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Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations Kindle Edition
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Though I could have done without the plethora of folksy interjections, as a whole the argument made is compelling, well documented and (for me) fairly frightening. In the closing chapters of the book, Friedman offers several common sense, pragmatic solutions and manages to convey a sense of optimism that eventually, the world will be capable of adapting in a manner that improves global civilization. Given the facts and strong arguments made in preceding chapters however, the optimism seems unfounded;; particularly given the lack of political will for the heterodox approach that the author justifiably feels that circumstances require.
I've given this work five stars because it has helped me, more than any other source I've read, to develop a reasonably clear understanding of how we got to where we are. I do not share the author's optimism, but I appreciate the clarity of thought, the ability to synthesize what appear to be disparate trends, and finally, the insightful, cogent analyses.
People sense the dislocation occurring in this country and the reaction has caused the rise of Bernie Sanders on the left and Donald Trump on the right. According to Mr. Friedman, the wrong response is to try to keep things as they were. This is analogous to keeping your paddle in the water to try to slow down when whitewater kayaking. What you should do is paddle as fast or faster than the current to keep stability. How does one “paddle faster?” Turn AI into IA. Huh? Turn Artificial Intelligence into Intelligent Assistance. Internet tools will help people identify their interests and train them to be proficient in them e.g. the Khan Academy. Companies can also assist their employees in this process, identify employees with desired interests and skills and guide them into future jobs. AT&T is already doing this. Of course, not everyone will be able to succeed this way. Too many people will be dislocated and our current government is woefully unprepared to help people adjust to the new economy. Mr. Friedman suggests an 18 point plan that is a combination of right and left ideas e.g., eliminate the corporate tax which will eliminate corporate tax loopholes and allow corporations to repatriate offshore holdings, revisit Dodd-Frank and Sarbanes-Oxley to facilitate rational risk taking, establish a Regulatory Review Commission to eliminate regulations that are strangling business development- but also, institute a single-payer health care system, expand the Earned Income Tax Credit and expand free trade while providing wage insurance for those people affected by the loss of their jobs.
Mr. Friedman is optimistic but, as other reviewers have pointed out, his optimism doesn’t seem to follow from his narrative. Ultimately, he does not solve the problem posed by John Maynard Keynes in 1928 and reiterated by many recent authors- in a consumer driven economy what do we do when artificial intelligence and robots eliminate so many jobs that people can’t afford to purchase the goods and services produced? That is the most important question for today and tomorrow.
With about 100 pages to go, I felt the book was a bit disjointed, but gaining momentum and waiting for a masterful section to tie together the wandering narratives and deliver on the promise of the title to serve as an optimist's guide. What followed instead was an approximately 100 page nostalgic rambling about how awesome his hometown in Minnesota is - it was painful to trudge through, I much preferred John Galt's 70 page speech. The passion Friedman has for this topic of community and his hometown jumps off the page, but he really does a disservice to his readers in the way he finishes this book.
To be fair the book does stay faithful to the model Friedman lays out in the first chapter (though not to the title):
"What is my value set and where did it come from? How do I think the Machine works today? And what have I learned about how different people and cultures are being impacted by the Machine and responding to it? "
But honestly, it feels like the first chapter was written after the fact in a weak attempt to offer some framework to Friedman's disjointed and self-satisfying musings.
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