The Seventh Sense | Joshua Cooper Ramo

Summary of: The Seventh Sense: Power, Fortune, and Survival in the Age of Networks
By: Joshua Cooper Ramo


Welcome to the world of ‘The Seventh Sense’, where Joshua Cooper Ramo sheds light on the necessity of understanding the complex connections between people, devices, computers, and markets in the age of networks. Brace yourself to dive into a realm of network power, as you grasp how shifting technologies alter various industries and reshape the way we live. Discover how power dynamics have changed, with world leaders and professionals battling to maintain their influence against the relentless surge of network advancement. Prepare to explore the risks of a highly interconnected world, while also contemplating the protective power of gatelands and gatekeeping.

The Seventh Sense of Network Power

Back in the nineteenth century, Friedrich Nietzsche argued that people would need a “sixth sense” to keep up with the pace of technological change during the industrial revolution. Today, the author argues that a “seventh sense” is necessary to comprehend the complex connections of networks that have formed between people, devices, computers, and financial markets as a result of technological advancement. To develop this sense, one must first understand that everything is interconnected. The author highlights how the unveiling of the first iPod in 2001 not only changed the way people listen to music but altered the music industry itself, leading to the rise of streaming services like Spotify. Network power is the process of old systems being replaced by new ones as technology advances. For instance, the English language has become a global lingua franca, making it a powerful network of exchange. However, advanced connectivity and real-time machine translation will eventually replace lingua francas like English. In conclusion, the book argues that people need to develop a seventh sense of network power to navigate a world where interconnectivity is at the forefront of technological advancement.

The Unforeseen Power of Networks

The development of the internet has brought about a new era of communication and innovation. However, the extent of its influence on society was not predicted, as seen in the ability for terrorist networks to indoctrinate children and plan attacks through encrypted chat rooms. Institutions struggle to keep up with the fast-paced mode of attack and communication used by these networks. In 2003, US troops learned of a new type of bomb that could penetrate American tanks, which was developed by a terrorist in Baghdad and killed a US official in rural Afghanistan just ten days later. The government was too slow to update their defense compared to their enemy’s advancements. Even newly recruited terrorists are able to evade the government’s old-fashioned and slow systems. The Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization discovered that terrorists visit sites with bomb-making instructions and communicate real-time advice in encrypted chat rooms. JIEDDO installed devices to monitor the streets, but it only addressed the individual attacks and not the heart of the problem. The power of networks has outpaced the efforts of institutions to combat their activity.

Power Shifts in Modern Networks

In the age of modern networks, high concentration and large distribution are the sources of power, putting traditional authority figures like doctors at risk. The distinction between complicated and complex systems is also important, as former European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet learned the hard way during the 2008 financial crisis. Understanding the nature of complex systems can be critical in identifying and addressing problems effectively.

In the past, predetermined hierarchical structures were the norm, with emperors, presidents, kings, queens, doctors, and lawyers holding the power. Nowadays, world leaders and other experts are in a constant battle to maintain their power thanks to challenges from modern networks. Networks are characterized by two forms of power: high concentration and large distribution. Doctors are one group under threat from powerful networks. Various medical websites are easily accessible, and people can discuss their afflictions with others who suffer from similar diseases thanks to large distribution setup. Due to the high number of people who use the search engine and the amount of information being shared, Google can be defined as a highly concentrated network. As a result, the medical sites accessed through Google have more power than even a cardiologist with years of experience.

To better understand networks, it’s crucial to distinguish between complicated and complex systems. Complicated systems, such as jet engines and calculators, consist of several interacting components but are designed to complete only a limited set of unchanging tasks. Complex systems like the World Wide Web are ever-changing and harder to control. Noting the difference between the two is essential. For example, the failure of European officials to treat the financial market as a complex system led to the 2008 financial crisis. The traditional models and tools at the time were not enough to sustain such a complex structure. If officials had identified the financial market as a complex system, they would’ve been better equipped to approach problems effectively.

The Hidden Dangers of Connectivity

The advancements in networking offer great possibilities, but with every innovation comes a unique set of flaws and unforeseeable consequences. Jung Hoon Lee, a South Korean hacker, was able to infiltrate the most secure networking programs with ease, indicating that companies need to exercise caution. People tend to be too trusting of networks, leading to vulnerabilities that can be exploited by anyone. The issue is compounded by advancements in technology, evolving security systems are matched by more sophisticated methods of attack. As a society, we are becoming increasingly vulnerable to monitoring and control by institutions or anyone with the ability to bypass virtual security systems. The story of ELIZA, a computer program developed by Joseph Weizenbaum, highlights the dangers of trusting computer programs with personal information. Connectivity has brought with it hidden dangers and risks that must be acknowledged to mitigate adverse consequences.

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