The Square and the Tower: Networks and Power, from the Freemasons to Facebook by Niall Ferguson

The Square and the Tower: Networks and Power, from the Freemasons to FacebookThis book is an engrossing, long collection of short chapters about how networks and hierarchies can help us to understand history, in particular, recent history. The history is credible and sometimes brilliant, the premise about networks is sometimes compelling but often rather creaky, and the network diagrams are the silliest thing in the book. I don’t know why making little charts appeals so much to the learned of our age, except that it gives them something to do with their computers.

Ferguson is concerned that at the present the networks of internet usage are eroding the stability that hierarchies provide; and, being one of the world’s elites, he’s concerned that the president of the US, who does not process things the way he does, will not steer us as well as persons who understand what Ferguson himself does might through these present troubled waters. It is amusing, therefore, because he shows that Donald Trump sits at the top of a hierarchy (which is exactly what elites have made it their life goal to do), and yet he has not done so by playing the game as today’s elites have (which is what makes them so nervous). It is more than amusing, of course, it is worth thinking about.

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