Joshua Ramo’s Seventh Sense
Had Joshua Cooper Ramo’s latest book, The Seventh Sense: Power, Fortune, and Survival in the Age of Networks, been published before the launch of Napster, the recording industry might have been prepared for the seismic shift in power that was about to take place. In Ramo’s terms, the record labels could have remained “gatekeepers” instead of becoming “gatekept.”
While Ramo is a music buff with wide-ranging tastes — a short list of favorites includes Jose James, Gregory Porter, Skrillex, Steely Dan and FKJ — his best-seller isn’t about the music business at all. Instead, The Seventh Sense is a methodical, global assessment of how confusing and contradicting our “always on” networked society has become. Along the way, he offers insightful commentary about many of the problems that all of us face today in this new society of constant connectivity, where the nature of everything has changed.
Ramo is an impressive writer. Now 48, he began working as a journalist at Newsweek magazine in 1993. Three years later, he joined Time magazine, where he frequently wrote cover stories and in 1998 became the youngest senior editor and foreign editor in the history of the world’s largest circulated weekly news magazine.
Prompted by an interest in business and global affairs, Ramo soon began working with a former president of Goldman Sachs before taking a job with Kissinger Associates. He moved to China, where, near the Min River, he met 89-year-old Nan Huai-Chin, known as Master Nan, a spiritual teacher and major force in the revival of Chinese Buddhism. The Seventh Sense is a reflection of lessons in classical wisdom, concentration and insight that Ramo learned from Nan, all of which, Ramo suggests, leads to the cultivation of an instinct — a seventh sense.
In The Seventh Sense, Ramo also points out that, on one hand, the Internet is a democratizing force, offering access to billions of people, while, on the other hand, it’s a monopolistic enterprise controlled by a relative few. Spotify, Google and Facebook are good examples of this “winner take all” culture. Published in the late spring of 2016, the book also explains how Trump would win the election, the psychology of ISIS and the contagion of this century from a world where constant connection, short attention spans, reduced concentration, and mitigation of deeper thought develops a pandemic of the mind.
Ramo currently serves simultaneously as co-chief executive officer and vice chairman of Kissinger Associates and as member of the boards of directors of both FedEx and Starbucks. A Mandarin speaker, Ramo divides his time between Beijing and New York, and was the creator of The Beijing Consensus and a founder of the US‐China Young Leaders Forum.
In a time of worldwide pessimism, Joshua Cooper Ramo’s The Seventh Sense offers hope for the future with a message that, in this age of constant connection, it will be our seventh sense of networks that prepares us to meet the challenges that lie ahead.
The following is a conversation–transcribed from a JAZZIZ Not What You Think Podcast–between Joshua Ramo and Michael Fagien about The Seventh Sense.
Joshua Ramo: Hey Michael. How are you?
Michael Fagien: Hey, I’m good. How are you? Thanks for doing this.
Joshua Ramo: I’m good.
Michael Fagien: So where are you in Europe? You’re with family?
Joshua Ramo: I am, and we’re visiting my wife’s family in rural Germany.
Michael Fagien: [Let’s begin] Small world, I had just left Time Warner when you became the editor there, at Time Magazine.
Joshua Ramo: Yeah, maybe the senior editor or foreign editor, I never was the overall editor, but yeah. What year was that?
Michael Fagien: I was there ’93, ’94, ’95.
Joshua Ramo: Yeah, that was right when I joined. What a place. What were you doing?
Michael Fagien: Jerry Levin [CEO, Time Warner] and Bob Morgado [CEO, Warner Music] reached out to me with an idea to do music magazines on the Warner side.
Joshua Ramo: Ah.
Michael Fagien: And literally, as soon as I signed the deal for JAZZIZ with Warner, I got a call from Don Logan [CEO, Time Inc.].
Joshua Ramo: Of course.
Michael Fagien: And Don said, “Hey, can you meet me in New York? ‘Cause Warner’s doing music magazines, and we’re the magazine company, and I’d like to meet with you.” And that led to a string of meetings, which I got to know Don pretty well.
And ultimately what happened was, when Warner was beginning to enter into the AOL acquisition, or whatever you want call it, at the time, we kind of extricated ourselves. There were three magazines at the same time that decided that, “Hey, maybe it’s time to get out.” And it was actually Vibe magazine, which was Quincy Jones, Martha Stewart Living, and us. And all three of us got out at the same time and just went on our own.
