False images of the world

Published by Tony Quinlan on

Great conversations at a two-day meeting in Miami. On the flight on the way over, I finally got around to starting Joshua Cooper Ramo's The Age of the Unthinkable (subtitled "Why the New World Disorder constantly surprises us and What we can do about it"). It looks to be an interesting reflection on diplomacy and international relations from a complexity perspective. I suspect it's broader than that, and I'm always slightly wary of books that claim to cover complexity and then turn out to be systems and solutions. This one starts well though: "The goal of this book is not to give stylized, simple answers – what honest thinker would hope to answer questions that are still being created and that exist outside our current language?"

A few quotes have struck me early on:

Our image of the world now, constructed by people we once thought we could rely upon for such work, is false, actually and philosophically false. It's time to replace it with an image that actually works. What we need is a framework for the sort of change that fits our world – and lays a foundation for the widespread personal involvement of millions of people that will make such change useful, durable and sustainable.

A dynamic and accurate view of power now can offer a way to engage our world that is not only more reliable but also – and this is crucial – more decent.

The temptation to read "reliable" as "predictable" is strong – and wrong. I can see where he's aiming but wonder whether "resilient" might have been better. But that's my trying to understand what he was aiming at, which I can't do.

I'd also add one further piece to that last sentence in the quote. From my experience, the ways to engage our world can often be more straightforward – and more social, making them easier and more personal than most people assume.