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Book Excerpts & Overview Economics History Politics

The World Is Flat

Thomas Friedman’s The World Is Flat a key book, arguing that advances in communication technology, transportation, supply chain management, & geopolitics – have empowered people across geographical & class boundaries to educate themselves, find or create fulfilling work, run their own businesses, recruit teams & supplies across boundaries, & keep learning new skills.

I’ve featured Thomas Friedman’s The World Is Flat (2005) here before. It’s a key book, arguing that advances in communication technology, transportation, supply chain management, & geopolitics – have empowered people across geographical & class boundaries to educate themselves, find or create fulfilling work, run their own businesses, recruit teams & supplies across boundaries, & keep learning new skills. Further excerpts & key ideas:

Over the course of several years, Friedman observed:

…Japanese MNCs outsourcing to China; insourcing from JetBlue flights to Mormon homes in Salt Lake City, US; Singapore-based startups recruiting Indians to coach US school students; outsourcing by a MacDonald’s franchise, to another US state, of the process of taking a drive-through order from the consumer & forwarding it to the store employees, producing improved speed & fewer errors; basic journalism being outsourced abroad (reading a company’s financial report & producing a ‘flash’ for a television news-show, & the table of quarterly reports, in a few seconds); & bottom-up citizen-driven journalism (e.g. the website inDC, operated by 1 person w/ a combined camera-cellphone-videorecorder).

The ten forces that flattened the world, according to The World Is Flat:

#1: The fall of the Berlin Wall (1989). The end of the divide that kept millions from glimpsing freedom, innovation, & consumer capitalism. This raising of the iron curtain introduced, to the global economy, not only Russians & East Europeans, but also inspired changes in India & China. In 1991 India began reforming its economic & foreign policy: its foreign currency reserve was then just $1 billion, but grew rapidly thereafter; its growth rate shot from 3% (the socalled conservative slow cautious ‘Hindu’ rate of growth) to 7% in three years. India’s economy had been modelled after independence on the USSR; now, Manmohan Singh’s liberalisation, inspired by 1989, opened India up.

#2: The launch of Netscape: 1st commercially available browser. The *internet* was a collaborative project, uniting millions of computers over modem/telecom cables: PCs using mostly Windows. But the *Web* was created singlehandedly by Tim Berners-Lee, who also popularised HTML, & fought to keep the web free. “The internet” = the collection of computers, hard-drives, modems etc. that constitute the network; “the web” = a parallel world of *information*. The web provided a faster, broader way for people to create & share in digital format any content; the web needed a critical mass of computer-users to take off; then the network grew further.

Read a PDF or Kindle copy of The World Is Flat to save paper.

By Amita Basu

I'm a writer based in Bangalore, India.

2 replies on “The World Is Flat”

the world is flats among my favorite books. Apart from this, I also like hot. Flat & crowded Thomas Friedman’s Writing a completely different mastery in interlinking subjects, the way in which Islamic terrorism is linked to the environment, the best

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Thank you, Nithin! I will look up Friedmann’s other works sometime. I admire his mastery of the complex contemporary global landscape. A link b/w Islamic terrorism & the environment — I don’t understand this, but it sounds intriguing. I’ll look this up.

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