Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The World Is Flat 3.0 - Reflection 1

A few weeks ago, on our anniversary trip, Sarah and I stopped into the English book mecca in Korea: What the Book. It's a small book store ... in a basement ... a few blocks off the beaten path. What makes it so special? All of the books are in English - 100%!! Most of the big book stores here in Korea have a few shelves of English books, but no one has selection like this. I loved it!
One of my finds was The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century by Thomas L. Friedman. (This is his third edition of the book in as many years.) I got it because I thought it would help me understand postmodernism, which is becoming one of my new passions for research. I LOVE THIS BOOK!!
I'm going to write some reflections on it as I move along. Here is stage number one.

Why is the world "flat"? Discovering that the world was round was a big deal right - Christopher Columbus and all of that, right?
Here's how Friedman explains it: Flat "means equalizing, because the flattening forces are empowering more and more individuals to reach farther, faster, deeper, and cheaper than ever before, and that is equalizing power - and equalizing opportunity, by giving so many more people the tools and ability to connect, compete and collaborate. In my view, this flattening of the wolrd is the most important thing happening in the world today ... one that affects everything from individual empowerment to culture to how hierarchical institutions operate" (x).

Friedman says "there have been three great eras of globalization."
  1. Globalization 1.0 - (1492-1800) - beginning when Columbus set sail for the "New World." The key forces were brute national strength and cunning application of that strength. Individuals participated in globalization through the work and activity of nations. World size: large --> medium.
  2. Globalization 2.0 - (1800-2000) beginning with the Industrial Revolution. The key driving forces of this change were multinational companies. Individuals participated in globalization through their companies (and the companies doing business in their market place). World size: medium --> small.
  3. Globalization 3.0 - (2000 -????) beginning with the mass availability of personal computers and high speed internet access. The unique force that causes this change "is the newfound power for individuals to collaborate and compete globally." Naturally (but also shockingly), then, individuals participate in globalization as independent individuals. World size: small --> tiny.
This is a radical, cataclysmic, earth-shaking change! We are just beginning a very wild ride. Our world is changing faster than ever before, and the pace of change is increasing faster than ever before. What is the source of all of this change? People around the world are now able to participate in shaping the future. Because people in almost any country can have access to almost any information and can develop almost any skill and can create new information which can then be accessed by all other people all over the world, we have multiplied our mental workforce exponentially.
Maybe a visual picture will help. Imagine that before the internet, the world changers (the people who invented stuff and thought up the really cool new ideas and developed new systems) could all fit into one large auditorium in New York City - granted a very crowded room. N0w, with the massive implementation of the internet, the world changers are filling up all of New York City, all of New York State, and are spilling out all over the entire North American continent. Soon, they will take up every inch of the globe. (And this metaphor is not intended to be America-centric. I just had to pick somewhere as the starting point.) The point is that people all over the world are now able to be active players in shaping their own destiny and also the destiny of the entire world.
The world is flat ... and getting flatter all the time.
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