Thomas Friedman’s book, “The World is Flat” has been filling my mind for some time now; I bought the 33-CD latest edition. It’s been completely worth it.
I really don’t like the writing style. It’s always either too precious, too patronizing, or just too slow and laborious, if not pained and redundant. The fake ethnic accents the narrator chooses on the CDs aren’t the author’s fault, perhaps, but they get old – especially when they’re badly done, or the speaker forgets and lapses back into American standard. Finally, the Americanism that permeates work often seems incongruous with the globalism as it’s being discussed, accepted, and even touted. This leaves the impression, on the one hand, that our primary focus should be our own nation and, on the other, that only the author’s version of internationalism and openness is truly intelligent. In short, it’s infuriating where not a bit insulting.
All that said, it’s worth it. I’d buy it again, and I’ll probably listen to it repeatedly.
The changes to the world that the author outlines are just too significant, and the points he makes about the changes just too important to care nearly so much who is saying them, or why, or how he manages to get them accross. If this were a blurry PDF, a warped, static-burdened record, or a barely audible reading in a dark room by Phyllis Diller (or Richard Simmons, if you’re not that old), it would still be worth it.
I’ve never been much for current affairs books, or analysis of the news. But Friedman’s book goes way beyond that. I won’t even begin to try to explain it here – you can google it for yourself, and I doubt I can say more about the theme, thesis, or its significance than you’ll find in Wikipedia. What I can say is that, if you’re interested in the future, in entrepreneurship, in education, in your children, or in politics, you owe it to yourself to get through some chapters. I’m in chapter 9, which I think is about half way through this massive tome and, while I’ve occasionally been tempted to stop, thinking, “I’ve got it I’ve got it. Enough already.”, I’ve not been disappointed by sticking it out.
Have you ever had a friend that annoyed the hell out of your, by being windy, slow to make a point, slightly condescending, and not a little repetitive? All my friends are saying, “hell yes”, right now. But have you had a friend like that who also made points that changed your life, painted the world in ways you hadn’t seen it before, and ultimately challenged you to live differently, more thoughtfully, with more attention? Those sames friends of mine would just as quickly say, “hail yes!” Well that’s what I get from Thomas Friendman. I forgive his faults, not just because I share them, but because he pays off, and keeps paying, and it’s worth it.
And Thomas likes to ask “where were you when you first realized the world was flat?” Well, in fairness, I should say I realized it while listening to his book in the car. But actually, I was in South Korea, when it developed the 40x CD-ROM. And I began to see how, with its video game development (e.g. Tribes), it’s superior miniaturization that made the US cell phone industry seem quaint, and it being the most wired country on earth, with 57% percent of its people on broadband, while people in my own country were almost universally stuck on dialup – I began to see how the future would shape up abit differently than most of the people I knew suspected.
Well, Friedman’s observations are far more significant, and he’s shown me how much I wasn’t paying attention to, and how much analysis was right there in front of me, and I missed it. I’m willing to sit at his feet, for that – and also because, if he’s right, and I believe he is, mostly, I’ll need very much to know what he knows.