Columbus vs. Friedman

October 26, 2008 at 11:39 pm 2 comments

     Maybe Columbus was wrong after all. 

      He set out on a voyage to disprove the belief that the world was flat.  Thomas Friedman journeyed around the world and compiled a book to prove that the world is flat.

      But, as he qualifies, it’s not flat geographically – it’s as circular as it ever was.  What has changed is the technology that has broken all walls and barriers.  Technology – like the internet, email, outsourcing, and videoconferencing – has “leveled the playing field.”  In terms of everyday living and working and marketing, the world is indeed flat. 

      Written by a New York Times columnist, this book deserves it’s standing as a national bestseller.  Although its subtitle is “a brief history of the twenty-first century”, and Friedman spends a significant portion of the book chronicling the “Ten Forces that Flattened the World”, those were not the key elements I took away from it.  Friedman himself summed up my understanding of the book well as he writes, “The flattening of the world…has presented us with new opportunities, new challenges, new partners but also, alas, new dangers, particularly as Americans.”

      The flat world is a place of opportunities.  Because of technology, the person who invented eBay and Facebook and other internet sites have raked in more money than I can count.  You can take a little idea and go global – or at least, national.  And you don’t need brick-and-mortar buildings and factories and tons of people under you to make it work.  Entrepreneurs can be hugely successful from their bedrooms.

      But, as Friedman explains in the quote above, there are also challenges and dangers.  Elementary work is being swiftly outsourced to places like India.  Occasionally, it’s being “insourced” to somewhere else in America – but the point is, it’s no longer your job.  Basic elements of nearly every job are being transported elsewhere, which means that to stay on top we must keep climbing higher.  The rung on the ladder of success are shifting dramatically, and just because you were on top doesn’t mean you are immune to finding yourself at the bottom.

      But the bigger danger is for my generation.  Young people today are tomorrow’s future, and there is a difference between us in America and our counterparts in other countries.  With the leveling of the playing field, there is competition on our plateau.  In other words, people in countries around the world have a chance at catching up to America, and are taking it.  We may be outsourcing elementary jobs to India and China now, but they don’t want to stay their, and their teenagers are working and studying all day and night so they can advance in the world.  America has long been named the “Land of Opportunities”, but with these incredible technological advances, the opportunities are spilling over into the whole world.  And unless we teens figure out what’s going on and how to compete, how to have the imagination and drive of young people elsewhere, we’re going to be left behind. 

      But we don’t have to be.  No one knows what this will look like in two years, or ten, or twenty.  But we can do our part, as Americans, by waking up and realizing what is going on, and then seizing the opportunities given us by this flat world.  


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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Janine  |  October 30, 2008 at 3:57 am

    I’m glad you enjoyed Friedman…brings back memories of my “Contemporary Perspectives” class last semester. 🙂

  • 2. concerned citizen  |  November 8, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    I think reading a rebuttal to Friedman’s book would put thigns very much in perspective. So, I would like to recommend a small, but interesting book, by Aronica and Ramdoo, “The World is Flat? A Critical Analysis of Thomas Friedman’s New York Times Bestseller,” which offers a counterperspective to Friedman’s theory on globalization.

    Interestingly enough, the book written about two years back, discusses in the following chapters,
    “Debt and Financialization of America”
    “America”s Former Middle Class”
    “A Paradigm Shift for America” with prescriptions for the future

    the debt ridden American society, deregulated financial institutions, mortgage crisis and other related issues, with clear pointers to the economic crisis gripping US today. For more information regarding the same, check this out:

    This is a small book compared to the 600 page tome by Friedman, and aimed at the common man and students alike. As popular as the book may be, some reviewers assert that by what it leaves out, Friedman’s book is dangerous. The authors point to the fact that there isn’t a single table or data footnote in Friedman’s entire book.

    You may want to see
    and watch
    for an interesting counterperspective on Friedman’s
    “The World is Flat”.

    Also a really interesting 6 min wake-up call: Shift Happens!

    There is also a companion book listed: Extreme Competition: Innovation and the Great 21st Century Business Reformation


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