by Thomas L. Friedman
As the world enters the twenty-first century, it is increasingly interconnected. Opportunity has spread to many countries as the playing field has leveled out, but this has endangered America's dominant role. Americans must reinvent themselves to compete in the global market, but ultimately globalization will lead to a better world, spreading peace and prosperity to participating nations.
Originally written in 2005 and updated a few times since (I listened to an audio of 2006's “2.0” version), this is a book that has not aged well. Of course, I have the benefit of reading it many years later, after the events of the 2009 economic depression showed that not all is fine and dandy in our new globalized market. There are some interesting ideas present. Friedman writes of ten “flatteners”, events that helped shape the now-flattened world. These are as varied as the fall of the Berlin wall, which allowed former communist economies to join the greater world, which also benefited from the rise of personal computers at the same time. As the Internet rose to prominence, a new kind of collaboration followed, with multiple flatteners emphasizing open source information and the movement of work flow as many jobs need no longer be tied to a physical location. None of these observations are untrue, but Friedman overstates the speed and popularity of these changes and their impact on business practices.
Friedman argues that greater emphasis should be placed on math and science in education, and students encouraged to enter these fields so that American skills can be upgraded and remain competitive. Having seen these policies encouraged in school for several years now, I can't say I agree with his assessment. Although it is widely claimed here in Silicon Valley that there aren't enough Americans entering the workforce to fulfill demand for software engineers, the fact that hiring labor from China and India remains cheaper than native workers makes me think that no matter how much we upgrade our American skill-set, there will never be enough of us to cut back on those H1-B visa applications. But that's just me babbling, I suppose. I'm not an economist or a journalist so I only know the anecdotes I hear from friends in tech.
Many of the book's conclusions seem so common sense and obvious now. I don't know if it was more groundbreaking back when the book was first released, or if the text was more eye-opening to an older generation not raised with the Internet as a natural part of daily life.
2.5 out of 5 stars
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Peeking into the archives...today in:
2013: A Curious Man by Neal Thompson
2012: Fashionista Piranha on hiatus until May 24th
2011: In the Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant
2010: Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok
2009: News: Digital Piracy Affects Books, Too