Friday, October 2, 2009

The World is Flat- Part 1 of 6


My review of :

Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat is an explosion of anticipation, excitement and intriguing surveillance of the past, ongoing and future implications of a flattening world. Readers of this book are able to sit on Friedman’s shoulders and peek on as he recounts his never-ending journey around the world, beginning as early as 1989 when he visited Berlin as a journalist and saw the Berlin Wall with just a small hole in it. Later, the demolition of this wall, becomes the marker for the ‘official’ onset of globalization and the effectively, the flattening of the world. When Friedman talks about flattening, he means, "the digitization, virtualization and automation of more and more everything" to create a "a global, web-enabled platform for multiple forms of collaboration", enabling "individuals, groups, companies and universities anywhere in the world to collaborate- for the purposes of innovation, production, education, research, entertainment, and alas, war-making-like no creative platform ever before"(204). Globalization it seems is one of those premises which everyone recognizes at mention, but is hard to describe in a few words.

To further extrapolate on globalization, and what created it, The World is Flat proposes ten flatteners that are responsible for creating the end result of globalization as we know it. These flatteners are ; the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the introduction of the first mainstream Internet browser, the introduction of work flow software, uploading, outsourcing, offshoring, supplychaining, insourcing, in-forming an technological ‘steroids’. During Friedman’s journey around the globe, he draws his insights and corroborates his ideas with the advice and experiences of myriad global citizens, from young and ambitious call center representatives, to experienced CEOs of cutting-edge companies. He also admits to using the technologies afforded him by globalization, such as the Internet from which he gathered not just research material, but likely translated an African proverb and tracked down a copy of the Communist Manifesto. These information channels vary greatly in their ability to influence one’s visualization of globalization, and the competition between virtual sources and human sources is stiff, especially as Friedman paints vivid pictures of speeding through a Chinese countryside at speeds of 150m/ph while catching wireless signals on his laptop.

Friedman sufficiently supports his choice of the Berlin Wall collapse as the first force that began to level the global playing field. He shows the effect of the collapse on not only the citizens of the USSR who were trapped behind the wall, but also on the other global citizens who were on the outside of the wall. The collapse physically brought together the people on both sides of the wall, although Friedman contends it did more than that. “It tipped the balance of power across the world toward those advocating democratic, consensual, free-market-oriented governance, and away from those advocating authoritarian rule with centrally planned economies”(52). Friedman interprets the collapse beyond the obvious social effect of unifying people and the economic effect of opening up trade possibilities; he sees the opportunity for a larger, more open, geopolitical field.

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