Resource Review (2)

Resource Review – Connectography: Just how interconnected are we?

By Brock Dickinson

The phrase “connectivity” is often bandied about in economic development circles, and usually refers to a community’s capacity to connect to the digital realm, thereby supporting investment and opportunities in the knowledge space. But what if connectivity was more than just a digital notion? What if our local economic success was dictated in large part by a bigger concept of connectivity? This bigger concept might include digital connections, but also physical transportation and infrastructure connections, and a host of people connections that tie us together through culture, social perspectives, and business opportunities. This is the central notion behind Parag Khanna’s latest book Connectography, which carries the rather ambitious subtitle Mapping the Future of Global Civilization.

Connectography is a big, sprawling book that Khanna has described as “a book about everything.” His core argument is that we “are moving into an era where cities will matter more than states and supply chains will be a more important source of power than militaries — whose main purpose will be to protect supply chains rather than borders. Competitive connectivity is the arms race of the 21st century.” Basically, our ability to connect determines whether we will succeed or fail in the new economy.

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Khanna’s work is often clearer in ambition than in execution, and Connectography is no exception. It’s full of nuggets like “[d]evolution-aggregation is how the world comes together by falling apart.” He makes grand-sounding predictions with obscure meaning, such as the notion that we are about to enter a “Great Supply Chain War that will redraw 21st-century maps as much as the Thirty Years’ War did in the 17th century.” Perhaps most perplexingly, he fails to suggest ways in which increasingly connected super powers and corporations relate to the emergence of forces like Brexit and U.S. President-Elect Donald Trump. To be fair, he does plan to address that in a book next year, in which he favours abandoning fickle democracy for a new Technocracy.

But despite its weaknesses, Khanna’s book does a solid job of mapping the ways in which connectivity spurs opportunity. In an era where emerging leaders from Trump to Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are signalling renewed interest in infrastructure investment, Connectography offers a road map for effective investment. Further, at a time when immigration and workforce mobility are becoming larger concerns, Khanna makes a strong case for the way in which the movement of people can become an asset for development. Ultimately, Connectography is one of those books where you have to pick and choose the most useful parts… But some of those parts are quite useful indeed.

This post first appeared in TINAN 76. Subscribe to TINAN for the latest economic development news and resources.