The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman

September 3, 2009

world-is-flat Summary: Journalist Thomas L. Friedman contends that the world is flat. No, he doesn’t oppose Christopher Columbus’ contention, nor does he belong to the Flat Earth Society. Instead, Friedman used this title as a metaphor for the way the global economic landscape has changed in the 21st century. He contends that the playing field is more level than it has ever been before, and that as certain important forces continue to work, the world will become even flatter in the future.

What does this mean, exactly? Well, Friedman is absolutely fascinated by the way technology — the Internet, VoIP telephony, email, advanced software, etc. — enables small companies to act big, and big companies to act small. In other words, a small company in Bangalore, India can use video conferencing via plasma tvs and other technology to woo clients and win contracts in the United States, and massive companies like Dell or Wal-Mart can offer a level of personalization and customization usually only found with much smaller businesses.

Friedman contends that the flattening of the world is a good thing for the most part, as long as people — and countries — take steps to keep up. Education is critical in this regard, and students would do well to focus on math and science, with a generous helping of liberal arts for good measure. Graduates of the future, says Friedman, will be competing with a global workforce instead of a local or national one, so they had better be prepared education-wise.

Liked:

  • This book was a very interesting read. I thought Friedman did a great job of laying out his arguments and presenting his case in a logical way. I found myself agreeing with a lot of what he said, even though I hadn’t given some of the topics much consideration before.
  • Friedman steers clear of technical terms for the most part. And when he does use technical terms, he explains the meaning. I hate reading books where the authors assume that readers will automatically know all about everything that’s mentioned. Friedman writes with clarity and precision, without being condescending.

Disliked:

  • The only thing I disliked about this book — and this is mostly a reflection on myself, not the author or the work — is that I can’t be sure if Friedman’s arguments are based on facts or not. I can’t verify any of this stuff for myself because I’m not directly involved in any of the things Friedman talked about. Yes, I can see that the world is flattening, but is this really due to the causes Friedman lists? He doesn’t cite any sources except “friends” in India, China, and elsewhere, so this is far from a scholarly work.

My Rating:

Overall, I thought The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman was a very good book. It is interesting and thought-provoking, and makes me want to learn more about all of the things he talked about. I give it 4 stars out of 5.

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