The World Is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman
The World Is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman

The World Is Flat

A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century
by Thomas L. Friedman

Read by Oliver Wyman
(*)(*)(*)(*)(*)(1,747)
146Reviews2Quotations0Notes
Description
When scholars write the history of the world twenty years from now, and they come to the chapter "Y2K to March 2004," what will they say was the most crucial development? The attacks on the World Trade Center on 9/11 and the Iraq war? Or the convergence of technology and events that allowed India, China, and so many other countries to become part of the global supply chain for services and manufacturing, creating an explosion of wealth in the middle classes of the world's two biggest nations, giving them a huge new stake in the success of globalization? And with this "flattening" of the globe, which requires us to run faster in order to stay in place, has the world gotten too small and too fast for human beings and their political systems to adjust in a stable manner?

In this brilliant new book, the award-winning New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman demystifies the brave new world for readers, allowing them to make sense of the often bewildering global scene unfolding before their eyes. With his inimitable ability to translate complex foreign policy and economic issues, Friedman explains how the flattening of the world happened at the dawn of the twenty-first century; what it means to countries, companies, communities, and individuals; and how governments and societies can, and must, adapt. The World Is Flat is the timely and essential update on globalization, its successes and discontents, powerfully illuminated by one of our most respected journalists.

****

Amazon.com Review
Thomas L. Friedman is not so much a futurist, which he is sometimes called, as a presentist. His aim, in his new book, The World Is Flat, as in his earlier, influential Lexus and the Olive Tree, is not to give you a speculative preview of the wonders that are sure to come in your lifetime, but rather to get you caught up on the wonders that are already here. The world isn't going to be flat, it is flat, which gives Friedman's breathless narrative much of its urgency, and which also saves it from the Epcot-style polyester sheen that futurists--the optimistic ones at least--are inevitably prey to.

What Friedman means by "flat" is "connected": the lowering of trade and political barriers and the exponential technical advances of the digital revolution have made it possible to do business, or almost anything else, instantaneously with billions of other people across the planet. This in itself should not be news to anyone. But the news that Friedman has to deliver is that just when we stopped paying attention to these developments--when the dot-com bust turned interest away from the business and technology pages and when 9/11 and the Iraq War turned all eyes toward the Middle East--is when they actually began to accelerate. Globalization 3.0, as he calls it, is driven not by major corporations or giant trade organizations like the World Bank, but by individuals: desktop freelancers and innovative startups all over the world (but especially in India and China) who can compete--and win--not just for low-wage manufacturing and information labor but, increasingly, for the highest-end research and design work as well. (He doesn't forget the "mutant supply chains" like Al-Qaeda that let the small act big in more destructive ways.) Friedman tells his eye-opening story with the catchy slogans and globe-hopping anecdotes that readers of his earlier books and his New York Times columns will know well, and also with a stern sort of optimism. He wants to tell you how exciting this new world is, but he also wants you to know you're going to be trampled if you don't keep up with it. His book is an excellent place to begin. --Tom Nissley

Where Were You When the World Went Flat?

Thomas L. Friedman's reporter's curiosity and his ability to recognize the patterns behind the most complex global developments have made him one of the most entertaining and authoritative sources for information about the wider world we live in, both as the foreign affairs columnist for the New York Times and as the author of landmark books like From Beirut to Jerusalem and The Lexus and the Olive Tree. They also make him an endlessly fascinating conversation partner, and we'd happily have peppered him with questions about The World Is Flat for hours. Read our interview to learn why there's almost no one from Washington, D.C., listed in the index of a book about the global economy, and what his one-plank platform for president would be. (Hint: his bumper stickers would say, "Can You Hear Me Now?")

The Essential Tom Friedman

From Beirut to Jerusalem

The Lexus and the Olive Tree

Longitudes and Attitudes

More on Globalization and Development

China, Inc. by Ted Fishman
Three Billion New Capitalists by Clyde Prestowitz

The End of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs

Globalization and Its Discontents by Joseph Stiglitz
The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy by Pietra Rivoli

