Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Review : Connectography by Parag Khanna

Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global CivilizationConnectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization by Parag Khanna
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

The one start is not as much the book itself but the great disappointment of my high expectation after reading so much acclamations on Goodreads. The irrational hype must be cooled down. The book spent great proportion talking about China and East Asia, where I grew up. I didn't learn anything new in those parts. In addition, the author doesn't seem to be an expert in global trend, despite he was an adviser to US national Intelligence Council, and US Special Operations Forces. Compare with another geopolitics journalists, Robert Kaplan, Parag Khanna's portrayal of the global geopolitics is not only bland, but superficial. The magna title 'connectography' is nothing but a hyperbole. There's nothing new except for its cover. Honestly, after browsing it in the last two week, I don't want to finish it because I have already know better than him. Unlike Thomas L. Friedman, the author of his much celebrated book, 'The World is Flat,' Mr. Khanna's work is at most a caricature. His understanding about China, Korea, and other so called 'the rising east' powers is actually insufficient. In terms of the development of IT and fin-tech infrastructure, China is catching up with the U.S (even ahead believe or not). China and Korea's online-gaming industry and culture is surfacing as another significant subculture. The author didn't point out why China invest heavily on foreign countries aside form seising their natural resources. It is not only an offense strategy countering the West political powers, but also a defense measure that prevents economy bubble happened in Japan. China doesn't need so much natural resource as its great construction period is slowing down. It is more a way to develop export market of its products and services to consume the over-production of its millions of factories to prevent the great recession that Americans experienced after WWII. As far as China study goes, the content in the book doesn't brace the volume of such a ambitious title.

As for other old connections - gas pipeline, goods supply chain, migrations, the author was also scratching the surface. I expected to see more in-depth analysis on talent migration, such as the prediction of possible brain power drain of developing countries, and the possible impact to local culture, as long as how it affects superpowers' global strategies on attracting global talents. I hold a different view of globalization from the author. I see the rise of hypertube and Tesla the new paradigm of future connections. Already close areas, such as Seattle, SF and LA, or Boston, NY, will become more connected. Uber, autopilot and Tesla will reduce the cost of transportation of man and goods, both money-wise and environment-wise. Our reliance on oil and gas will decline when the building solar city gain its popularity. Germany just announced industry 4.0, declaring a era of customized manufacturing against mono-model mass production. Many companies are shifting their factories back from China. These facts are not matching the pattern the author proposed.

However, the author got it right. We are entering a new era of less traditional sovereigns such as cultural background, nationality, and location. Its much easier to work abroad nowadays, as far as regulations go. Many skilled workers left their countries to seek a new identity, better quality of life, better chance to realize one's dream. However, the competition for working VISAs in the UK and the US is still difficult to many people. We got multiple identity thanks to Internet and social networks. We might be more identified with someone hundred miles away than our neighbors. This will only be more true when the VR technology catching on. The author's world view seemed to be over-conservative and unimaginative since most graphs depicts our world very similar to Columbus's world centuries ago.

This book is neither revolutionary since all its claims are not more sensational than what I read on newspapers. All his claims are either clichés or predictable. You can't even call them observations of a new trend. Most of them are just what is happening as the way it was. I would rather enjoy Ray Kurzweil's dramatic style more , even though his crazy prophecy of singularity is another extreme. That said, at least it is something fresh, and scholarly crazy.

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