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Connectography | Page Crimps
Key Takeaways from Parag Khanna's Connectography
I picked up my copy of Connectography because I was intrigued by the audacious sub-title: ‘Mapping the Future of Global Civilization.’
Thinking something like—Okay, I’ll bite—I eagerly purchased the book and added it to my queue. Making my way through the book, I was captured by the author’s explanation of his vision for globalization, and in hindsight, it is a book whose ideas about the world I’ve consciously referenced perhaps more than any other in recent memory.
The book was written by Parag Khanna, a PhD in international relations from the London School of Economics who’s traveled to over 75% of the world’s countries. In his work, Dr. Khanna is a specialist in geopolitics and globalization, and was named one of Esquire’s “75 Most Influential People of the 21st Century”.
Why do I call this ‘Page Crimps’?
Readers who’ve been with me for a while may remember the pattern language description from my first entry to this series on Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra. I add this blurb to all my Page Crimp posts to loop in new subscribers as to the name and format of these editions of my newsletter.
When I'm reading a book, I crimp the corner of pages that include ideas or passages that stick out to me. When I finish reading, I then write out those passages and ideas in a notebook, generally including why they stuck out to me. To extract further value out of this practice, I aggregate the most broadly valuable ideas for consumption on this newsletter, once a month. My notes here are no substitute for a good book. My highest hope is not that this series be used as an alternative too engaging in a good read, but as a tease to pickup the book and enjoy the ride yourself.
On to it —
p27 | Early in the book, Khanna points out how the fastest growing category of new city in the world are cities of around one million. These ‘pop-up cities’, as he calls them, are in many cases built around a single company or industry. He goes on to suggests that these cities have the potential to lift more individuals out of poverty and spread growth than any aid program could possibly imagine.
That said, on the same page below this optimistic outlook is a note of caution for how an increase in some of societies biggest atrocities such as human trafficking are ‘inextricably linked with how we manage our supply chains.’..
“Without the markets, infrastructures, and agents who operate supply chains for everything, it would be harder for us to exploit each other and nature on a global scale.”
p63 | The concept that made the book for me: Devolution.
“Devolution is the perpetual fragmentation of territory into ever more (and smaller) units of authority, from empires to nations, nations to provinces, and provinces to cities. “
This isn’t a bad thing though. As Khanna points out, it’s a law of nature. The second law of thermodynamics suggest that all systems tend towards maximum entropy. Our nations too are just following this rule.
So if it isn’t bad, then why is it good?
In the proceeding pages, Khanna continues to build an argument for why the most sure fire path to globalization, might be absolute fragmentation. My next 2 notes will build this argument in greater detail, but in short, it’s because a reliance on cooperation and sharing of infrastructure will bring the world together, in a way that a top-down, authoritarian regime never could.
p167 | Khanna points out a few of the largest secondary markets in the world, from electronics finding new life in Lagos, Nigeria to western automobiles sent abroad to be maintained well beyond where we retire them in the states. He goes on to suggest how a more connected world would enable more economic opportunity for maximizing milage on items. With better infrastructure and trade over that infrastructure, products retired from one area could be more easily routed to areas where it’s economically viable to refurbish and resell them.
p236 | Khanna makes the argument for why an attack on supply chains is an attack on everyone, further propping up his point that a world that is more interconnected through smaller authorities would be less likely to enter conflict.
The world has already grown farther along the path of interconnectedness than ever before. It would be much harder as is to initiate a physical attack directed at one party without intersecting another. One example from the book to illustrate the potential cascading effects of an attack is given through highlighting one container ship called the Maersk Triple-E.
“Now imagine for a moment that a Maersk Triple-E sets sail from Shanghai bound for Rotterdam, carrying its full capacity of 36,000 Nissan cars, 180 million Apple iPads, 110 million pairs of Nike shoes—or some combination of these and other goods. As it crosses the South China Sea between the Paracel and the Spratly island clusters, it is hit—and sunk—by a long-range torpedo fired by a Chinese submarine aimed at a Vietnamese navy ship harassing CNOOC’s HYSY 981 oil rig. Against whom would this be an act of war? Maersk, the ship’s operator? Denmark, the ship’s home government? South Korea, the shipbuilder? The companies whose aggregated goods amount to $4 billion in concentrated risk? The thick tangle of suppliers—including, ironically, companies in Vietnam and China—that will lose revenues for goods not delivered and sold? Whether or not such a scenario ever occurs, an attack on the Maersk Triple-E would be an attack on globalization—which is an attack on everyone.”
A quick note of another point I liked on this page:
“Shipping companies are the initial archetype of stateless corporations, loyal more to the flows of commerce than nationality.”
This edition was a little shorter than usual, but I found that many of the passages and ideas I thought were interesting wouldn’t have been quite broad enough for me to include here. Many related to different major infrastructural projects that were underway at the time, balkanization events and more.
That being said, after combing back over these notes, I do not think that this is an outdated read. In fact, it’s content may be even more relevant than at the time of publication. If you’d like to take my word for it and pickup a copy of Connectography, you can support this newsletter by doing so through this link.
If you do and want to discuss what sticks out to you, I would love to engage someone in a conversation about these ideas. Reach out to me on Twitter or Urbit at ~padlyn-sogrum.
Because of how the ideas from this book stuck with me, Dr. Khanna was one of the first individuals I reached out to when I joined The Vance Crowe Podcast as an executive producer. Nearly a year and a half later, we were finally able make the interview happen, linking up with Dr. Khanna while he was in Singapore from our studio in St. Louis. You can listen to that interview anywhere here, or watch it on YouTube.
Next week, I’m going to talk about quitting.