Joshua Ramo: That was a good decision.
Michael Fagien: Yes it was.
Joshua Ramo: Poor people at Time, Inc. are still struggling with the effects of that merger.
Michael Fagien: Yeah, and there’s all kinds of rumors that Hearst may buy them, and Bronfman may buy them, and who knows. But it’s as, I guess …
Joshua Ramo: It’s hard.
Michael Fagien: … it’s a good segue into your latest book because obviously, things are changing, and networks have a lot, if not everything, to do with it … about a year ago the book came out?
Joshua Ramo: Exactly.
Michael Fagien: A New York Times and Washington Post bestseller, The Seventh Sense: Power, Fortune, and Survival in the Age of Networks. Now, one of the things, Joshua, that I loved about your book, is the beginning, when you’re talking about Master Nan. To me, that really pulled me in, and I want to know more about Master Nan. Can you tell us a little bit what it was like back then? I’m assuming that you were already an editor at the time, and you decided to go to China and … Tell us what was going on in your life then and how this evolved?
Joshua Ramo: Sure. And first, let me say it’s great to be with you, and great to have a chance to talk to you and your audience about this, and I hope I can say some stuff that’s helpful to people.
Michael Fagien: Thank you.
Joshua Ramo: I actually left journalism in 2001, and had moved to China, and met Master Nan a few years after I had moved to China. For people who haven’t read the book, the book is about this idea that the world is now changing so dramatically, and in such sort of surprising and confusing ways, with everything from strange political to economic turmoil around the world, that it requires a new instinct to understand that. So the book is a story of that instinct.
Master Nan was a great Chinese, sort of scholar, and practitioner of Buddhism and Taoism, an amazing historian and an expert on Confucianism. Really, one of the great living kind of carriers of Chinese tradition, who had traveled around the world, and returned to China and set up his own private school near Shanghai. And I had the chance, through some friends, to get to know him and go spend time with him, and it was one of these really amazing experiences.
Before I moved to China, one of my friends pulled me aside at a dinner and put his arm around me and said, “Look. It’s great that you’re going, and as important as being bilingual is, you also need to try to be bicultural.” At that time I was just studying Chinese, and it was a really great insight.
I work all day long in Chinese, but what you realize very quickly is that people you’re talking to have a different way of seeing the world in many cases than you do, and that cultural element of it is particularly important. So one of the real gifts of spending time with Master Nan was I began to learn to think and see in a very different way. And as I explained in the book, this idea of a seventh sense, there’s a way that it turned out is extremely useful for understanding a world that is in constant turmoil and change.
Michael Fagien: And one of the things — and I don’t remember whether I read something about you or if it was in the book — that Master Nan said, which is really kind of a great introduction to everyone listening was something along the lines of, “The faster we move, the sicker we get.”
Joshua Ramo: Yeah, exactly.
Michael Fagien: Tell me about that.
Joshua Ramo: I think one of his ideas, one of the things he said that really struck me, and was an inspiration for the book in many ways is, he was talking, he was always very interested in the way, and this is kind of a traditional view of Chinese philosophy, “How does the world around us affect us?” So much of Western philosophy begins with, “How do we, how can we affect the world around us?” And the Chinese view is that actually the world around us is a lot bigger than us and so, therefore, you’ve got to pay a lot attention to that.
Master Nan had a great historical sense, and one of things he said to me once, he said, “Look. If you look at the 19th century, everybody’s getting packed into these cities, industrialization was running really fast, and the disease of that era really was reflective of kind of a failure to understand what was happening and plan for it, which was pneumonia, and these vast contagions and flus and so forth.” He said, “In the 20th century, we surrounded ourselves with all of this plastic, and all of these new objects, and the disease of the 20th century was cancer.”
And he said, “In the 21st century, everybody is going to be connected to everybody else, at instant speed, all the time, all around the world. And the result of that is going to be” what he called, Jingshenbing which means, essentially, sort of spiritual illness. That this will be the disease that marks our age, because our brains are simply not wired for a world in which we are hyper-connected.
