No man is an island, and the same goes for nations. Even among countries that are actual islands, existing apart and separate from the rest of the world is no longer a possibility. We are all connected in a million different ways. From the value of a country’s economy to the way its goods are imported or exported, the interaction of its citizens with the broader world and the influence of different systems, we live in an age of networks. These networks impact businesses in every country and how they operate under a Donald Trump economy vs a global economy. Countries have to adapt to the new connected systems that hold influence in the world.
Understanding this dynamic is critical to being able to thrive in this networked or connected environment. “Connected systems, a network of any kind is any set of connected points, so that can be people. It can be voters,” explains Joshua Cooper Ramo, author and CEO of Kissinger, in an interview with Charlie Rose. “It can be citizens of New York. It can be businesses that operate in bitcoin. We live in a world where you’re seeing an explosion of these interconnected linked meshes.” The challenge is that each element in the network, whatever it is, has his, her, or its own interests — and that can create surprising results, such as when a favored candidate doesn’t get a political nomination.
The Constancy Of Connection
The one thing that is continuous within these modern networks is the need to be connected, and that tendency can create stronger bonds within a network as well as impact the whole. For example, financial markets shift with each trade, moving up or down depending on investor demand of each particular security. Likewise, when people talk about a subject on social media and it becomes a trending topic, that can push a subject or person into headlines that may not have garnered as much attention without these connections.
Defeating A Network
The question then is not how do networks work — many of the connections are invisible — but how does one infiltrate and influence a network? “It takes a network to defeat a network,” Ramo explains. “You can’t go after a network with a hierarchical system.”
“If you look around the world today, there are eight different connected systems that have more than a billion users, Facebook, YouTube, Google, they have a very unusual property which is the more successful they get, the more of a monopoly they become in a sense, right?” Ramo continues. “There’s no second place to Facebook. There’s no second place to YouTube.” The more people who use the system, the better it gets and the more irreplaceable. There are so many people making money on Youtube from all over the world. We are seeing this in social media right now, but artificial intelligence is on the rise and then who knows?
The Future Of International Relations
While these systems have an incredibly democratic component — power is distributed to each individual — they are also very concentrated. In the case of social media platforms, all eight of those systems are American based. As such, what happens in the American social networks tends to have an influence in the world at large.
While there is a chance that America can continue to be a superpower in these connected networks, there is also a chance that the world will enter a new phase in which power is handed off to another party. Historically, this trend tends to take place every 100 years or so — and we are overdue for such a shift. Now, the only question is who will take over from the U.S.? The answer will depend on the networks involved.