I found Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat to be an intriguing book. Friedman’s thesis is that a series of “flatteners,” or world-changing events, converged at just the right time to make the world’s playing field level and allow countries such as India and China opportunities to compete with America and Europe. Largely, I saw very little in Friedman’s book to disagree with. He acknowledges that the same tools we use for good in this new and increasingly global economy can be used for evil. He references terrorists and has interesting insights into their motivation for destruction and the reasons for their hate. I do think Friedman’s view of what will happen as the world becomes increasingly flat, to use his term, is optimistic, but frankly, I think a lot of it would be good for us. I think Friedman somewhat dismisses the plight of American workers who lose their jobs to outsourcing, but he has a good solution — we need to learn to adapt and to make ourselves special so we are more attractive job candidates. I think that solution is more realistic than the one that seems to be favored by many others — punish companies who outsource and try to force companies into doing business the way they did in the past. Life goes on, and things change. We have to change with them, or we will be left behind.
I think one of the biggest favors we can do ourselves is invest in green technology. We are way too dependent on foreign oil. Oil is a stick that countries we otherwise would have hardly any trade relations with use against us. Their economies are dependent on oil, and when it runs out, they’re going to be in serious trouble.
I am really excited about the potential for collaboration that exists. I love it that we can work together across miles. Through this blog I have made friends from all over America and a few in other countries. We’d never have “met” if not for flat world technologies like blogs. I have learned so much from technology and have developed so much passion for Web 2.0 ideas — which are nothing more than flattening agents online — that I am pursuing my masters degree — online — in Instructional Technology beginning this fall.
I also like the idea that businesses have to be transparent. Your reputation is important, and you can no longer manage it completely. If someone isn’t happy with your goods or services, they can complain in a blog or forum, and you might lose customers. I recently complained about the spurious business practices of Urban Posters, and I had lots of feedback from other customers who were treated the same way, in addition to a hollow apology that blamed the credit card processing company from an Urban Posters representative. People were angry about their money being taken, and they said so in a public forum. Now when someone searches for information about this company, this negative feedback will perhaps prevent someone else from being taken in. I think that’s a fantastic thing to come out of the flat world.
This book is an investment. It’s long, and I think it requires a lot of reflection and thinking on the part of the reader. If you are interested in a beach book or a quick read, this book is not what you’re looking for; however, if you are interested in the times in which we live and emerging ideas and technology, this book will fascinate you.