Not simply in terms of we’re always looking at our screens, or wasting time, and these kind of things, but more that the nature of connected systems is so different from these individualistic systems that we’re used to, that none of us are psychologically prepared for it. And as a result, the faster we move into that world, the sicker we’re going to get, the worse this spiritual illness is going to get, unless we develop some new ways to think about it, which is one of the things he challenged me to do, and that I try to explore in the book.
Michael Fagien: As you know, in addition to being a jazz nut and very much interested in the culture, as a nuclear radiologist, I hadn’t considered that, I had a master, although the more I think about it maybe he was my master. That was Dr. Robert Cade.
Dr. Cade had this idea, because he would force us [students] to think about things differently, and it was a very basic idea, back 40 years ago, that he was going to make a drink that would make athletes feel better. And people thought he was a nut job, and they said, “What are you talking about?” And he said, “Well, you know, we’re in Florida, and football players get out there on the field, it’s 90 degrees, they run out of energy. I think it’s electrolyte-based.”
So we would run around the University of Florida campus, we’d wear plastic gloves, we’d collect sweat … I was much more athletic at the time … and we’d analyze the electrolytes, and that became the formula for the drink. And because we’re at the University of Florida, and there was the Florida Gators, naturally he called the drink Gatorade.
Joshua Ramo: Incredible.
Michael Fagien: It was that ideology of thinking about things differently that I can see, when I read your bio and your books, that [these mentors inspired] seismic changes in the direction or the things that you write about. For example, I have a few mentors myself that, had I not been introduced to them, like you were to Master Nan, I may have taken a different course. I remember something as silly as when I was in radiology residency, I had a mentor in radiology who would make us read X-rays upside down, because it would force us to look at it differently.
Joshua Ramo: Yep, that’s very interesting.
Michael Fagien: And when I was reading your book, it kind of brought me back to those days. The interesting thing that I also found at the beginning of your book … relating to Master Nan … was the of concept that “your spirit has to move first”, that classical wisdom …
Joshua Ramo: Well, you know that first one is very interesting, because Master Nan’s first, sort of, spiritual discipline was that he trained to be a sword fighter. And one of the things about the great Asian martial arts traditions, whether it’s sword fighting, or archery, or the ones people in the West may be more familiar with, they all have, at their core, sort of a level of spiritual refinement.
It’s not about getting tough and learning how to hit in the right places, it’s about refining your internal sense so well that you are prepared for anything that comes at you, and therefore your reaction to it is just pure calm instinct, in the way you might pick up a glass, or pick up a fork, or, you know, open your eyes, to just make it that fundamental and simple.
But as a result, the core element of the training is not training you to hit harder or run faster. Those may be important elements, but it is about really refining your soul, and that’s done through poetry, and calligraphy, and study of the arts, and meditation, and all these things that have nothing to do with the actual physical martial art itself. I think that idea, which was an idea of Master Nan’s, that the spirit moves first, and then the sword moves if you’re a really great sword fighter, is very applicable to this age where we’re confronted with problems that we couldn’t have anticipated, and puzzles that are just very perplexing.
My interest, and that I try to tackle in the book, has a lot to do with politics and economics, and you look around the world and you say, “How is it we live in this incredibly prosperous age, but there’s still the kind of, the destruction of the middle class going on? Why is it that the most expensive war on terrorism in human history has kind of produced more terrorists, and not seemed to have solved that problem?”
There’s so many of these puzzles out there, and a lot of them have to do with the fact that there are new forces at work in the system. So Master Nan’s idea is if you want to understand that world, you really have to refine your spirit so you can be prepared to react to it. Just like a martial arts fighter would react to a sword attack, you have to be ready to react to these unseen forces that are suddenly showing up everywhere, and really challenging the old logic of power.
Michael Fagien: Yeah, one of the take-homes, [and I experienced] when I was in my training, the way I learned to be good at what I did, was through much humiliation. And I see that was sort of a tactic from Master Nan, where you were humiliated to the point where it struck a chord with you, you remembered, and that was a lesson learned.
Joshua Ramo: One of the great things about Chinese teaching…Chinese teaching methods…is a belief that your emotions have a lot to do with how you learn. That you learn differently when you’re happy or you’re sad, and so, therefore, the manipulation of the emotions is an important part of the manipulation of the mind. And so there were times where I would say something and Master Nan would just relentlessly come after me and say, “That doesn’t make any sense. How are you thinking about that?” Probably like a great medical school teacher would.
