Paleo Treats Podcast

I spoke with Joshua Cooper Ramo in this podcast interview, partly about his latest book, The Seventh Sense and partly about his overall life and pursuit of excellence.

Mr. Ramo started off as a journalist, working at Newsweek then for Time Inc back when, as he says, “it mattered who The Man of the Year was.”  He worked as both senior and as foreign editor at Time, and he wrote for them long enough ago (1997) that he wrote The Man Of the Year cover story on Andy Grove, one of the founders of Intel.

From Time Inc he moved to China to pursue adventure in the world of business.  He became fluent in Chinese and fell in love with the culture.

In China he worked for the former president of Goldman Sachs and eventually began working at his current company, Kissinger Associates, where he’s now co-CEO.

He lived in Beijing full time for a little over a decade and now splits his time between Beijing and New York.  Yes, he’s a busy, pipe hittin’ dude and I was super stoked to connect for this conversation.

I found him through his first book, No Visible Horizon, a lovely story about his journey to aerobatic nationals as a pilot that reminded me of reading Ernest Gann’s “Fate Is The Hunter”, another excellent and relatively unsung pilot book.

Curious about what else he’d written, I found his third book, The Seventh Sense, which I read through with great enjoyment and then went on to read his second book, The Age of the Unthinkable. 

Reading those two books gave me a look into the mind of a writer deeply immersed in international relations, intensely curious about connections in the modern age, and fascinated with networks in particular.  

Both books deal with the unpredictable nature of an increasingly connected world, and as a business owner running a small enterprise in that world I found them entertaining and educational.  In fact, they forced me to re-evaluate our strategy at Paleo Treats and the way we’re using our networks.

In this interview we dive into the important points of a network, the difference between complex and complicated systems, what topology is and why it matters, and how emergent properties of networks are inevitable.

I asked him how he curates and uses his curiosity, and he talked about his main theme in The Seventh Sense that “connection changes the nature of an object.”

We do dive briefly into some flying stuff and how flying may move from unnatural to natural as you become a better pilot, but the majority of this interview deals with networks and how to understand and explore them in this incredibly connected world.

Joshua talks about the importance of figuring out what tools you need in order to understand and investigate a problem.  He places the conversation in the context of historical cycles, the enduring nature of art, and the best kind of adventure you can have.

Enjoy the show!

Books Mentioned

-No Visible Horizon

-The Age of the Unthinkable

-The Seventh Sense

-Fate is the Hunter

-China’s Wings

-The Rational Optimist

For each podcast I do I end up writing a bunch of notes and questions.  While I don’t always ask the questions, it’s helpful to have them written down and reviewed before the show.

Here are my notes for this interview:

-You’re a searcher, a seeker, and a story teller.  Tell me about that.

-in Age if the Unthinkable you talk about the importance of relationships.  You seem very well connected to a number of different cohorts.  How did your learning of Chinese culture influence that?  Is there anything more important than building relationships when it comes to getting things done? (Planning to be Dan Kaminsky)

-connection changes the nature of an object.  What does that mean?

-how are the fourth revolution & the seventh sense tied together?

-how do we cultivate the 7th sense? 

-Clausewitz noted, “Many intelligence reports in war are contradictory; even more are false, and most are uncertain. . . . In short, most intelligence is false.”  How are you assessing a network accurately?

-in Age of the Unthinkable you talk about the spymaster Farkash asking questions no one else asked and being amazed that Israel’s actions had forced the enemy to evolve.  This evolution of both sides seems like a fundamental part of struggle.  Is anyone asking “How do we force our enemy to *devolve*?”  Examples of it working?

-how many languages do you speak or you speak or understand?  Is it worth it to learn another language, or is there a universal language of networks?

The standard visualization of a network is as a fish net, however, that is not what it might look like. When you talk about topology there is a deceptive notion that these things can be understood in nearly 3 dimensions. How else can someone visualize what a network might physically look like? Or does this require a new skill of four dimensional visualization?

