In his new book, The Seventh Sense, Joshua Cooper Ramo, vice chairman and co-chief executive of Kissinger Associates, describes a new ”seventh sense” based on connectedness as the dominant source of modern knowledge and success. This information-age seventh sense builds on Nietzsche’s sixth sense, which extended rational thinking to intuition. Ramo’s “new age of constant connection” is built upon the networks that we depend on for our information, our activities, our opinions and increasingly our identity. Ramo talked to us about the seventh sense and how it is rapidly redefining our world and upending traditional hierarchies and trusted institutions.
Q: Describe how “the seventh sense” helps us think about today’s political and institutional leaders.
A: In short: You are the network you are a part of. Networks are connected systems of any kind—for DNA, data, trade, finance. The seventh sense is an ability to see how networks change power—and what that means for our economics, our politics and our security.
Q: You see networks as entities independent of, though facilitated by, technology, right?
A: Networks aren’t just a Twitter feed or a Facebook relationship; they are something fundamental. Networks connect us to information flows and attitudes that form an identity.
So much in our world has already changed radically as a result of deeper connectivity. Industries have been transformed. We have incredible prosperity. Our access to the marketplace and our ability to transact in business are radically improved.
But in trying to find solutions for the problems so much connection brings, we’ve often made things worse. Modern institutions are not built for the age of networks.
Governments have spent billions on fighting terrorism but remain locked in that fight. Leaders have worked to stabilize financial structures, but many are actually more vulnerable than ever.
Q: As we take stock of recent events and more fundamentally the state of our political system to address events, it is hard to be optimistic.
A: Networks can help us see things more clearly, but they can also make problems worse. Politics has become more extreme. We have tried to involve more people in the process, but it is not working. Voters who are part of networks crave constant updates from their leaders. The result is that their views become more extreme. Financial markets are consumed by every move in markets. Events are made more volatile because information moves attitudes.
You can beat a network only with another network. Networks are good at tearing things apart but not good at building new structures. This is why you hear so much acrimony in politics today.
Q: What about Brexit? Can we see networks at work in the U.K. vote to leave the European Union?
A: The Brexit vote demonstrates that people around the world are becoming more concerned about what they are connected to and why. We’ll see more concern about these sorts of questions in the future.
Q: How do we get from the age of networks to building new institutions?
A: The first step is to understand how networks work. In the industrial world of the past, people and problems were compartmentalized. Today, everything is connected. As a result, networks change the distribution of power and can create massive concentrations of power in the process. The second step is to appreciate that networks have the capability to make things happen instantly.
Q: It is hard to see who is going to lead the transformation.
A: The upheavals we are seeing now will create a new caste of people who have the seventh sense. These will be people who have mastered the secrets of networks like high-frequency traders and masters of Google algorithms.
Q: Where is this leading? Will this play out in economics? Politics?
A: We don’t yet know what economics should look like in this system. We have seen that capitalism left to run on its own in a network age produces new problems. Adjustment of economics will have to include some political element.
Login in below to access content exclusive to clients of The GailFosler Group.
Not a client yet? For more information on the benefits of becoming a client, please contact us.