The Mystery of Capital by Hernando de Soto

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Before 9/11, New York Times columnist Friedman was best known as the author of The Lexus and the Olive Tree, one of the major popular accounts of globalization and its discontents. Having devoted most of the last four years of his column to the latter as embodied by the Middle East, Friedman picks up where he left off, saving al-Qaeda et al. for the close. For Friedman, cheap, ubiquitous telecommunications have finally obliterated all impediments to international competition, and the dawning "flat world" is a jungle pitting "lions" and "gazelles," where "economic stability is not going to be a feature" and "the weak will fall farther behind." Rugged, adaptable entrepreneurs, by contrast, will be empowered. The service sector (telemarketing, accounting, computer programming, engineering and scientific research, etc.), will be further outsourced to the English-spoken abroad; manufacturing, meanwhile, will continue to be off-shored to China. As anyone who reads his column knows, Friedman agrees with the transnational business executives who are his main sources that these developments are desirable and unstoppable, and that American workers should be preparing to "create value through leadership" and "sell personality." This is all familiar stuff by now, but the last 100 pages on the economic and political roots of global Islamism are filled with the kind of close reporting and intimate yet accessible analysis that have been hard to come by. Add in Friedman's winning first-person interjections and masterful use of strategic wonksterisms, and this book should end up on the front seats of quite a few Lexuses and SUVs of all stripes. (Apr. 5)

From School Library Journal
Adult/High School–This brilliantly paced, articulate, and accessible explanation of today's world is an ideal title for tech-savvy teens. Friedman's thesis is that connectedness by computer is leveling the playing field, giving individuals the ability to collaborate and compete in real time on a global scale. While the author is optimistic about the future, seeing progress in every field from architecture to zoology, he is aware that terrorists are also using computers to attack the very trends that make progress plausible and reasonable. This is a smart and essential read for those who will be expected to live and work in this new global environment.–Alan Gropman, National Defense University, Washington, DC
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine
Friedman, nominally a liberal, has historically taken the middle path and supported laissez-faire capitalism, globalization, and the power of institutions like the International Monetary Fund. Ever optimistic about globalization, he pleases its proponents and disappoints its detractors in The World Is Flat. There’s no doubt that Friedman asks timely questions, even if he sometimes shirks definitive answers. Although he acknowledges terrorism’s global weight, he identifies an even more potent force shaping global economics and politics: the "triple convergence—of new players, on a new playing field, developing new processes … for horizontal collaboration," particularly in China and India. Friedman’s story comes alive as we meet the movers and shakers of Globalization 3.0, eavesdrop on Friedman’s interviews, and witness collaborations in progress. Friedman’s personal journey, if slightly padded, makes for entertaining and accessible reading. Yet critics, even those who support globalization, differed on Friedman’s thesis; India, for example, has not yet become the global superpower he describes; many scholars still describe the "flat world" as a nicer name for "cheap labor." Friedman also less effectively analyzes the effects of Globalization 3.0 than its players, and embraces technological determinism at the expense of thoroughly considering major political factors (like terrorist networks, which he’s previously compared to World War III). No matter your stance on the benefits or pitfalls of globalization, The World Is Flat is an important, thought-provoking book—even if Friedman’s answer to unresolved issues is, "Sort that out."

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

From Booklist
*Starred Review* Although it may be catchy, the title of New York Times columnist Friedman's latest book needs explaining. "Flat" here means "level," as in the level playing field on which virtually any nation can now compete, thanks to the explosion of global telecommunications, including the Internet as well as the transfer of information from First World to Third--and back. There's also a leveling of hierarchies within organizations, thanks to the increasing democratization of information from sources such as the Web. Friedman cites 10 forces that have caused this "flattening," including the fall of the Berlin Wall ("We could not think globally about the world when the Berlin Wall was there," said one economist), the emergence of Netscape as an Internet platform, workflow software, open sourcing, outsourcing, the streamlining of the supply chain (witness Wal-Mart), the organization of information on the Internet (Google, Yahoo), and the ubiquity of powerful personal telecommunications devices. Friedman is very thorough at projecting the consequences of these changes, noting the benefits we all share from this hyper-globalization, while realistically addressing, for example, the challenges American workers will face in the coming decades from talented, highly motivated workforces in such countries as India and China. A little more humor might have offset the author's trademark earnestness; still, as he has with other global issues, Friedman brings coherence and a workable plan of action to the fundamental changes our world is experiencing. Alan Moores
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review
A mapping of what Friedman calls the "New Middle" the places and spaces in the flat world where middle-class jobs will be found and an account of the character types who will thrive as "New Middle": collaboration and orchestrators; synthesizers, who blend knowledge across disciplines; explainers, who interpret the tide of new knowledge; leveragers, who can create value from it; adapters, who can move from one New Middle job to the next in the flat world. (Chapter 6)

A chapter-long account of "The Right Stuff" the qualities American parents and teachers need to cultivate in American young people so that they will be able to thrive in the flat world: the right education, passion and curiosity (CQ, or curiosity quotient, will be more important than IQ); and the ability to "play well with others." (Chapter 7)

The amazing story of how President Bush shunned a meeting of leading "technologists" in the very office building where he was holding a meeting on privatization of Social Security, a story that exemplifies all the misplaced priorities and bungled opportunities of this Administration. (Chapter 8)

The story of Ireland's swift rise from poverty to prosperity as it made the right moves to adapt to the flattening of the world. (Chapter 9)

A call for a government-led "geo-green" strategy to preserve the earth's environment and natural resources as the entry of billions of people into the middle class in China and India creates huge increases in demand for cars, fuel, water, and the like.