-can you talk a little about how blockchain ties together multiple networks (financial, legal, social?)

-do we need to change to a network system without fallible leaders?  Our current leaders seem unable to solve problems for which there are fairly clear solutions.

-how would you befriend a network?  Can you be friends with a network?

-how would you addict a network? 

-assessing trust in a network? 

-assessing quality of expertise in the network?  use past predictions? 

-let’s talk about topology & networks.  As I understand it, topology basically refers to the way networks can be thought of in terms of connection time between nodes, regardless of physical distance.  If topology is 2 dimensional, is there a way to understand how a 3rd dimension would apply?

-how can we find the edge of a network so we can “shake the blanket” and cause change?  Is it possible?

-a group of almost successful (or even unsuccessful) people is far more powerful than a single lucky person; do networks remove the filter of luck, or offset the capriciousness of chance?

-how does a small business use the seventh sense?  practical example?

BACKGROUND

Dad is a cardiologist being outdated/outgunned by Google search

Mom is a high powered lawyer who wrote about the power of systems (specifically applied to law offices)

-aerobatic pilot, No Visible Horizon

-started as a journalist, a story teller in ’93 at Newsweek

-Time magazine in ’96, hired by Walter Isaacson, the guy who wrote biographies about Steve Jobs, Ben Franklin, Albert Einstein, and Henry Kissinger

-oversaw Time’s digital operations while covering tech; has been pursuing this idea of tech & networks for a long time

-moved to Beijing in 2002 & worked with John Thornton, former president of Goldman Sachs

-from ’03-until now he’s worked at Kissinger Associates, where he’s currently co-CEO

-fluent in Mandarin (and Spanish?)

 

NOTES FROM OTHER INTERVIEWS HE’S DONE
-how do we expand the network?

-the sixth sense is a feeling for history

-the seventh sense is a feeling for being enmeshed in networks

-what happened in 1848?  Massive backlashes?  Industrial Revolution

 

IDEAS SPARKED

-if I wanted to build my own network, how would I use the concepts in the book?

-AI + social media posts?  to what end?  What is the goal?  Maximum engaged followers.  What is engaged?  Contributing useful content.  Can I define useful?  Content that triggers conversations or additions to the convo like pictures or video

How can I let the Paleo Treats audience connect with each other and find their friends who are already in the network?

What is our network strategy?

And email centered around the idea of “Who can I introduce you to?”

PODCASTING EQUIPMENT USED FOR THIS EPISODE 

Finally, I love the technical geekery of podcasting and am psyched on spreading the word.  Here’s the equipment I use to make mine:

Mackie Onyx 1220i mixer

ProAudioLA cables

ElectroVoice RE20

Fethead inline preamp

AKG K-240 headphones

U-Control UCA222 splitter for Skype

Avantone Mixcube

Reaper DAW

Direct download: 051_-_Joshua_Cooper_Ramo.mp3
Category:innovation -- posted at: 10:45am EDT

Dr. Amy Kruse began tearing things apart as a (very) young girl, ripping apart her first typewriter at 5 years old.  Raised as an only child by high school English teachers, she ended up in neuroscience working in the defense industry helping soldiers learn to shoot faster, more accurately.  Of course.

She currently works at the Platypus Institute, which is an "Applied Neuroscience" institute. That means they figure out how to use what we know about the brain to make humans better.

Dr. Kruse wasn't sure what she'd do once she finished her PhD in neuroscience, but quickly fell in to the defense contracting world.  Yes, the government knows and wants to know a lot about how your brain works.

In this interview we talk about her environment growing up (pretty much the perfect childhood), how she thinks when it comes to "moonshots", "The moon is just a little too close for me", and what she's learned in over 15 years poking around and watching the human brain.

