Some thinkers see history as constant or cyclical; others see it as evolutionary or directional. Ramo is in the latter camp, and his bold new book is an attempt to sketch the contours of the new “age of networks” he sees aborning. A few centuries ago, in his telling, the Enlightenment and the scientific revolution gave birth to the modern world, with its capitalism, democracy, global trade, and industrial power. Today, the spread of networks and constant, ever-faster connections is creating a new kind of order with new sources of strength. Power is both more concentrated and more distributed than ever before, traditional assets become irrelevant almost overnight, and all that is solid melts into air—or, rather, into pulses of information. Individuals, firms, and nations that can appreciate and master the new order will flourish; those that can’t will flounder. Skeptics may find this all a bit overwrought and bewildering; Ramo would consider such responses the hallmark of those destined to be left behind.
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