Michael Fagien: That’s right.
Joshua Ramo: And it’s that kind of forcing you to tear down your assumptions and rebuild them from scratch, that’s really the process that leads to insight and enlightenment. But that’s not an easy process to do. I think that’s why so many people want to hold onto old ideas, because it’s often very hard to let go of them and accept new ones.
Michael Fagien: There was a movie out a couple years ago by the director who just won all those awards for La La Land. His first film was Whiplash. I don’t know if you had a chance to see that, but it was …
Joshua Ramo: I have, and what a fantastic film.
Michael Fagien: Yeah, and talk about humiliation and intimidation … turned into a great drummer.
Joshua Ramo: I cannot recommend that movie enough. That last scene is one of the most magical moments in cinema.
Michael Fagien: Absolutely. One of the things that you really drove home and I almost felt like, you were saying was, “Don’t be afraid of [networks], because the very problem they created, will also be the solution.”
Joshua Ramo: Yep. So by networks, what I mean is not just things like the internet, but any collection of connected points, or people, or objects, or ideas is a network. So financial markets are a network. People who live in Beijing is a network. People being computer-diagnosed with diseases is a network. All of these are collections of points that are linked together.
And what’s different about our world today is that there are more of these points linked together than ever before. And that includes things like hedge funds, and terrorists, and political extremists, and all kinds of people who are now part of the same mesh that we are a part of. And these networks have laws and rules of their own.
So the basic idea of the book is really to try to say, “A connected object is different than one that’s not connected.” Whether that is a connected terrorist, or a connected voter, or a connected dollar, a connected musician, think about how all those things, and the meaning of those things, changes as a result of the fact that they’re connected to one another, or connected to social networks.
And what I wanted to try to do was really to begin to tease out of that an explanation of just what some of the rules of power would be in this new world. And the conclusion I came to, which I think touches a little bit on the question you just asked, is the shift we’re about to undergo, if you think about all of human history, that there was this massive shift which occurred, starting about 600 years ago with the Reformation, that began the Reformation and then the Enlightenment, and then the Renaissance, and the Scientific Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, and that really made the modern world.
And that process, on the one hand, was one of the most, if not the most, destructive process in human history. It wiped out almost every institution in Europe. There were entire countries that got left behind. But at the same time, it created the modern world that we know now.
I think the shift to a world of connection is going to be very similar. It is going to uproot a lot of the old power rules that we thought we knew. It is going to take apart many of the institutions that we once relied on. You and I both have a background in the magazine industry, right? Just think what connectivity has done to that traditional role. Think about what it’s going to do to your world of radiology, as artificial intelligence machines start reading X-rays and MRIs.
So all sort of old rules of power are going to change, but what is likely to emerge at the end of that, if we manage it properly, could actually be something pretty spectacular. But it doesn’t mean that this isn’t a really terrifying time. It doesn’t mean that there’s also the possibility of something really horrible emerging on the other side if we’re not careful.
Michael Fagien: Something I also wanted to dig deeper into was when you said that network power can be mapped.
Joshua Ramo: Yeah. I think one of the main points that I wanted to make in the book is that there is a way to understand why these forces emerge. One idea that I have is that there are certain people who can kind of look at the world and see the way that network systems produce new power. So you and I might look at a car, and we think, “Oh, that’s a car.” The guys from Uber looked at it and said, “Hey, a connected car creates a totally new kind of economics.” The Airbnb guys looked at spare bedrooms and had the same thought.
There are folks who have an ability to look at these connected systems and really understand the way in which they work in an intuitive fashion. And those are the folks who are building great fortunes, and new opportunities, and the sort of incredible things are defining, you might say, the sort of optimistic part of our world at the moment.
Well, all of those systems can be mapped and understood. They all have certain rules of how they exist. In network science they call them topologies, and I spend a lot of time in the book talking about how do you navigate these topologies. We spend time in the book, for instance, traveling around with some of the greatest hackers working today. Not because we want to learn how to break into computer systems, but because they actually understand a lot about kind of where these maps really show strength, and where they show vulnerability. We spent time with people who are thinking about problems of artificial intelligence, in the book, as a way to kind of get at the roots of the problems that emerge there.
