Our book club is discussing Thomas Friedman’s The World Is Flat 3.0: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century (TWIF) this month. I read the 2005 edition of the book, so I’m not sure about the contents of the 2.0 and 3.0 updates. The first half of the book describes ten “flatteners” that have caused this flattened world and defines the effects of the convergence of the most important flatteners. By the way, the whole flat earth metaphor is derived from the image of a leveled playing field, not from our old understanding of geography. The third quarter of the book covers the consequences that affect America, the risks that face America, and suggestions on what America can do to thrive in the flattened world. As energizing as the first half of the book was, this part was terrifying. The last part of the book covers the responses and challenges of the rest of the world to a flattened world, reviews general business approaches to a flattened world, warns of the danger of the presence of unflattened parts of the world, and closes with recommendations on how to keep peace in a flattening world.
This book and its author are very popular, and there are lots and lots of web resources about them both. The TWIF‘s Wikipedia page is a nice place to start if you’d like to learn more about the contents and read Friedman’s critics too. Friedman’s website includes product plugs and links to many NY Times articles. To jump right into the world of those not enamored with Friedman, see this review of the first edition. Meanwhile, Fareed Zakaria’s review is probably much easier to swallow for Flatheads.
It’s nice to finely get around to TWIF, after the digs taken at it and at Friedman by Amy Chua in her World on Fire. Considering last fall’s discussion of Chua, the enthusiasm of Friedman’s Fan Club, the critical responses to TWIF and the importance of the core issues, we should have a very interesting discussion this month. My general response to TWIF is similar to my response to Nye’s Soft Power: I learned something from it, but the greater value probably lies in knowing more about what everyone is talking about and the potential mental stimulation that comes with that.