The World Is Flat 3.0: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century Thomas L. Friedman
Introduction to the Paperback Edition
Why go through all the trouble of writing a second expanded and updated version of The World Is Flat only a year after the first expanded version was published and a mere two years after the original? I can offer a very brief answer: because I could and because I had to.
Precisely because of the powerful technological forces detailed in this book, the publishing industry has sped up and it is now possible to revamp a whole book relatively easily. That is what I mean when I say I could.
The reason I must do it is fourfold. First, the forces flattening the world didn’t stop when the first edition of this book was published in April 2005, and I wanted to keep tracking them and weaving them into my overall thesis. Second, I wanted to answer one of the questions I was asked most often by parents while I was traveling around the country to speak about the book: “Okay, Mr. Friedman, thank you for telling us that the world is flat—now what do I tell my kids?” In the 2.0 edition, I added a lot more material on the subject of what is the “right” education to access the new middle-class jobs, and I have added still more in this 3.0 edition. Third, I found many of the comments from readers and reviewers both thoughtful and useful, and I wanted to absorb some of the best of them into the book. And finally, in this 3.0 edition, I have added two new chapters to deal with themes related to the flat world that were not apparent to me before but now seem extremely important. One deals with how to be a political activist and social entrepreneur in a flat world. The other deals with a more troubling phenomenon—how we manage our reputations in a world where we are all becoming publishers and therefore all becoming public figures.
This book has triggered a cottage industry of articles with variations on the title “The World Is Not Flat.” I have two reactions to these: (1) No kidding.
(2) Whenever you opt for a big metaphor like “The World Is Flat,” you trade a certain degree of academic precision for a much larger degree of explanatory power.
Of course the world is not flat. But it isn’t round anymore, either. I have found that using the simple notion of flatness to describe how more people can plug, play, compete, connect, and collaborate with more equal power than ever before—which is what is happening in the world—really helps people who are trying to understand the essential impact of all the technological changes coming together today. Not only do I make no apologies for it, I think that with every passing year, it becomes more true and more useful in explaining in a simple way what is happening. My use of the word “flat” doesn’t mean equal (as in “equal incomes”) and never did. It means equalizing, because the flattening forces are empowering more and more individuals today 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 playing field is the most important thing happening in the world today, and those who get caught up in measuring globalization purely by trade statistics—or as a purely economic phenomenon instead of one that affects everything from individual empowerment to culture to how hierarchical institutions operate—are missing the impact of this change.
At some point I will stop writing this book. But for now, I am just enjoying the chance to keep sharing what I am learning—and am thankful that the flattening of the world makes doing so easier than ever.
Thomas L. Friedman
Chapter 13: If It’s Not Happening, It’s Because You’re Not Doing It
“So I came into the office this morning and I turned on my computer and suddenly found five thousand e-mails...
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