Steve Jobs famously called people to “Think different.” That mantra popped into my head as I read the sample pages of two intriguing books over the weekend. (I love the Kindle app sample pages feature).
The second book for my weekend was But What if We’re Wrong? Thining about the Present as if it were the Past, by Chuck Klosterman. Here’s a key excerpt:
When you ask smart people if they believe there are major ideas currently accepted by the culture at large that will eventually be proven false, they will say, “Well, of course. There must be. That phenomenon has been experienced by every generation who’s ever lived, since the dawn of human history.”
Yet offer those same people a laundry list of contemporary ideas that might fit that description, and they’ll be tempted to reject them all. It is impossible to examine questions we refuse to ask. These are the big potatoes.
I think this is right. We know that people got things wrong. We may even, theoretically, think that we may be getting some things wrong. But, to admit that “I” could be wrong, about something “big…” Well, that’s a different challenge, isn’t it?
Mr. Klosterman does quite a bit with what we “knew,” what we “know,” and what we may someday “know” about gravity. Bottom line: what we “know” today may very much be in play for later…
The first one I tackled over the weekend was a book that I am definitely going to read in full, and may even select for the First Friday Book Synopsis.
I read with my finger highlighting key passages in my kindle app (I read on an iPad). This is my modern version of the underlining method that I have used for decades. Sometimes, I overdo it. No, make that, almost always, I overdo it. But these sample pages, for this book – well I wanted to highlight pretty much every sentence of every paragraph.
The book is The Seventh Sense: Power, Fortune, and Survival in the Age of Networks by Joshua Cooper Ramo. Like the book The Third Wave by Steve Case (in which he argued that we are now into the “third wave” of the internet era), Mr. Ramo believes we are entering a new period in history. One that is genuinely new; different.
Mr. Ramo is a serious thinker, with a sense of history, and a “step back and look with a long sweep” look. A former foreign editor for Time, a Crown Fellow for the Aspen Institute, co-chief executive of Kissinger Associates, he tackles big questions.
In his view, this new seventh sense has to do with all of our connections (all; not just the technological/internet connections). From the book:
The demands of constant, instant connection are tearing at old power arrangements. …A new landscape of power is emerging now. This book is its story, and the tale of the instinct that will divide those who master it from those who will be mastered by it.
This seventh sense was partly prompted by Nietzsche’s sixth sense:
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.
This book is the story of a new instinct, what I have called the Seventh Sense. The Seventh Sense is meant for our new age of constant connection.
I don’t just mean connection to the Internet, but to the whole world of networks that surrounds and defines us everywhere now.
Connection—and ever faster, smarter connection—is transforming our lives just as trains and factories tore into Nietzsche’s age.
As a result, we live in a world that is both terribly exciting and awfully unsettling.
The point of this book is that every one of these problems has exactly the same cause: networks. And by understanding how they work, we can begin to shape this age, instead of being used by it.
We have all the habits of a new age. The phones. The emails. The ADD clicking of our keyboards. The hand sanitizers. Now we need to develop the instincts. Because anything not built for a network age—our politics, our economics, our national security, our education—is going to crack apart under its pressures.
Both of these books together give us a stark warning – things really are different. And, they are going to be even more different…
Getting ready for this “different” era; identifying what makes it different; building strategies to function and flourish in this different era – this may be the big challenge of the era.
And, by the way, I also read sample pages from The Silk Roads: A New History of the World by Peter Frankopan. Another reading I enjoyed, and learned from.
So, what new books are you looking at?