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Thomas Friedman’s book “The World Is Flat” Essay

Thomas Friedman’s book The World Is Flat analyzes the progress of globalization and how it has changed core economic concepts. After traveling to numerous countries, he came up with the conclusion that the world is “flat,” in the sense that competitive playing fields between industrial and emerging market countries have been leveled. He provides frequent examples of how countries, such as China and India, are becoming part of large global complex supply chains. Freidman assures that change is inevitable and that internet and outsourcing tactics are shrinking the world from “small to tiny.” Through his use of empirical evidence and first-hand experiences, Friedman is able to provide the reader with a greater insight as to why to world is flat.

The increasing power of the internet is a major topic that the author addresses. The internet has broadened its audience so that it is accessible to people of all ages and positions. Communication is contributing to the flattening of the world due to the ability to communicate with virtually anyone within seconds. Friedman visited Iraq and came across an interesting situation that allowed him to further support his point: “On the screen was a live TV feed that looked to be coming from some kind of overhead camera. It showed some people moving around behind a house. Also on the screen, along the right side, was an active instant-messaging chat room, which seemed to be discussing the scene on the TV…he explain that a U.S. Predator drone was flying over an Iraqi village, and feeding real-time intelligence images back to his laptop and this flat screen” (38-39).

Technology has expanded dramatically within the last decade, and the author insists that it is going to inflate from here on out, thus continuing to flatten the world. Friedman also confronts the topic of outsourcing. He argues that outsourcing has allowed companies to split service and manufacturing activities into components, with each component performing in efficient, cost-effective ways. His travels allowed him to explore the incredible subject, and what he found truly supports the idea that the world is indeed flattening. Friedman reflects on his stay in Bangalore by saying, “I hadn’t been with him for more than a few minutes at the Leela Palace hotel before he told me that he could handle my tax returns and any other accounting needs I had- from Bangalore.

No thanks, I demurred, I already have an accountant in Chicago. Jerry just smiled. He was too polite to say it – that he may already by my accountant, or rather my accountant’s accountant, thanks to the explosion in the outsourcing of tax preparation” (11-12). Outsourcing is becoming a significant addition to today’s world, with many different businesses practicing it, such as McDonald’s and JetBlue. Friedman tries to portray to Americans that they need to get accustomed to the fact that we will not be ahead of the rest of the world much longer. He seems ambivalent about the implications of the change, and many passages point towards the idea of a system of global cooperation in which no country is dominant. However, many Americans think we will be dominated by the Indians and Chinese if we don’t get our act together.

While talking with Nandan Nilekani, an Indian CEO of Infosys Technologies Limited, about the rising ability of people to collaborate and compete in the global economy, Friedman declares, “I was excited personally, because what the flattening of the world means is that we are now connecting all the knowledge centers on the planet together into a single global network, which-if politics and terrorism do not get in the way- could usher in an amazing era of prosperity and innovation” (8). Friedman offers his book as a framework on how to deal with the foreseeable changes that are being thrusted upon the world.

He says, “The great challenge for our time will be to absorb these changes in ways that do not overwhelm people but also do not leave them behind. None of this will be easy. But this is our task. It is inevitable and unavoidable” (46-47). In other words, be ready. Overall, Thomas Friedman demystifies the flattening world for readers, and allows them to make sense of the globalization unfolding before their eyes. He discusses how the internet and outsourcing are contributing to the leveling of the playing field, and that change within the next decade is expected. Whether this change will be good or bad, nobody knows, but Friedman insists that the world should be ready and embrace the new era.


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