Robert Kaplan writes about foreign policy, but his warning about connectedness also cuts into our dreams of free-flowing connectedness at home in cities.
From Sunday’s New York Times review of his new book, The Return of Marco Polo’s World:
After the Cold War, many of us naively assumed that the communications revolution would be the vehicle through which the West would spread its values, attitudes and tastes to the rest of the world. We forgot that the revolution worked in the opposite direction as well: that for every Google executive fighting for political liberalization in Cairo, there might also be an alienated young Islamist in the West learning how to build a bomb by reading Inspire, Al Qaeda’s slick online magazine.
Kaplan never loses sight of this fluidity: “The smaller the world actually becomes because of the advance of technology,” he writes, “the more permeable, complicated and overwhelming it seems, with its numberless, seemingly intractable crises that are all entwined.”
That is the world’s reality — crooked, unexpected, ironic and often tragic …
Crooked, unexpected, and often tragic! So much for the fear that connectedness and “smart” will turn cities into bland, Disney-like fantasy.