A chapter-length explanation of "The Globalization of the Local": of the ways the flattening of the world, and globalization generally, have affected local and regional culture "actually strengthening local and regional identity rather than homogenizing the world American style." (Chapter 13)

--This text refers to the Kindle Edition edition.

Review

Praise for Longitudes and Attitudes:

"Eminently worth reading . . . It is Friedman's ability to see a few big truths steadily and whole that makes him the most important columnist in America today." --Walter Russell Mead, The New York Times

Product Description

When scholars write the history of the world twenty years from now, and they come to the chapter "Y2K to March 2004," what will they say was the most crucial development? The attacks on the World Trade Center on 9/11 and the Iraq war? Or the convergence of technology and events that allowed India, China, and so many other countries to become part of the global supply chain for services and manufacturing, creating an explosion of wealth in the middle classes of the world's two biggest nations, giving them a huge new stake in the success of globalization? And with this "flattening" of the globe, which requires us to run faster in order to stay in place, has the world gotten too small and too fast for human beings and their political systems to adjust in a stable manner?

In this brilliant new book, the award-winning New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman demystifies the brave new world for readers, allowing them to make sense of the often bewildering global scene unfolding before their eyes. With his inimitable ability to translate complex foreign policy and economic issues, Friedman explains how the flattening of the world happened at the dawn of the twenty-first century; what it means to countries, companies, communities, and individuals; and how governments and societies can, and must, adapt. The World Is Flat is the timely and essential update on globalization, its successes and discontents, powerfully illuminated by one of our most respected journalists.

From the Inside Flap

"The World Is Flat continues the franchise Friedman has made for himself as a great explicator of and cheerleader for globalization, building upon his 1999 The Lexus and the Olive Tree. Like its predecessor, this book showcases Friedman's gift for lucid dissections of abstruse economic phenomena, his teacher's head, his preacher's heart, his genius for trend-spotting . . . [This book] also shares some of the earlier volume's excitement (mirroring Rajesh Rao's) and hesitations about whether we're still living in an era dominated by old-fashioned states or in a postmodern, globalized era where states matter far less and the principal engine of change is a leveled playing field for international trade."—Warren Bass, The Washington Post

From the Back Cover

“One mark of a great book is that it makes you see things in a new way, and Mr. Friedman certainly succeeds in that goal,” the Nobel laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz wrote in The New York Times, reviewing The World Is Flat in 2005. For this updated and expanded edition, Friedman has seen his own book in a new way, bringing fresh stories and insights to help us understand the flattening of the world. New material includes:

• The reasons why the flattening of the world “will be seen in time as one of those fundamental shifts or inflection points, like Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press, the rise of the nation-state, or the Industrial Revolution”

• An explanation of “uploading” as one of the ten forces that are flattening the world, as blogging, open-source software, pooled knowledge projects like Wikipedia, and podcasting enable individuals to bring their experiences and opinions to the whole world

• A mapping of the New Middle—the places and spaces in the flat world where
middle-class jobs will be found—and portraits of the character types who will find success as New Middlers

•An account of the qualities American parents and teachers need to cultivate in young people so that they will be able to thrive in the flat world

•A call for a government-led “geo-green” strategy to preserve the environment and natural resources

•An account of the “globalization of the local”: how the flattening of the world is actually strengthening local and regional identities rather than homogenizing the world
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Thomas L. Friedman has won the Pulitzer Prize three times for his work at The New York Times. He is the author of three best-selling books: From Beiruit to Jerusalem (FSG, 1989), winner of the National Book Award for nonfiction and still considered to be the definitive work on the Middle East, The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization (FSG, 1999), and Longitudes and Attitudes: Exploring the World After September 11 (FSG, 2002). He lives in Bethesda, Maryland, with his family.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Excerpt from The World Is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas L. Friedman. To be published in April, 2005 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.

