‘The World is Flat’ by Thomas Friedman

Deja vu! For the readers who have read ‘ The Lexus and the Olive Tree’, the book is familiar territory as Tom Friedman beats up the drum in support of Globalization. India is a favorite story for him and being from the generation the benefited from the ‘ LPG’ (Liberalization, Privatization & Globalization) reforms in India in 1991, I can understand his enthusiasm.

But yet again the view is overtly simplistic and looking back on some of the predictions he made in 2005 it is unrealistic as well. Crude is floundering instead of being on steroids, the echoes of the 2008 financial crisis are still felt as ‘Quantitative Easing’  (QE) is a trap that countries are unable to escape while Africa sounds like a land of promise.

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It is a brave new world – the Schumpeterian principle of creative destruction is at work and the pace is frenetic. Analogue is being replaced by digital technology in various facets of our lives. Yet there is a spirit of accommodation and adaptation as the older forms of technology also survive or even thrive in a new avatar. The TV didn’t make the radio redundant, the internet media is not making newspapers vanish though newer forms of collaboration are jostling for space.

The emergence of China (as a manufacturing hub) and India (as a service hub) is a matter-of-fact narrative. The predicted decline in US is far more complicated as we continue to be a unipolar world with predictions of the new world order still not fructified – BRICS is aspirational and at times was even thought to be fragile. Geopolitics dominates the world scene as well as we see a plethora of conflicts raging and no ceasefire in ready sight.

Yet the millennials are a fun-generation with opportunities and lifestyles that eluded their previous generations. They are at home with the latest technological gizmos, social media is second nature to them and indeed has become the most popular form of recreation and they are constantly discovering newer applications of technology that improve their lifestyles. Its impact on their health and on their families particularly children is something that is at a deep discount.

Tom Friedman followed up the book with couple more that focused on his pet themes – energy and green initiatives (Hot, Flat and Crowded) and the decline of American superiority ( That Used To Be Us). So there is a continuum to his thought process that include the pet themes of globalization, the changing society, the competition from rivals particularly China and India and of course America’s place in the emerging world order.

It has been a while since he wrote his last book so one may never know whether another installment is due to be out soon to update us with the latest trends on these topics. If and whenever, such a work appears one hopes that it will address areas often ignored in the previous titles viz. –

  1. The African story as many see it have great potential to drive growth
  2. The 2008 financial crisis and its unending impact even as Grexit fears wane
  3. The geopolitical themes that make sordid headlines of a distant world – yet they can have a strong impact of our collective future
  4. Place of key actors in the emerging world order i.e. US, BRICS, European Union and multilateral organizations like IMF and World Bank
  5. Impact of Olive Tree a.ka. cultural roots in the emerging world order. Increasingly his recent works have focused less on these aspects as the technological advances have hogged the limelight and the word space.
Credit: Suhaimi Abdulla Courtesy: Getty Images
Credit: Suhaimi Abdulla
Courtesy: Getty Images

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