Monday, November 10, 2008

The Great Explainer

Thomas Friedman should have run for president. This man has the most profound insight on our current situation that I have heard yet. In case you don't want to watch the hour-long video, I've summed up the key points that Friedman makes.

He gives a brief history and summation of what he believes are the 3 eras of globalization:
era 1.0: globalization built around countires
era 2.0: companies going global for markets and labor
era 3.0: the current era: globalization spearheaded by individuals.
Individuals are now able to compete, connect, and collaborate as individuals through the platform Friedman describes as what makes the world flat, in his book The World is Flat, that I'm referencing in my publication about the meaning of life through Google search.

In the book, Friedman talks about what he believes to be the "10 flatteners" of our world today, or the ten things that gave way to the platform on which we live and interact. In this video of a keynote speech he gave at MIT, he outlines the most important flatteners.
First flattener: The PC. It allowed individuals to author their own content in digital form and that content could then be further manipulated and dispatched.
Second flattener: August 9, 1995 (my brother's 10th birthday). Netscape went public. It created the browser, the tool that brought the internet to life and made it possible for everyone to use the internet. 8/9/95 started the dot com boom and triggered the dot com bubble which lead to HUGE overinvestment in fiberoptic cable. So, individuals can now author their content and send it anywhere for FREE.
3rd Flattener: Alphabet soup. (transmission protocol revolution: TCP/IP, HTML, HTTP, blah blah blah) Everyone's computer and software became interoperable, which Friedman describes as a huge revolution that we don't even think about anymore today. He calls it the workflow revolution.

Okay Jacey, so why are you nerding out on this so much?
Because... Friedman is talking about exactly what I'm doing right now- BLOGGING, and the things like YouTube and Wikipedia that so many people use every single day.
So, according to Friedman, the round world was driven by downloading information, when we still downloaded information from the Encarta encyclopedia. But now, in the flat world, we are uploading our own encyclopedia (Wikipedia), therefore we're driven by uploading information to the web.

So he reiterates that "the world is flat" means we live on a platform that "allows individuals more equal ability to plug and play, compete, connect, and collaborate GLOBALLY. Value is being who you connect and collaborate with..."

Friedman says, "When the world is flat, whatever can be done will be done." The only question left he says is "Will it be done by you or to you?" He's basically talking about the wealth of information and ideas that are out there and how someone will have communicated your idea (most likely online) a second later than you did. I found this segment especially important for myself and fellow artists. He says "the most important economic competition going forward will be between you and your imagination." Cheesy? Maybe but I think he makes a good point, that "how well you learn to collaborate on this platform" is the "single greatest competitive edge." I guess this makes me feel good about the kind of work I'm doing right now, especially on the web and with motion graphics.

Friedman goes on to talk about how "mashing-up" specialties and talents is going to be extremely important beacuse that is where invention comes from. For example, Steve Jobs dropped out of college and took a calligraphy course because he had nothing else to do. The result? The typeface first used on the Mac keyboard.

I love the way Friedman concludes this speech, or at least begins to conclude it. (I still can't believe I stayed up til 2 am nerding out on this video).
He says that "Washington today is BRAIN DEAD...but our country is alive" and "if we had a government that was as alive as our country, no one would touch us." Then he goes on to talk about the GREEN revolution, that is not a revolution at all, but a party. He says, "The green revolution is a revolution where no one gets hurt. You get to consume your way out of it...I've never been to a revolution where no one got hurt." He declares that the green revolution is a complete fraud because "Exxon is green, BP is green, GM is green..."etc.

So it's late, er, early in the morning, but I'm going to leave you with the messages that Friedman closes with in this speech:

--Everyone has come to the platform with their own versions of the American dream. If we don't find a cleaner, more non-emitting way to power their dreams, we are going to burn up, choke up, heat up, and smoke up this planet so much faster than even Al Gore predicts.

--If we don't do what it takes to spark a real revolution in a flat world, the climate and energy impacts are going to swamp us.

--The global economy today is like a monster truck with the gas pedal stuck and we have lost the key. The only way we are going to catch the truck is with a disruptive breakthrough. And the only way we're going to get a disruptive breakthrough is with a completely different mix of standards, regulations, incentive and taxes that will trigger that disruption.

--Change your leaders, not your light bulbs! ...[Good luck, Obama]

--Rethink the meaning of green. Suggestions: geo-political, geo-strategic, economic, capitalistic, entrepreneureal, patriotic. Green is the new red, white, and blue. (whoaa- that's the title of Friedman's new book. I can't wait to read it.)

Diagram by Brandy Agerbeck

Thomas Friedman on The Daily Show. November 11, 2008.


notions & potions said...


Nageswara Rao said...

Well, internet connectivity and technological revolution dont quite add up to globalization. I would much rather the discourse on Globalization came from economists like Joesph Stiglitz (Nobel winner for economics and was Chief Economist at World Bank), Paul Krugman (Princeton), Pankaj Ghemawat (Harvard)etc. Ted Koppel interviews Friedman and Joseph Stiglitz (ofcourse, Stiglitz doesnt find a mention in Friedman's book).

Then there is this 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.

"Globalization is the greatest reorganization of the world since the Industrial Revolution," says Aronica. Aronica and Ramdoo conclude by listing over twenty action items that point the way forward, and they provide a comprehensive, yet concise, framework for understanding the critical issues of globalization.

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