So that’s the idea, that there are new power maps that are emerging on these systems. And first of all, they are understandable, but secondly, we should try to understand them, because one of the things that they do is they put an incredible amount of power in the hands of a very few people, in some cases. So the guys who run Google or Facebook, these are some of the most powerful people on the planet right now.
And they’re powerful because we use those systems, so we should be thoughtful about how do we use them, how are those systems regulated, who has the power, what do they it for. All of these are the kinds of questions that we need to ask, but in order to ask those questions, we’ve got to have some basic understanding of just why the systems work the way they do. And that understanding is what I call the seventh sense, is really kind of the story of this book.
Michael Fagien: I was reading The Seventh Sense when President Trump was beginning his campaign, and I had a suspicion that there was a network involved in the process. And now that he’s been elected, I think that your book helped me understand how he got elected.
Joshua Ramo: Yeah, I think that’s right. Trump is definitely a President of the network age. Without making any judgment, everybody can have their own political opinion about it, but just from a power perspective, if you ask yourself how is it that a guy who nobody thought … if we’d sat here three years and we said, “Look, who’s gonna get the nominee? You’re down in Florida, right? Your former Florida governor, who is a prince of the Republican Party, he’s brought in over $150 million for the primaries, or Donald Trump. Who’s likely to get the nomination?” Both of us would have said Jeb Bush.
The reality is that Trump was able to use incredibly powerful forces of social media, combined with using some forces that are sort of inherent and latent in existing media, to really reach a new kind of audience with a new kind of campaign. At the same time, the landscape that he was addressing, and part of the frustrations that he was addressing with people, were largely caused by forces of the network age.
One of the points I make in the book is that the old political debate used to be between left and right. And the new political debate is between open and closed. You want to be a part of a system, you want to be closed, so Brexit is an example of that, Trump’s wall is an example of that. In a connected world, that core question of, “Are you in or are you out? What are you connected to?” It turns out to be a very important question, and that was an incredibly resonant question for a lot of the people who voted for Donald Trump. What are we connected to, and what is it doing to our lives, to our economy, and to our security?
Michael Fagien: And another real take-home is that people who read your book can understand terrorism so much more, because as you pointed out, it’s aimed at our psychology.
Joshua Ramo: Yep, that’s right. When you think about it, it’s really important to understand. Terrorism is not an existential threat to the United States. No terrorist attack is going to wipe the entire country out in the way that, say, a nuclear weapon attack could have during the Cold War. But it is an activity designed to target people’s brains, their psychology. And the world of networks, of instant connectivity, only makes it more effective. First of all, because it means anything that happens anywhere in the world is instantly beamed right to us, so it feels much more present than it might be, geographically. And secondly, the nature of these connected systems is that they are filled with all sorts of vulnerabilities. And so anybody who can get anywhere inside the network, really has an ability to make a kind of tremendous impact.
It used to be that if you wanted to have a big impact in the world, you needed to have a big thing. If you wanted to have a war, you needed a big army. If you wanted to cause a financial catastrophe, you needed a big market collapse. Now what we’ve seen is very small things, one terrorist attack, one hedge fund trader making a mistake on a trade, any of these things can cause tremendously large impacts in the world. Terrorism is an example of a small thing having a big effect, because the rules of the system are very different.
Michael Fagien: You suggested also that while there may be a perceived decline of the United States, and while it may be transient, it is in some ways created by, and will be solved by, networks.
Joshua Ramo: Yeah, the core question of American foreign policy right now, which is probably also the most important question in global geostrategy is; Is the United States going to continue to be a dominant superpower? That’s a super important question, because if you look at all history, you have one view of history that says, particularly if you look at European history, that says superpowers get about a hundred years, and then they’re done. So the Dutch had a hundred years, then the French, then the British came along, then the United States, and everybody ran for about a century, and well, maybe the United States’ century is up, and somebody else is due to take over.
It turns out that that is actually one way of looking at history, but if you look at all human history, what we know is that there are also systems and empires that last hundreds of years. The Roman Empire is the one people are probably the most familiar with, but the Assyrians, the Qin, the Mongol, there’s a long list of empires. And if you look at all of human history, about half of the time is dominated by these particular systems that dominate large parts of the world.
The reason that’s relevant is that when you have a single dominant power, it tends to be a much more peaceful age. There are statistically a lot less wars when you have a single dominant power. The case in which you have the most wars tends to be when you have two powers that are sort of squabbling over who’s up or who’s down, and when you have many powers competing, that also can be a pretty violent time.
