Updated Edition: Thomas L. Friedman is not so much a futurist, which he is sometimes called, as a presentist. His aim in 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 that 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 has embraced this flat world in his own work, continuing to report on his story after his book's release and releasing an unprecedented hardcover update of the book a year later with 100 pages of revised and expanded material. What's changed in a year? Some of the sections that opened eyes in the first edition--on China and India, for example, and the global supply chain--are largely unaltered. Instead, Friedman has more to say about what he now calls 'uploading,' the direct-from-the-bottom creation of culture, knowledge, and innovation through blogging, podcasts, and open-source software. And in response to the pleas of many of his readers about how to survive the new flat world, he makes specific recommendations about the technical and creative training he thinks will be required to compete in the 'New Middle' class. As before, Friedman tells his story with the catchy slogans and globe-hopping anecdotes that readers of his earlier books and his New York Times columns know well, and he holds to 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. A year later, one can sense his rising impatience that our popular culture, and our political leaders, are not helping us keep pace. --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've now had the chance to talk to him about The World Is Flat twice. Read our original interview with him following the publication of the first edition of The World Is Flat 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?')
And now you can listen to our second interview, in which he talks about the updates he's made in 'The World Is Flat 2.0,' including his response to parents who said to him, 'Great, Mr. Friedman, I'm glad you told us the world is flat. Now what do I tell my kids?'
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
First of all, this is a very easy audiobook to listen to. Not only the voice is smooth with the correct reflections, but time goes by while you listen. Not that Friedman is right all the time, he sometimes scores easy points with a New York Times audience and later is proved incorrect, however he does make interesting points, and in an interesting way. If you want a discussion on recent history especially with regards to wars, economics, and globalization, this is the book to listen to first.