Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Is The World Flat?

I read Thomas Friedman's book "The World is Flat" and he summarizes flatteners that include:
#1: Collapse of Berlin Wall--11/'89: The event not only symbolized the end of the Cold war, it allowed people from other side of the wall to join the economic mainstream. (11/09/1989)
#2: Netscape: Netscape and the Web broadened the audience for the Internet from its roots as a communications medium used primarily by 'early adopters and geeks' to something that made the Internet accessible to everyone from five-year-olds to eighty-five-year olds. (8/9/1995)
#3: Workflow software: The ability of machines to talk to other machines with no humans involved. Friedman believes these first three forces have become a “crude foundation of a whole new global platform for collaboration.”
#4: Open sourcing: Communities uploading and collaborating on online projects. Examples include open source software, blogs, and Wikipedia. Friedman considers the phenomenon "the most disruptive force of all."
#5: Outsourcing: Friedman argues that outsourcing has allowed companies to split service and manufacturing activities into components, with each component performed in most efficient, cost-effective way.
#6: Offshoring: Manufacturing's version of outsourcing.
#7: Supply chaining: Friedman compares the modern retail supply chain to a river, and points to Wal-Mart as the best example of a company using technology to streamline item sales, distribution, and shipping.
#8: Insourcing: Friedman uses UPS as a prime example for insourcing, in which the company's employees perform services--beyond shipping--for another company. For example, UPS itself repairs Toshiba computers on behalf of Toshiba. The work is done at the UPS hub, by UPS employees.
#9: In-forming: Google and other search engines are the prime example. "Never before in the history of the planet have so many people-on their own-had the ability to find so much information about so many things and about so many other people", writes Friedman.
#10: "The Steroids": Personal digital devices like mobile phones, iPods, personal digital assistants, instant messaging, and voice over IP (VoIP).

As someone that has been skeptical of globalization, because of its seemingly pro-business stance and you hear many stories in the media of American's losing their jobs, which is of concern, you think that the story will be a fairly straightforward one regarding the reality of global change.

He strikes a cord with me in that I found the book interesting in that he took a turn to discuss what Bush should be doing to leave a legacy for making America stronger. The author describes a "Green New Deal". He suggests that we should execute a national science initiative that would be our generation's moon shot: a crash program for alternative energy and conservation that would make America energy-independent in ten years. He suggests that would dry up revenue for terrorism, strengthen the dollar, and improve our standing. It would also create a magnet to inspire young people to contribute to America's future by becoming scientists, engineers, and mathematicians.

A few other tidbits worth contemplating:
The most important competition today is between you and your own imagination. We are in a world that whatever can be done will be done. And the small shall act big.
The best companies are the best collaborators.

In the last chapter, he took a turn for the dramatic and discussed 9/11 in a way that I wasn't really agreeable with. He did end on a positive suggesting that what we need to do is to teach people above all things. He highlights a Bangalore community that he visited where all the kids hope for a better day. He made contrasts to a West Bank community in Israel that describes kids that are studying engineering but are angry men because of the Israeli occupation and are "martyrs in waiting", becuase the engineers are likely to find a better life because the US and other companies are treating them like terrorists already.

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