The World Is Flat, by Thomas L. Friedman, is fascinating to me. I find it exhilarating and inspiring. The basic premise is that there are these factors leveling the playing field, globally, and that these factors make it possible for us to do what I am doing right now ... participating in a global community.
This book has been out for several years now, but it has been updated. He terms this edition "Release 3.0". I have not finished the book, and this is my interpretation of what I have read so far, so please read it and if you have other ideas about what he is saying, please comment!
In Chapter Two, he lists the Ten Forces that Flattened the World, and expands upon their effects on all of us, worldwide:
1. The Fall of the Berlin Wall + the release of Windows 3.0 (1989 - 1990)
2. The World Wide Web and Netscape (the first web browser) (1995)
3. Work Flow Software: which allows work to be broken up into segments and done by people who may never meet face-to-face.
4. Uploading: software, news, commentary, content, created by individuals and uploaded for common use, frequently free.
5. Outsourcing: India benefits from the "bubble" of laying huge amounts of fiber-optic cable throughout the world, which turned out to be way overdone, contributing to the "dot-com bust" which meant that the cable was sold for almost nothing and India got a chance to purchase large amounts of this cable, empowering them to participate in global work flow.
6. Offshoring: Global competition means we all have to try harder to create quality goods at reasonable prices, no matter who we are or where we live. Cheating is punished with returns ... witness the lead-painted toy fiasco!
7. Supply-Chaining: Wal-Mart and other very large retail chains who buy in enormous amounts and deliver goods to their outlets faster and cheaper than their competitors. To quote Friedman: "Supply-chaining is a method of collaborating horizontally--among suppliers, retailers, and customers--to create value. Supply-chaining is both enabled by the flattening of the world and a hugely important flattener itself, because the more these supply chains grow and proliferate, the more they force the adoption of common standards between companies (so that every link of every supply chain can interface with the next), the more they eliminate points of friction at borders, the more the efficiencies of one company get adopted by the others, and the more they encourage global colaboration."
8. Insourcing: UPS and FedEx are, to quote Nandan Nilekani, CEO of Infosys: "...not just delivering packages, they are doing logistics." These excellent delivery systems are (quoting Friedman again) "...synchronizing global supply chains for companies large and small."
9. In-Forming: Search Engines ... the five most frequent search terms:
- SEX (DUH!)
- PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING (!!!??!!)
- RECIPES (to match what one has in one's refrigerator)
10. The Steroids: Digital, Mobile, Personal and Virtual: Wireless connectivity for PDAs, laptops, mobiles, etc. You can do anything anywhere, especially with satellite connections.
Friedman goes on from there to illuminate the effects of globalization. As with all major changes or tools, there are both what we would call positive effects and those we would term negative. Whatever we think, it is a done deal.