Wednesday, March 10, 2010

On Robert Greene's talk: "From Napoleon to Google: Strategies for Success in a Brave New World" at the Emirates Litreature Festival


I read Robert Greene's The 48 laws of power a 5 years ago and though his laws are mostly intuitive, I found it a very well curated crash course in history. Greene's talk today was an extension of the same. And while his finger is on the pulse, he is not alone. However, he remains an effective figure and it is good to know he is a fellow collaborator.


Greene takes talks about historic fatality, which occurs when a great idea take over the world so completely that it becomes it's only way e.g. agriculture as method of food production. He follows that with the detailing the process by which concentrated power is diluted from the tribal village to the bureaucratic and complex modern city and sites Capitalism, political revolutions & media as specific contributors to the exponential dilution of power in the last century. Directly after that, Greene makes it clear that this will dilute further until, in 100-200* years, individuals will want to have almost total control over their life.

He then discusses the current crisis and tech bubble stating that one of two things gives rise to bubbles. First, the over-abundance of capital which effectively means you have too much money following too few ideas. This leads to much of abundance being invested in sub-par ideas which eventually fail. The second, and arguably the more complicated spot, is the correlation of the occurrence of bubbles and the increased state of general insecurity people. of the current world. People doubt the present and so start looking for a new future.

In today's age, we have four kinds of companies:

  1. Over-consumption driven by over-marketed businesses: these are on their way out.
  2. Dinosaurs e.g. Microsoft: They'll be out in 10-20 years.
  3. Crisis survivors e.g. Google
  4. New businesses that are product of creative destruction**

Greene then says that humans are finally entering the information age and that those who do not comprehend that will probably makes the wrong decisions and subsequently are unable to join this era. Two prevalent approaches to change that are wrong are either freaking out and holding on to the past or proceed with limited interest and a lot of indifference.

He compares Google to Napoleon who started off as an innovator who called he's top down generals Marie Antoinette for their lack of touch with the times. Greene reminds us that after 10 glorious years, it is Napoleon himself who becomes bureaucratic and attempts to consolidate power which leads to 10 horrible years as he becomes the very thing he revolted against.

In short, did Greene say anything I didn't know? But I'm extremely excited at how fast the subject of #wcm moved to mainstream talks and panels. Greene's stories were entertaining and will undoubtedly serve as good material for many discussions I expect to have with friends and collaborators who attended the talk.


*more like 30-60 years in my view
** a process by which new ideas emerge by the sheer destruction of whatever stood before.

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