The World Is Flat

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In Part I, “How the World Became Flat,” Friedman visits India, where he realizes that the playing field has been leveled, meaning that a much larger group of people can compete for global knowledge. He pursues examples of this metaphor in other places, such as Iraq, China, Japan, and the United States. Friedman argues that there are primarily ten forces that flattened the world and describes each of the following “flatteners”: 11/9/89, the fall of the Berlin Wall; 8/9/95, or the date that Netscape went public; work flow software; uploading; outsourcing; offshoring; insourcing; in-forming; and the steroids. Next Friedman explores what he calls “the triple convergence,” or the way the ten flatteners converged to create an even flatter global playing field. The first convergence encompasses how the ten flatteners came together in such a way that they created a global, Web-enabled platform that allows for multiple forms of collaboration. The second convergence is the appearance of a set of business practices and skills that make the most of the ten flatteners, thus enhancing the flatteners’ potential. The third convergence is the entrance of some three billion people onto the playing field. The triple convergence is likely to cause some chaos and confusion. Friedman argues that “the great sorting out” will recalibrate the ceilings, walls, and floors that define us. Some questions that arise during the great sorting out are: what should be the relationship between companies and the communities in which they operate?; how do we navigate our multiple identities as consumers, employees, citizens, taxpayers, and shareholders?; who owns what, particularly in the case of intellectual property?

In Part II, “America and the Flat World,” Friedman begins by claiming that free trade is still in the United States’ best interest because as long as the “global pie” keeps growing--that is, as long as more people demand these goods and services, more people will be needed to produce them. Friedman points out that the Chinese and Indians are racing Americans to the top, not to the bottom. This race will foster higher standards for everyone. Friedman shows how, as services and goods become increasingly tradable, more jobs are likely to become outsourced, digitized, or automated. He predicts that untouchable jobs in the new flat world will fall into three, broad categories: people who are “special or specialized” (e.g. Madonna, Michael Jordan, or your brain surgeon); people who are “localized and anchored” (e.g. waitresses, lawyers, plumbers, nurses, etc.); and “the old middle jobs” (e.g. people in the middle class who are under pressure because their jobs are becoming tradable). Friedman explores what he thinks the new middle-class jobs will be in the flat world, calling the people who will occupy those jobs--which he divides into eight categories-- “the new middlers.”

The eight categories are: “Great Collaborators and Orchestrators,” “The Great Synthesizers,” “The Great Explainers,” “The Great Leveragers,” “The Great Adapters,” “The Green People,” “The Passionate Personalizers,” and “The Great Localizers.” Friedman outlines four skill sets and attitudes that educators and employers point to as “the right stuff” to make it in the flat world. The first skill set individuals must possess is the ability to “learn how to learn.” The second skill set is what Friedman dubs “CQ + PQ > IQ,” or that curiosity and passion, combined, are more important than intelligence. The third skill set/ attitude Friedman uncovers is “Plays Well with Others.” The final skill set Friedman believes will be necessary in the flat world is “The Right Brain Stuff.” Friedman believes that the United States is uniquely suited to enter the age of the flat world because it has a “mix of institutions, laws, and cultural norms that produce a level of trust, innovation, and collaboration that has enabled us to constantly renew our economy and raise our standard of living.” The...
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