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The Age of the Unthinkable: Why the New World Disorder Constantly Surprises Us And What We Can Do About It
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Product Description

Today the very ideas that made America great imperil its future. Our plans go awry and policies fail. History's grandest war against terrorism creates more terrorists. Global capitalism, intended to improve lives, increases the gap between rich and poor. Decisions made to stem a financial crisis guarantee its worsening. Environmental strategies to protect species lead to their extinction.


The traditional physics of power has been replaced by something radically different. In The Age of the Unthinkable, Joshua Cooper Ramo puts forth a revelatory new model for understanding our dangerously unpredictable world. Drawing upon history, economics, complexity theory, psychology, immunology, and the science of networks, he describes a new landscape of inherent unpredictability--and remarkable, wonderful possibility.

Customer Reviews:

  • Superb Book
    I had the privilege of hearing Joshua Cooper Ramo speak as part of a panel at the Los Angeles Festival of Books. The title of the panel was Packaging Fear: America & the Art of Persuasion. I bought his book on the spot and chatted briefly with him. The book is a page turner. One can open it up to any section and be completely engrossed. Mr. Ramo is a gifted writer and speaker. His insights and revelations have filled my head. This is a superb book that is of the utmost importance....more info
  • Makes you think at any age
    Ramo's Age of the Unthinkable makes you think at any age, albeit a little bit differently. Although primarily applying these concepts and approaches to world affairs, economics and politics; the application to other areas of life and life as a whole is compelling....more info
  • President Obama needs to read this book (along with the rest of us)
    A powerful book about why old-style thinking won't work. The book's theme might be summarized in a wonderful sentence on page 9:

    "We've left our future, in other words, largely in the hands of people whose single greatest characteristic is that the are bewildered by the present."

    The author explains in simple language just how complex systems can lead to unintended consequences. To take a few examples, the author tells us how a modern-day David will overcome a Goliath. He explains why Aharon Farkash was able to excel as head of Israeli military intelligence, in contrast to thirteen predecessors who had been fired before their terms were completed. We learn how Hizb'allah responds to attacks with resilience, not resistance, and thereby perpetuates its own existence and becomes stronger. And we learn how one venture capitalist was smart enough to invest in Google.

    With these examples, Ramo explains the thesis promised in his subtitle: Why the New World Disorder Constantly Surprises Us and What We Can Do About It. The ultimate lesson of the book is that the only way to prepare for the future is to become more resilient and enhance our ability to deal with change.

    The book falls short on its promise to suggest "what we can do about it." Success comes from sharing power, but you have to be in a position of power to make sharing possible. Ramo's story of the Brazilian company that becomes employee-driven is not unique; other companies have found success by giving power to the workers.

    I was especially intrigued by the story of medical challenges in Africa. Patients would take their AIDS medication but not their TB medication. A TB outbreak shocked the epidemiologists, but the author explains why patients responded differently to these two types of medications. It's another variation of the theory that people have to "own" solutions. It's also a direction for modern American medicine, which suffers from connectedness and centralization of power. We're seeing some "insurgent" response as individuals turn to the Internet, not the medical providers, for answers.

    Unlike some reviewers, I don't find this book simplistic. I'm not familiar with the details of the political and historical examples, so the author's careful approach seemed just right. I found it thought-provoking and disturbing...a must-read for anyone who does have power to make changes. ...more info
  • The Age of the Unthinkable: Why the New World Disorder Constantly Surprises Us And What We Can Do About It
    I am on my second read. I hope some one else is paying attention.......more info
  • Truly Thought Provoking - Wonderful Read
    This is the first time I've been so impressed with a book I've reviewed it (as well as having bought copies as gifts to others). I recommend people go to YouTube and enter the author's name to listen to him describe the book. Also recommend you consider the audiobook to hear the author reading it. Exceptional insight with very current examples which focus on life's complexities rather than oversimplify them. Will greatly assist strategic decision-makers consider consequences in a new light. Essentially, a very engaging book that assists readers develop a multi-dimensional approach to thinking about the world around us and acting in it....more info
  • Field Manual for a Changing World
    Picked this up after seeing Reid Hoffman's recommendation. A thoughtful look at how distributed ("cloud-based") organization and thinking can be applied to public/foreign policy....more info
  • Thought provoking but weak summary thesis
    The Age of the Unthinkable: Why the New World Disorder Constantly Surprises Us And What We Can Do About It

    "The Age of the Unthinkable" will appeal to many readers with interests in the alternative explanations of what cause our current econonic / political / social turmoils.

    Good points about the book (in no particular order by me):

    - New or alternative explanations about old events like the collapse of the Soviet Union, the insider views of Hezbollah's and Isreali's tactics
    - synthesis of different fields like Physics, Social Sciences, Psychology, Political Science, Foreign relations, History to explain complexities of events
    - Integrative or holistic vs reductionist thinking, Eastern vs Western cultural influences on our perspectives
    - A constant reminder for readers that things are not as simple as other pundits / talking heads were telling us because they were often proved wrong
    - Individual actions could carry much more significance than normally thought, but no guarantee
    - Distributive intelligence and resilient system / organization are 2 concepts that interest me the most, and give me much inspiration and hope for the future

    Weak points about the book (also in no particular order)

    - Every age is "the age of the unthinkable" since human existence
    - Joshua Ramo failed to make a strong final impression on me. I can't even summarize the central thesis of this book
    - Disjointed points of views, scattered examples in various fields, superficial or clearly biased extractions of lesson learned surely stimulate or agitate readers of strong biases of themselves. In other words, most examples and arguments are not convincing enough. If prior famous people quoted in the book proved to be wrong, much more would be required before I believe the version of reality or prognostications offered by the author.

    My final word about this book: 6 good points and 3 weak points, the math is simply in favor of the book. Strong recommendation.
    ...more info