free will? The idea seems ideal rather than practical and I believe it reflects the emergent or imminent nature of revolutionary age the author feels. As Rifkin’s future on Collaborative Common sounds ideal in a way, Ramo’s future on Gatelands sounds ideal but in an opposite way.
Knowledgeable and insightful, this book provides a deep and clear insight on our network-based world and its revolutionary nature. Even if this book covers technological aspects intensively, it’s not very technical but readable and resourceful. This is a political strategy book aimed especially for statesmen and policy makers. Very good read that can give all readers intellectual stimulation in many ways.
One aspect that I have to mention is the author’s elevated tone in his language-pressing, imminent, dominant sentiment-probably due to the target audience and the objective of this book. It may take a bit of time and effort to get accustomed to his style.
WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK:
Statesmen, Political Leaders, Policy Makers, Entrepreneurs, Start-Ups, Business Leaders from Industry
RATING: 4 out of 5
Business, Strategy, Politics, History, Technology, Entrepreneurship
ABOUT THE BOOK
Author(s): Joshua Cooper Ramo
Published: 2016, USA
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Paperback, 311 pages
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