Thomas Friedman – It’s a Flat World, After All

In this article, Friedman traces how technology and geoeconomics are reshaping the world into a “flat” zone of ever-increasing interconnectivity.  While in India researching outsourcing Friedman discovered that technological changes around the turn of the millennium created a system wherein intellectual work and capital could be delivered and circulated from almost any point around the globe.  This meant that symbolic-analytic work took on a whole new, fundamentally international character.

Friedman traces the globalization movement in three phases in this article: Phase 1.0 (1492-1800) – the imperial project; Phase 2.0 (1800-2000) the conquest of global markets over labor; and Phase 3.0 (2000-present) – the world is flat.  Notably, Friedman also claims that while Phases 1 & 2 were administered by Europeans, phase 3 will be controlled/applied/hashed out by a much more diverse group of individuals from around the world.  In this sense, Friedman sees globalization as a distinctly positive and democratic force (and far too optimistic imo).  In his celebration, Friedman goes so far as to claim that the “process of connecting all the knowledge pools in the world together” is actually happening contrary to the obvious glaring problems of transnational intellectual property and trade agreements.

Friedman traces 10 events that led to the world being flattened: 1) the fall of the Berlin Wall which allowed for a consideration of the world as a single capitalist space; 2) the day Netscape went public which created active internet browsing and triggered the dot-com boom; 3) open-sourcing which allowed for collaboration in the creation of internet technologies by all individuals.  These first three events set the stage for collaboration while the next six extended it (you gotta read his book to get those).  Finally the 10th event was the creation of the wireless access and VoIP revolutions of mobile technology and web collaboration.  Finally, the fall of most communist and socialist governments in the 1990s enabled a huge amount of individuals from Asia, India, Eastern Europe and Latin and Central America to enter into the electronic communication/collaboration picture.

The end of his article is spent trumpeting the fact that the American labor force needs to “get focused” so as to remain relevant in the 21st century.  His bootstraps narrative includes a technological rationality that touts instrumentalism – in the form of engineering/hard science research – as the only solution to stop a fading American hegemony.

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