The Flat World

A couple of years ago my sister gave me a copy of a book that she had been given when she received her first degree. The book is The World Is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman. On the back it says “One mark of a great book is that it makes you see things in a new way, and Mr. Friedman certainly succeeds in that goal.” I couldn’t agree more.

When I started reading The World is Flat on my commute I didn’t know much about it. I thought, actually, that it would fit kind of in the “self-help” category and tell me how I could do more in the world. Instead it showed me how the world has changed in my lifetime, and the power that we all have today to collaborate with nearly anyone, anywhere, in ways that even I, who works online and rarely sees my coworkers and clients, hadn’t imagined. I’ve never been motivated to write here about a book I read, but this book has motivated me to do just that. I think it should be read by as many people as possible, especially people who work in business, education, or government.

The World is Flat is a solid look at globalization and what it means for the American people, and by extension us Canadians. It means, among other things, that we have to work our asses off to stay in front of the millions of people that can now compete for our jobs from India, Russia, or pretty much anywhere there is an internet connection. But it also means that as an employer I can hire the best person to do a job at the best price, providing a better service to my customers at a lower price than I would otherwise be able to provide.

I’ve already experienced our Flat World. I’m in MontrĂ©al, and I work all the time with a group in California, as well as on occaision with people in Arizona, New York, Poland, Turkey, and the Philippines. It’s amazing what we can get done together. By assembling the right team for the job we can often do a better job than a team that works under a single roof, and for less money. But after learning what I have learned in reading The World is Flat I am excited to try even bigger, better things.

One of the things that I worry about, however, is overproduction and overconsumation. One of the major arguments against globalization and outsourcing is that we don’t want to loose North American jobs. This argument assumes that there are only so many jobs to go around, and with the expansion currently happening in many of the places we outsource to, this is simply not the case. The increasingly affluent population in, for example, India, consumes things produced both there and in the west, so by moving some jobs to other countries we are actually creating a net increase in both jobs and consumption. This overconsumption can have a detrimental effect on the health of the planet, and while it is an economic truth that we are seeing, and most likely will continue to see, a net increase consumption, and therefore production and jobs, I’m not entirely sure that our planet can support having everyone in it live lifestyles like we currently do in North America. Something needs to change, and while Mr. Friedman does discuss this, I feel it needs deeper investigation. I’m assuming that Mr. Friedman’s next book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded, will deal more with these issues.

Since September, I have been commuting more, on a train, and therefore reading more. The World is Flat made me want to share what I am reading with as many people as possible, so this is the first post of many about books that I read. As I finish each book I’ll write about it here. These aren’t meant to be book reviews, I’m no literary critic, but personal reactions to what I read. There will be Amazon affiliate links in and at the bottom of the posts, but I’m not going to pump up a book that’s no good, it would just be nice to make a dollar or two on the books that are great. These posts are as much for my archives as for the world, but I would like to share some things, especially The World is Flat. There’s a fascinating revolution taking place, and I want to get even more involved than I am now.

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