We’ve lived, in the last period since the end of the Cold War, in a period of really unprecedented peace. What you and I have enjoyed for the bulk of our lifetimes, the ability to sort of travel freely, to not feel some sort of existential dread or peril, that’s an incredible gift. Because it means all of the energy, and all of the fear that’s associated with disorder in the international system, has been something that we’ve been able to put to the side and focus on other things.
So this question of what is the future of the United States’ power, even though it sounds like kind of an abstract question, and maybe not a question that has much impact on people’s lives, in fact is maybe one of the most important questions that’s going to decide the context in which we are all able to live our lives. And my point in the book is that if you really look at the network systems carefully, what you’ll see is there’s a logic there that suggests we actually can find a way to stabilize the system to not have another period of war and disaster, but it’s going to take a lot of very energetic statesmanship, it’ll take a vision for what the international system ought to look like.
And there’s a lot to be worried about, because usually in history, any time you have these major shifts of power, whether it’s from one nation to another nation, or during the Industrial Revolution, where you had constant introduction of new weapon systems, and right now in the information revolution, we’re seeing the constant introduction of new information-based weapon systems. These lead to wars. They lead to large-scale international tragedy. So we all ought to be very aware of what it is we should be trying to prevent right now.
Michael Fagien: A sobering point that you mentioned was that our leaders are not prepared for this.
Joshua Ramo: Yeah, I think they’re not, for the most part. As somebody who spends a fair amount of time in Washington, and obviously in New York in the financial world, talking to people who think about this world, there’s almost no understanding of it. There may be dim intellectual understanding that the world has sort of changed, but an understanding really of the implications of it is very rare to run into. And an encounter with somebody who really understands why it’s happening, and the mechanics of it and the gears of it, in terms of people who currently have power, it’s something I have to tell you honestly, I’ve never really run into.
You do have a lot of people in the world who understand how networks work, but they tend to mostly be younger. They’re running internet companies. They don’t really understand or care much about politics or economics of these large-scale questions. And that’s really a problem in the sense that, what you would like to do is have the people who understand networks also be the people that have the most power, and the people who understand power, really have a feeling for how these connected systems are changing the policies that they choose to adopt.
Michael Fagien: Yeah, and I’ve thought about that a lot. I know a lot of people who are into tech, they don’t know much about history. Then I know maybe an older crowd, if you would, very, very savvy on history but don’t know anything about technology. Does that mean we’re sort of in a transition phase, where eventually those older folks, if you would, I hate to sound cynical, but they’re going to die out. The younger ones, hopefully, will learn about history, as they’ve learned about technology, and then, might we be in a little bit safer place?
Joshua Ramo: Yeah, that might be the case, but I think also we’re having, if you look at so much of our political energy in the world right now, it does resemble a lot a period, like 1848, where you had something very similar in the middle of the Industrial Revolution. Where there was this moment where society was poised to make a great kind of jump ahead to a next level of science and industry, and there was just massive reaction all around Europe, from a generation and a very large swath of the population that didn’t want railroads and mechanized agriculture and urbanization, and all these things to uproot their habitual ways of living.
Inevitably we will get to the future and a period where the younger folks who understand networks are in charge. I think the question is just sort of how uneasy is the transition to that point going to be, and what can we do to try to make sure that whatever does emerge in the future sort of suits the values and ideals that we’ve always stood for.
Michael Fagien: One thing I did want to ask you about, technology and diversity. I know recently there have been companies that have tried to promote diversity through commercialism, but the thing that I find interesting about technology, the people in technology are, in fact, very diverse. Should the network be able to reflect that ethnicity from the people who built it?
Joshua Ramo: One of the most important things about connected systems is that diversity is a source of strength. And the reason for that, if you just think about it, imagine the network in any connected system, as confronting you constantly with different kinds of problems that you have to solve. Think of it as a wall full of bolts and screws and nails, and the reality is the more screwdrivers and wrenches and hammers you have, the more effective you’re going to be in getting things done.
