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The World Is Flat

April 30, 2006

Filed under: review — Terry Wohlers @ 14:15

I recently finished the The World Is Flat by Thomas Friedman. The book provides a perspective that almost anyone in the high tech field would find interesting, and for some, fascinating. The research and preparation of ideas that went into the book gripped my attention from beginning to end. 

Friedman argues that the rules of business have changed in an era of globalization. He explains that a convergence is underway of new players (India, China, Russia, and others) and new playing fields that have led to a horizontal collaboration of products and services. “The world has flattened,” Friedman claims, and many forces have caused this flattening. Among them: The fall of the Berlin Wall and Soviet-style economies; the 1995 Netscape IPO that led to easy Internet browsing; the dot-com bubble and overinvestment in fiber-optic cable that has linked India and China to the rest of the world; search engines such as Goggle (most queries are no longer in English); and wireless technologies that permits unprecedented connectivity, even from a bullet train in Japan. (Last October, I used Lufthansa’s new on-board high-speed wireless Internet on a flight from Frankfurt to Johannesburg.)

Friedman takes you to Bangalore, Guangdong, and other parts of the world as he vividly describes how the world is a very different place. For example, an estimated 400,000 American IRS tax returns were processed in India in 2005. Likewise, Indian and Australian radiologists read medical CT scans from small hospitals in the U.S. He also discusses how the flattened world has become a friend to highly organized terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda. 

The World Is Flat is a intriguing account of the threats, opportunities, and realities that we face today and in the world to come. The book is not without its flaws, according to some critics, although I agreed with most of what was presented and was eager to advance from chapter to chapter. I recommend it highly, especially to those with jobs in new product development and manufacturing.