ONE

While I Was Sleeping

Your Highnesses, as Catholic Christians, and princes who love and promote the holy Christian faith, and are enemies of the doctrine of Mahomet, and of all idolatry and heresy, determined to send me, Christopher Columbus, to the above-mentioned countries of India, to see the said princes, people, and territories, and to learn their disposition and the proper method of converting them to our holy faith; and furthermore directed that I should not proceed by land to the East, as is customary, but by a Westerly route, in which direction we have hitherto no certain evidence that anyone has gone.
—Entry from the journal of Christopher Columbus on his voyage of 1492

No one ever gave me directions like this on a golf course before: “Aim at either Microsoft or IBM.” I was standing on the first tee at the KGA Golf Club in downtown Bangalore, in southern India, when my playing partner pointed at two shiny glass-and-steel buildings off in the distance, just behind the first green. The Goldman Sachs building wasn’t done yet; otherwise he could have pointed that out as well and made it a threesome. HP and Texas Instruments had their offices on the back nine, along the tenth hole. That wasn’t all. The tee markers were from Epson, the printer company, and one of our caddies was wearing a hat from 3M. Outside, some of the traffic signs were also sponsored by Texas Instruments, and the Pizza Hut billboard on the way over showed a steaming pizza, under the headline “Gigabites of Taste!”

No, this definitely wasn’t Kansas. It didn’t even seem like India. Was this the New World, the Old World, or the Next World?

I had come to Bangalore, India’s Silicon Valley, on my own Columbus-like journey of exploration. Columbus sailed with the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa María in an effort to discover a shorter, more direct route to India by heading west, across the Atlantic, on what he presumed to be an open sea route to the East Indies—rather than going south and east around Africa, as Portuguese explorers of his day were trying to do. India and the magical Spice Islands of the East were famed at the time for their gold, pearls, gems, and silk—a source of untold riches. Finding this shortcut by sea to India, at a time when the Muslim powers of the day had blocked the overland routes from Europe, was a way for both Columbus and the Spanish monarchy to become wealthy and powerful. When Columbus set sail, he apparently assumed the Earth was round, which was why he was convinced that he could get to India by going west. He miscalculated the distance, though. He thought the Earth was a smaller sphere than it is. He also did not anticipate running into a landmass before he reached the East Indies. Nevertheless, he called the aboriginal peoples he encountered in the new world “Indians.” Returning home, though, Columbus was able to tell his patrons, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, that although he never did find India, he could confirm that the world was indeed round.

I set out for India by going due east, via Frankfurt. I had Lufthansa business class. I knew exactly which direction I was going thanks to the GPS map displayed on the screen that popped out of the armrest of my airline seat. I landed safely and on schedule. I too encountered people called Indians. I too was searching for the source of India’s riches. Columbus was searching for hardware—precious metals, silk, and spices—the source of wealth in his day. I was searching for software, brainpower, complex algorithms, knowledge workers, call centers, transmission protocols, breakthroughs in optical engineering—the sources of wealth in our day. Columbus was happy to make the Indians her met his slaves, a pool of free manual labor.

I just wanted to understand why the Indians I met were taking our work, why they had become such an important pool for the outsourcing of service and information technology work from America and other industrialized countries. Columbus had more than one hundred men on his three ships; I had a small crew from the Discovery Times channel that fit comfortably into two banged-up vans, with Indian drivers who drove barefoot. When I set sail, so to speak, I too assumed that the world was round, but what I encountered in the real India profoundly shook my faith in that notion. Columbus accidentally ran into America but thought he had discovered part of India. I actually found India and thought many of the people I met there were Americans. Some had actually taken American names, and others were doing great imitations of American accents at call centers and American business techniques at software labs.

Columbus reported to his king and queen that the world was round, and he went down in history as the man who first made this discovery. I returned home and shared my discovery only with my wife, and only in a whisper.

“Honey,” I confided, “I think the world is flat.”

From AudioFile
Distance has been annihilated. Your X rays are sent to India, your job to China. In a flat world the U.S. must seize every technological advantage and put the "oomph" we gave the moon shot into breaking our oil habit. (Although the writer suspects that he will be sent to the moon before "W." gets the message.) Narrator Oliver Wyman does a superb job. First he's the irrepressible American, then the Indian gentleman, and finally the Chinese whose English is formal but broken. The audiobook technology that enables us to take in so much information while caught in traffic or scrubbing a pan is precisely the sort of handhold Friedman would urge us all to grasp, and with both hands. B.H.C. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2005, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Loading...