Dr. Moises Naim joined James Altucher to talk about the end of power, what that means for individuals, and how you can get a seat at the table. Naim’s book is The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being In Charge Isnt What It Used to Be. The central idea to the book and interview is that the established players in any area, from entertainment to politics, have a much harder time holding their relative position.
The list of fans beyond James is quite a group. Mark Zuckerberg made it the first book in his 2015 book club. Bill Clinton too has recommended it.
Naim tells James that “power has become easier to acquire, harder to use, and easier to lose.” Look at Vladimir Putin, Naim says. A few years ago he was considered the most powerful man in the world. Now, he’s dealing with economic restlessness, brittle relations with Germany, and he disappears for a week while the world wonders where he is.
I’ll throw another example into the mix, Funny or Die. In 2007 the website released “Pearl the Landlord.” Adam McKay’s young daughter plays the landlord that Will Ferrell needs to ask for a rent extension. It cost nothing but time and went on to become one of the most popular videos of the year and launched the company. Now they share an office building with Oprah.
Or consider Google, a force that seems so dominant its power will never decay. But, if you look back in history, Naim says, you see that the same thing would be said about Microsoft. There’s always been a technology company that’s ruled until they haven’t. Looking back to look forward is one of The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking.
“Whenever you face an issue—whether an area of study or a decision about a future path—consider what came before. Wonder how the issue at hand landed in front of you. Ask where and what it was yesterday, a month ago, a year ago, and so forth. Everything, everyone has a history and evolves.”
This, and challenging our assumptions are two mental models that Kevin Kelly (episode #96) applies. “What if” he asked Tim Ferriss, “the things we assume to be true, won’t be.” Kelly specifically cites Moore’s Law, what if for some crazy reason, the raw materials that we use in computers don’t work anymore, then what?
The new key in thinking isn’t power, Naim says, it’s that “you have to have something special. You have to have a special attribute.” Peter Thiel (episode #43) might call this finding a secret and he writes, “every great business is built around a secret that’s hidden from the outside.”
Naim says that there is a movement in part from the growing middle class worldwide. Billions of people are moving from a class of poverty to a class of spending in places like Thailand, Peru, and China and “when this happens there are profound changes in their aspirations, expectations, and motivations” he tells James.
There are three revolutions at work, more, mobility, and mentality.
- More. “We live in a world in which there is more of everything.” Naim tells James. There are more options, diseases, places to eat, and things to do. Like a chemistry experiment that’s stable when you add elements becomes less stable when you add more, so goes the world.
- Mobility. It’s not just people that are moving to more urban areas, but information is moving too. This works against those in power because Naim says, “power needs a captive audience.”
- Mentality. A change in values – going from a lower class to an upper one – is a factor that can drive change in people.
These changes will made things better though. Naim notes that thanks to something like Facebook – or even a WordPress blog, 🙂 – we all can tell a story. This bright future echoes what Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler (episode #93) told James, “The day before something’s a breakthrough it’s a crazy idea.” You almost have to be small to have crazy ideas that can change the world. Kodak can’t make a filtered photo app. Some has speculated that this vein of thinking is the reason behind Facebook’s acquisitions of companies like WhatsApp, Oculus VR, and Quickfire.
“Here’s to the crazy ones.”
“People have a better shot than ever before to have a seat at the table.” Naim says, but too much fragmentation can hurt a democracy. This is why parents around the country tell their children this isn’t a democracy each night at the dinner table when requests for pizza are denied. Vetocracy has it’s advantages and disadvantages though. It often means that at the governmental level, nothing gets done, good or bad.
In the end, Naim says we live in “a world that has more opportunities and offers more possibilities to the average human being than ever before in history.”