Sunday, October 29, 2006

The World is Flat – Thomas L. Friedman (Book Review 007)

ISBN: 0141022728

Tagline: The Globalized world in the Twenty-First century

Hanging around for almost a month with The World is Flat, I finally completed it despite all the time constraints I was under. I have never read such a thick book back-to-back in my life until this one and this book is very special not just in that sense. I could have completed it within a short span but the sheer density of information and ideas in this book forced me to read it slowly and in parts. So I used to read a couple of pages and then sit back and ponder about them in my free time in order to assimilate the information well.

After reading the first few pages of this book I understood how important and dense this book was and to beat the density which posed such a challenge, I actually used a pencil to underline important points as I read this book. Why? This isn’t just a book to be read and kept in the cupboard to gather dust; it can serve as a great reference book for a variety of purposes.

About the Author

Thomas L. Friedman works for The New York Times and is one of the world’s most respected journalists, renowned for his expertise on international affairs and economic issues. He has won the Pulitzer Prize three times and is the author of international best sellers like “From Beirut to Jerusalem”, “The Lexus and the Olive Tree” and “Longitudes and Attitudes”.

The World is Flat

In this book the author has charted the technologies that have affected our lives most profoundly and made the world a much smaller place (or Flat) by breaking the barriers to communication and cultural exchange. This book is a dense store house of information which covers stuff from 11/9 when the Berlin wall came down to 9/11 when the tragic WTC attacks took place and
beyond. It tells us why the world shrunk and what technologies and players are responsible for this.

In the next set of chapters the author discusses the affects of the Flattening of the world on America with clear emphasis and the out-sourcing phenomenon and moving of jobs from America to Asia. The author is rightly concerned about the falling number of fresh American engineers and rising average age of the existing group of engineers. He emphasizes on the need for America to revamp their education system at the school level so that it continues to drive the world into new frontiers of innovation and technology. The author talks about the kind of jobs that can be outsourced or automated and the people (which he calls The Untouchables) that cannot be affected by this out-sourcing phenomenon as they always stay one step ahead of it.

Then there is a chapter about developing countries in the Flat World. The author highlights some of the short comings of various developing countries bring to forefront the lack-luster performance of the respective governments in certain cases.

The author also discusses about the people who have not been able to take advantage of the Flat world i.e. poverty stricken people in various developing and under-developed countries and people living in closed societies which have made themselves impervious to external influences. He has also written at length about certain obvious and not so obvious forces that hamper the flattening process of the world and also talked about how terrorists are using the Flat World platform to their advantage.

In the chapters pertaining to the affect of Flat world on America and the Developing Countries of the World, the author has mentioned many points which are very unique and innovative in my opinion. What he has mentioned seem to me like the characteristics or the directive principles to any country to become a superpower in this world. Another very good point in my opinion is the idea of America moving to alternative sources of energy and reducing its dependence on oil imports which will help cut down on pollution, Global Warming, exhaustion of non-renewable energy sources and also shut the income sources of certain dangerous state and non-state players which are a threat to World Peace. I think this is not just for America but can be extended to many countries like India and China which are contributing massively to Global Air Pollution levels.

I have spent almost a month with this book and analyzed the length, breadth and depth of ideas mentioned in here. The author has traveled to many countries, spoken to many people and learnt many new thing while writing this book. Tremendous efforts have gone into the development of this book and no wonder this book is so dense with ideas. I was glad to learn about the early nineties era of technology which I knew about only in fragments because I sprang up on the I.T scene only around mid 1998 after seeing a computer game called Shadow Warrior at a Friend’s house :)

Immediately after completing this book, I had felt that if some one in Year 3K will look back at the beginning of the Millennium and try to study the history of technology and its influence on the world, one of the books they might like to refer to will be this one. I have not read any book from this author before but after reading this one, I am convinced that I got to read his previous works as well.

P.S. If you have a flare for I.T. and Business quizzing, this can be a good book to lookup the names of major I.T. companies, their founders and CEOs.

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