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The World Is Flat [Updated and Expanded]: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century Hardcover – April 18, 2006
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Updated Edition: Thomas L. Friedman is not so much a futurist, which he is sometimes called, as a presentist. His aim in The World Is Flat, as in his earlier, influential Lexus and the Olive Tree, is not to give you a speculative preview of the wonders that are sure to come in your lifetime, but rather to get you caught up on the wonders that are already here. The world isn't going to be flat, it is flat, which gives Friedman's breathless narrative much of its urgency, and which also saves it from the Epcot-style polyester sheen that futurists--the optimistic ones at least--are inevitably prey to.
What Friedman means by "flat" is "connected": the lowering of trade and political barriers and the exponential technical advances of the digital revolution that have made it possible to do business, or almost anything else, instantaneously with billions of other people across the planet. This in itself should not be news to anyone. But the news that Friedman has to deliver is that just when we stopped paying attention to these developments--when the dot-com bust turned interest away from the business and technology pages and when 9/11 and the Iraq War turned all eyes toward the Middle East--is when they actually began to accelerate. Globalization 3.0, as he calls it, is driven not by major corporations or giant trade organizations like the World Bank, but by individuals: desktop freelancers and innovative startups all over the world (but especially in India and China) who can compete--and win--not just for low-wage manufacturing and information labor but, increasingly, for the highest-end research and design work as well. (He doesn't forget the "mutant supply chains" like Al-Qaeda that let the small act big in more destructive ways.)
Friedman has embraced this flat world in his own work, continuing to report on his story after his book's release and releasing an unprecedented hardcover update of the book a year later with 100 pages of revised and expanded material. What's changed in a year? Some of the sections that opened eyes in the first edition--on China and India, for example, and the global supply chain--are largely unaltered. Instead, Friedman has more to say about what he now calls "uploading," the direct-from-the-bottom creation of culture, knowledge, and innovation through blogging, podcasts, and open-source software. And in response to the pleas of many of his readers about how to survive the new flat world, he makes specific recommendations about the technical and creative training he thinks will be required to compete in the "New Middle" class. As before, Friedman tells his story with the catchy slogans and globe-hopping anecdotes that readers of his earlier books and his New York Times columns know well, and he holds to a stern sort of optimism. He wants to tell you how exciting this new world is, but he also wants you to know you're going to be trampled if you don't keep up with it. A year later, one can sense his rising impatience that our popular culture, and our political leaders, are not helping us keep pace. --Tom Nissley
Where Were You When the World Went Flat?
Thomas L. Friedman's reporter's curiosity and his ability to recognize the patterns behind the most complex global developments have made him one of the most entertaining and authoritative sources for information about the wider world we live in, both as the foreign affairs columnist for the New York Times and as the author of landmark books like From Beirut to Jerusalem and The Lexus and the Olive Tree. They also make him an endlessly fascinating conversation partner, and we've now had the chance to talk to him about The World Is Flat twice. Read our original interview with him following the publication of the first edition of The World Is Flat to learn why there's almost no one from Washington, D.C., listed in the index of a book about the global economy, and what his one-plank platform for president would be. (Hint: his bumper stickers would say, "Can You Hear Me Now?")
And now you can listen to our second interview, in which he talks about the updates he's made in "The World Is Flat 2.0," including his response to parents who said to him, "Great, Mr. Friedman, I'm glad you told us the world is flat. Now what do I tell my kids?"
The Essential Tom Friedman !-- begin3pak -->
From Beirut to Jerusalem
The Lexus and the Olive Tree
Longitudes and Attitudes
From the Back Cover
• The reasons why the flattening of the world "will be seen in time as one of those fundamental shifts or inflection points, like Gutenberg's invention of the printing press, the rise of the nation-state, or the Industrial Revolution"
• An explanation of "uploading" as one of the ten forces that are flattening the world, as blogging, open-source software, pooled knowledge projects like Wikipedia, and podcasting enable individuals to bring their experiences and opinions to the whole world
• A mapping of the New Middle--the places and spaces in the flat world where
middle-class jobs will be found--and portraits of the character types who will find success as New Middlers
•An account of the qualities American parents and teachers need to cultivate in young people so that they will be able to thrive in the flat world
•A call for a government-led "geo-green" strategy to preserve the environment and natural resources
•An account of the "globalization of the local": how the flattening of the world is actually strengthening local and regional identities rather than homogenizing the world
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make it "flatter". By reading the book, one may learn valuable things about outsourcing, in-sourcing, the advantages and disadvantages of various world regions and
the problems that the U.S. faces. Mr. Friedman discusses the tremendous conflict between destructive forces that "unflatten" the world and positive forces that
are aiding the world. I feel that Mr. Friedman brings in too many of his personal points of view on politics and how he feels about foreign policy. His discussions of America's involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, the implementing of a federal health insurance policy and President Bush's leadership are biased. However, there is no denying that he understands many of the forces pushing globalization of world economies as pioneered by companies like Amazon.com, UPS, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, etc.
I have some interest in reading some of Mr. Friedman's more recent book HOT, FLAT AND CROWDED, but I feel that there may be an overly environmentalist theme to it.
THE WORLD IS FLAT is mostly objective, and it reads more like a documentary with anecdotes than a political or philosophical writing. The writing style is clear, engaging and brisk. When there is discussion of economic and social issues, the book is very fascinating. When there is discussion of political issues or foreign affairs, however, I think Mr. Friedman gets too controversial.
Angelo J. Salvo
Ormond Beach, Florida
This book is a powerful, detailed explanation about the forces that have flattened the world and the skills that we need to acquire if we are going to survive in the resulting competitive environment. Flatteners include the fall of the Berlin wall and the resulting openness between East and West; the arrival of web browsers to allow easy access to the internet; workflow software that allows for the creation of "all-world supply chains"; uploading as a way individuals can contribute to the larger community (e.g. open source, YouTube); outsourcing and the way it promoted international collaboration; offshoring; supply-chaining; insourcing--his term for integrating other companies into your own infrastructure; search tools that bring information to our fingertips and numerous technological multipliers that have heightened all these effects through advances in communication, digitization, videoconferencing etc.
Freidman gives countless detailed illustrations that make his points. We learn how Wal-Mart and UPS, Dell and Netscape do business. He describes how India and Ireland (yes- Ireland) have lept ahead in high tech jobs by emphasizing superior educational opportunities. He describes how 60% of all bachelor's degrees earned in China are in Science and Engineering, compared to 31% in the U.S. He describes the role culture, politics and religion have had particularly since 9/11.
The most helpful part of the book describes the skills we will need to survive. There will always be a demand for people who are: Collaborators, synthesizers, explainers, leveragers, adapters, passionate personalizers and localizers. These high-end skills that emphasize creative thinking, problem visualization and solution can't be outsourced, digitized or automated out of existence.
Thanks to his reputation, Friedman has had access to heads of state, CEOs, top scientists and politicians across the world. The result is a solid analysis that is eye-opening. "You can flourish in this flat world, but it does take the right imagination and the right motivation."
I did not see interviews or data which was returned from outsourcing ventures that were not successful, of which there are many. Many American companies have lost money in china. Thousands of missions have been given to foreign consulting firms that have not been completed. The benefits and risks of globalization and the emerging economy have to be balanced carefully. My opion was that the author is impressed by the rescources of other countries and a bit of a sceptic on Americas position and future in the world.
Overall a good book, I'd recommend it, and I liked the way that he packaged the facts in the front part of the book.