Reviewed by Leanne Hillery, Assistant Librarian
The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century is Thomas Friedman’s chronicle of the changes taking place in science and technology that have, in essence, flattened the world. By “flat,” the author means the formation of a level playing field where trade and political barriers are lowered, allowing new technologies and the digital revolution to make the world more interconnected.
The book is divided into two sections: the ten forces that flattened the world and what a flattened world means for America, developing countries, and the global political scene. The first part of the book is devoted to describing in detail the ten factors and how they have worked together to increase competition on the global scale. The second part describes the effects of flattening on the world and how countries and individuals can work to adapt to the rapid changes taking place.
Within these pages, Friedman addresses how nations can survive in the constantly changing world. He posits that survival today is based on a culture’s ability to adapt to the changing global environment. He describes this as the ability to “glocialize.” This does not mean that a culture should sacrifice its unique character and core elements, but that it should adapt to include elements of the new environment affecting it.
He also suggests that companies not promise lifetime employment, but train employees to be employable in worthwhile lifetime occupations. Friedman also states that education will continue to be one of the most important factors that determine the success of companies and individuals. He suggests focusing educational efforts on four skill sets to help young people prepare for the increased global competition for jobs they will face in the future: 1) learn how to learn; 2) develop passion and curiosity; 3) improve interpersonal skills; and 4) enhance right brain (creative) abilities.
The World Is Flat sheds light on the many different effects and results of globalization on key professions (business, economics, politics, education) as well as on the individual. Thus, there is something in this book that will be of interest to everyone. We all have a stake in the global changes that are currently affecting our world. According to Friedman, globalization is driven by individuals. We all have a part to play in the process.