Notes from the West Highland Way


I’m back!

I’ve been hiking trails through Scotland and Ireland for the past couple of weeks. My wife had wanted to walk the West Highland Way for years. We finally did it, and it was spectacular.

One of the joys of walking is the people. On a multiday hike, you see the same folks repeatedly, and conversations follow. I always try to get a sense of the zeitgeist in areas new to me, and my time in the UK was informative.

Take the gregarious 6’6” Scot walking with his 10-year-old daughter. We strolled together on and off for a few days. On day three, I asked him about Brexit. He was a bit coy at first, but his natural enthusiasm got the better of him, and he confessed to being a Brexiteer. He went on to talk about the secession movement in Scotland, saying that members of parliament were asking the wrong question. “It’s not that Scots don’t want to be ruled out of Westminster. It’s that they don’t want to be ruled!” he told me.

That stuck with me. I believe people feel the same way across the US and Europe. There is an ongoing global backlash against being ruled. 

If you read John Mauldin’s Thoughts from the Frontline, you are familiar with the concept of cycles—social, economic, and demographic cycles. John has been highlighting the work of Neil Howe, Peter Turchin, George Friedman, and others, which all point to a culmination of cycles bringing social, political, and economic change.

This week, I came across another explanation for some of the changes we are living through while reading Martin Gurri's The Revolt of the Public, which was published in 2014 and updated in 2018. Gurri was a foreign media analyst at the CIA.

Gurri’s work rhymes with Peter Turchin’s in that they both note the elites’ loss of control. Gurri points to the rapid changes in media as a cause. Reading his book today, his insights are impressive.

 

Gurri believes the abundance of information, from an equally abundant number of new sources, has forever changed governance. As the public accesses more sources of information, established media outlets lose their authority, and therefore, their ability to control the narrative.

Gurri believes we are entering the fifth wave of information. The first was the invention of writing, followed by the development of the alphabet and the spread of literacy. The printing press—which made the Reformation, American and French Revolutions, and modern science possible—marks his third wave.

We have just left the fourth wave, “that of mass media—the industrial, I-talk-you-listen mode of information…”.

Gurri’s fifth wave is defined by a massive flood (he calls it a tsunami) of information and new sources. By nature, the fifth wave will disrupt governments and other authority sources. A suspicious public will use new information now at their fingertips to challenge claims. The old guard will resist disruption, leading to conflicts, power struggles, and perhaps new ways of organizing our society… or disorganizing it.

Sound familiar?

I have invited Martin Gurri to join us for a Global Macro Update interview to go much deeper into his research and latest thinking. If you know Gurri, please forward this letter to him. I’ve sent him a note on LinkedIn, but a warm introduction is always better.

I hope you find some time to get away, relax, and detach from the daily rhythm of the markets, geopolitics, and the news cycle. While I find it fascinating, a good long break can be healthy, energizing, and ultimately boost your personal productivity. 

Happy summer! I’ll return to recording interviews for you next week. 

 

Thanks for reading.


Ed D’Agostino
Publisher & COO

P.S. a few pictures from the trip…


Ben Nevis, Tallest Mountain in the UK


Black Mount, Straight out of a Tolkien Novel!


Ed in front of Adam Smith’s statue, Edinburgh


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