Diversity is like that. The world is constantly presenting us with new problems, and the ability to make sure you honestly have different takes on something, that you think about in ways that you, just by your own upbringing, your own background, can’t think about problems, really is a mark of success. And when you look at networks in the future, the most vibrant, the strongest, will be the ones that are the most diverse, because that gives them the broadest range of action to respond to things, and it also creates the most possibility for creativity.
Michael Fagien: Well, I’m not going to let you off the hook until we talk about the music business. Obviously that’s why we’re here today, but I remembered, when I sent you an email, you responded by saying, “Hey, Gregory Porter on your cover, I like that.”
Joshua Ramo: Yup.
Michael Fagien: You’re a music fan, what are some of your favorite artists?
Joshua Ramo: Well, first of all, let me just say what a miracle it is of what technology has done for our ability to enjoy music. If you are a music nut, the ability to constantly discover new and exciting sounds that you haven’t heard before, What an incredibly special time to be alive. The technology for making music has never been better, and, for me, I just think there are things being made today that are absolutely immortal.
What do I listen to at the moment? I’m obsessed at the moment with an artist you may not know called FKJ, French Kiwi Juice, who’s a French producer. I very much encourage you to go listen to his stuff. There’s some wonderful videos, he’s sort of a combination of trip hop and jazz, he’s great. I can never get enough Kanye, so at the moment I happen to be listening to a fair amount of Kanye.
I think we both share a love of jazz, so I never get tired of some of the old classics, but among kind of new jazz folks, I really like Jose James, I don’t know if you’ve heard his stuff …
Michael Fagien: Yes, of course.
Joshua Ramo: … he’s terrific. Gregory Porter’s absolutely fantastic. Michael Kiwanuka I like very much. There’s endless amazing stuff to be listening to and to be honest with you, I’ve got a whole summer of really exciting music festivals on my calendar, probably the highlight of which will be seeing Radiohead in Florence. I think with Michael Kiwanuka opening for them. We’re going in May to a weekend where there will be Skrillex, who is fantastic, and James Blake and Solange. If you like music, wow, is this a great time to be alive.
Michael Fagien: Absolutely and I think jazz, is somewhat at a tipping point in that, there’s a new way for younger people to experience jazz that wasn’t available to them before, and we’re starting to see, really a new wave of music listeners in the jazz space, that without the network technology era we are in today, probably would not have happened.
Joshua Ramo: That’s very interesting. Yeah, that doesn’t surprise me. You know, we live in New York, down in the Village, right near a bunch of jazz clubs, and I would say in the last four or five years, the lines at the Village Vanguard, the lines at Smalls, they’ve gotten longer. And I think it’s exactly what you’re saying, which I hadn’t thought about until you mentioned it, which is I think there’s a new generation that’s discovering that music.
Michael Fagien: I’ll leave you with this. Larry Carlton, a pretty famous jazz guitarist …
Joshua Ramo: Yup.
Michael Fagien: … best known probably for his work with Steely Dan, he performed at one of the JAZZIZ clubs, and one thing that he said to me, “This was the first time that I played at a club where it just wasn’t a bunch of old guys in black t-shirts.”
Joshua Ramo: I love it, that’s great. I didn’t know that Larry Carlton had played with Steely Dan.
Michael Fagien: Yeah, a lot of the guitar solos in Steely Dan, during the ’70s and early ’80s, were Larry.
Joshua Ramo: Yeah, I mean Steely Dan, that was just magical stuff.
Michael Fagien: I’m looking for the next Steely Dan. That’s my thing. A band where there’s a lot of jazz, [that introduces the masses to great players by] like a British critic once said, “What I loved about Steely Dan is they did jazz, but they never did too much jazz.”
Joshua Ramo: Yeah, Steely Dan’s unbelievable, the way it played on the back of the beat … and check out FKJ.
Michael Fagien: All right.
Joshua Ramo: I think you’ll like it, it’s magical sounding stuff at the moment. Great to talk to you, I’m glad we connected.
Michael Fagien: Always wonderful to talk to you, let’s stay in touch, and thanks again. The book is The Seventh Sense: Power, Fortune, and Survival in the Age of Networks. Thank you, Joshua.
Joshua Ramo: Thanks, Michael, for having me on.
Michael Fagien: All right, bye bye.
Joshua Ramo: Bye bye.
Find out more about Joshua Cooper Ramo at his website.
You can buy The Seventh Sense: Power, Fortune, and Survival in the Age of Networks at: