The world's getting too small too fast, says Thomas Friedman. And America will feel the squeeze
BY STEVE SEBELIUS
Bayh: U.S. lacks strategy to tackle Asia
By Stefan Nicola May 19, 2005, 22:59 GMT Printer Friendly Pageprinter friendly Email this article to a friendemail...
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman.
Bayh: U.S. lacks strategy to tackle Asia
The problems with foreign dweebs like you is that they are blind AND stupid... Proprietary apps have security problems--but so...
There's a sense of dread one gets when listening to people like Thomas Friedman explain his Unified Theory of Everything, how computers and people and work and time and space are all collapsing onto one another like a dying white dwarf star. Next stop: black hole! How will we ever escape, if light itself cannot?
Certainly, Friedman -- who spoke May 12 at UNLV as part of the Barbara Greenspun Lecture Series -- knows his stuff. You don't write acclaimed books and win three Pulitzer Prizes (not to mention truly momentous cultural achievements like appearing on "Real Time with Bill Maher" and "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart") if you don't know your stuff. But that just makes things worse.
Here's the Friedman story: Thanks to the fall of communism, the dot-com bubble and the technological revolution fostered by Microsoft, Netscape and thousands of miles of fiber-optic cable, the world is knit closer together than ever, "a global, web-enabled platform sharing knowledge and work regardless of geography, time and language." And, given that it happened as the tech bubble burst, corporate scandal rocked the headlines, a nasty presidential election and a war dominated the national agenda, Americans were understandably preoccupied. Meanwhile, a phenomenon Friedman compares to the Gutenberg printing press has been forming.
That cannot be good. "My parents used to tell me to finish my dinner, because people in China and India were starving," Friedman told the packed house. "I tell my daughters to finish their homework because people in China and India are starving for their jobs."
Better study hard: Friedman noted that software-support call centers, taxes, airline reservations and even fast-food drive-through orders are being taken overseas, with a picture of your order and your car flashed to the person handing out fries and Big Macs. (Until they get a McDroid to do that job, too.) Some jobs you can even do in your living room on a laptop, like taking reservations for JetBlue Airlines, or do yourself, like making reservations and printing boarding pbuttes for a trip on Southwest Airlines. "They've made you their employee," he says.
Friedman's new 468 plus 1-page book on the topic, The World Is Flat, was printed in the United States. There are still some things that are done better here.
Listen to Friedman's message, however, and you may feel nothing but paranoia about the future: An entirely digital world, where people drift through the ether using only a cell phone, or BlackBerry, or laptop to do knowledge work that hundreds or thousands of people are not equipped by schools or training to do. Daily facing an ever more vast sea of information, buttaulting you via the Internet, which makes reading a daily newspaper for news seem like Columbus turning back at the Azores.
"The global economic playing field is being leveled," one outsourcee in India told Friedman. "And you Americans are not ready."
Or, as Harvard University political theorist Michael Sandel tells Friedman for a chapter midway through his book: "What you are arguing is that developments in information technology are enabling companies to squeeze out all the inefficiencies and friction from their markets and business operations," Sandel says. "But it may also pose a threat to the distinctive places and communities that give us our bearings, that locate us in the world. ... But some of those market inefficiencies are insbreastutions, habits, cultures and traditions that people cherish precisely because they affect non-market values like social cohesion, religious faith and national pride. If global markets and new communications technologies flatten those differences, we may lose something important."
Hurry up Indian nurses, Britain wants you
London, May 18: The state-funded National Health Services (NHS) hospitals in London could face...
And that something important just may be a job.