Zuckenberg’s Year of Books : Reviewing ‘The End of Power’

Originally published at my Medium blog.

As part of Mark Zuckenberg’s 2015 challenge — reading a book in every two weeks, I just finished reading the 1st book — The End of Power by Moisés Naím. With numerous examples from history, politics, religion, culture and technology; the book discusses how power is decaying over time. It was a great read adding to my political & cultural knowledge base.

So I decided to note down my thoughts and some of the interesting points from the book. Without further ado, here is a quick review.

  • Powerful people are feeling more and more powerless.
  • Power itself is decreasing for various reasons — increase in the World’s population, access to education and resources are to name a few.
  • As we lack power to solve bigger problems, we focus on short term achievements. [1]
  • Power is expressed through the 4 channels — muscle, code (religious or societal norm), pitch and reward.
  • According to William Domhoff, American life was controlled by the owners and top managers of large corporations.
  • Number of autocratic countries are decreasing, even autocrats are not that much autocratic these days.
  • In the election process, one party getting absolute majority is becoming rarer.
  • Power in corporations is also reducing. In the United States, CEO turnover was higher in the 1990s than in the two previous decades. For example, Paolo Scaroni, the CEO of the Italian oil giant ENI said “When I look back at how the leaders of the main oil companies of the 1960s, 1970s or 1980s used to make decisions and run their businesses, I am amazed at the freedom and autonomy they enjoyed. From where I sit, it’s obvious that nowadays any oil company CEO has far less power than those who came before us.”
  • The term ‘dark pools’ is quite interesting. It refers to a group of institutions that seek to trade anonymously to avoid revealing their strategies. The Securities and Exchange Commission estimated that the number of active dark pools in the US market shot up from ten in 2002 to more than thirty in 2012.

My Thoughts:

The book’s message — power is decaying over time is pretty intuitive in the era of Apps and Kickstarter. In fact I personally know someone who was expressing the same opinion without even knowing about this book!

Take for example crowdfunding. I know at least 4 writers who got funded by Kickstarter and were able to publish the books. Without crowdfunding, they wouldn’t have seen the light of the day.

In my opinion, power hasn’t really gone, but the means of power is probably a more complex mix of muscle, code, pitch and reward than before.

[1] This is the most astounding thought from the book that I will remember forever. And yes, it is so true. Why you think everyone is building an App when we spend 10 hours in weekly commute to work? Why can’t people solve real problems? Because solving real problems takes longer time, more resources and a huge number of people to trust and follow your leadership. You don’t have time because you want to be a billionaire by 30. You don’t have enough resources because resources are distributed among many people. And you don’t have a huge trusted follower base as everyone is building their own app!

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