From watching how brains interact in a group to accelerating learning in individuals, Dr. Kruse has explored way out to the edge of the possible in neuro-land.  We talk about neuro-marketing, neuro-protection, how people become radicalized, and how the next big thing is going to be upgrading our attention span.

For those of you paying attention to human performance, Dr. Amy Kruse is definitely someone to watch closely.  Enjoy the conversation!

Direct download: 050_-_Amy_Kruse.mp3
Category:human performance -- posted at: 11:29am EDT

"The more we understand, the more rational we are and the more courageous we can be."

In this conversation with Prof. Dr. Chahan Yeretzian, a Syrian born Armenian physical chemist based out Switzerland, we dive deep into where the arenas of science, academia, industry, culture, and coffee meet.

From the advice he gives his students to why undergrads can't make good enough coffee, to the religion of freshness, this is a fascinating dive into a different world.

The elements of quality, the translation between measurements and sensory experience, the way that coffee is a cross cultural experience; all these and more are part of Chahan's world.

What will you hear if you listen in?  I'm going to try something new, and just include the notes I typed down while editing.  Please comment if these are useful, or email me if you'd rather I do your thinking for you. 

Notes from a convo with Chahan:

Plenty of mysteries to solve in coffee.

“At the base, good coffee is a sensory experience.”

Sensory profiling vs Q grading .

What he likes (intensity, strong body, aroma), very taken with smells.

“One element of quality is consistency.”

A big field is predicting specific sensory attributes based on objective measurements.

“Fresh had become a religion, but not an understanding.”

The problem is that a lot of people still serve horrible coffee in the industry.

Practical and hands on experience that comes from work in industry vs academia.

“You go into Origin countries and you’re learning cultures [based] around your product, coffee.

“Coffee is a peace building product, a trust building event.”

Soluble or instant coffee, Sudden Coffee.

Q grading coffee.

Q grader and co-worker Marco Wellinger.

Q grader Gloria Pedroza.

Coffee shows the connectivity of the world.

A very important quality of roasting is…consistency, that you’re able to reproduce what you’re doing.

“How does the mineral content of the water affect extraction or flavor profile? We’re still scratching on the surface [of coffee].”

We’re looking into how CO2 affects storage, freshness, formation of crema, flavor, acidity notes; it’s like taking one small molecule and trying to get a more rational understanding [of it’s impact.]

Creativity based in understanding. Knowledge is freedom and helps people explore new facets of coffee.

“Coffee is just as much art as science.”

Mold & mycotoxins in coffee?

The three ways Chahan makes coffee:

-high dollar semi-automatic coffee machines via coffee experts

-filter (hand brewed, freshly ground)

-Single serve capsule

“At home I do filter coffee. I had a professional machine, but it takes too much space.”

What I don’t do is French press. Sometimes I do soluble coffee, sometimes I mix it with Nespresso.

The research that we do is quite high level, so to do good research on coffee, you can not just rely on undergrads.

[The people who make most of the coffee I drink are] highly experienced scientists and also very good in coffee preparation besides being scientists.

“How do you roast to increase sweetness, or fruitiness, or a particular flavor note? We have some understanding, but it’s far too little to have any control over the roasting process.”

Advice to students: Looking over the borders of where we are.

Traveling is vital.

Moving between academia and industry and the importance of experiencing both worlds.

Academia needs people who have industry experience.

The path from Knowledge - Execution - Community

Armenian from Aleppo.

Armenians have a strong feeling of community and family, strong drive to perform, we are pushed to be the best.

A lot of unconditional love from parents.

The importance of being competent before you do benevolent work. If you don’t have the competence then you’re wasting your time being benevolent.

Further interests: indoor air quality, wine, oakwood aging, 2 kids who are 21 months old.

How complexity evolves in our world and how it’s related to self-organization, how life appeared on the planet.

Aspect of self organizing complex systems.

Direct download: 049_-_Yeretzian_Coffee.mp3
Category:science -- posted at: 7:42pm EDT

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