The World Is Flat
The Significance of Steroids as the 10th Flattener in The World is Flat
The World Is Flat
Friedman, in Chapter 2 of The World Is Flat, describes the 10 items or phenomenon that helped flatten the globe and added to our still-globalizing world. The tenth flattener, in his opinion, are the “steroids” of this globalization process. His realization of this stemmed from his trip to Japan, when his colleague Jim Brooke was using his laptop via wireless connection, while travelling on a high-speed bullet train. His beliefs of how vast Japan’s virtual networks were confirmed when Brooke’s colleague Todd Zaun was using his Japanese cell phone, which was capable of connecting to the Internet no matter where he was. This leads to Friedman making note of how greatly expansive and efficient Japan and Ghana’s cell coverage networks were in comparison to those that were present in America, adding to the “amazing degree of wireless penetration and connectivity” (160) found in Japan and the rest of the world today. Friedman then cites examples of how new age tech has made everyday life easier for people in a wide range of situations.
All of this is attributed to the “steroids” within tech development that have pushed globalization beyond its previous limits. They are all considered to be the technological “steroids” of today because “they are amplifying and turbocharging all the other flatteners” (161), including the state of constant improvement—allowing tech to operate at cheaper, faster rates than before, the development of file-sharing—leading to improved linkage and collaboration between people across nations, the invention of multipurpose devices—in which devices are more streamlined and capable of doing more than ever (“your Internet-enabled camera phone is not just a camera; it is also a copy machine, with worldwide distribution material” (170), as Friedman states), the VoIP—voiceover internet protocol service, providing a newer, cheaper, more personal way in which messages can be delivered, breakthrough improvements in videoconferencing—making business interactions much easier and more efficient, and most importantly, the creation of wireless networking—giving us the ability to drop things and then pick them back up anywhere.
This section relates to the whole of Chapter 2 as it explores how these technological “steroids” are leading all the other flatteners and affecting them as well. It is also acknowledged that, without these steroids, many of the other flatteners would not be as developed as they are today. I wholly agree with Friedman’s observations and conclusions, as much of technology as we know it today is continuously being developed based on the stated steroids. These are the driving forces within society, through business competition and consumer demands, that are pushing various companies to reach for new heights with their products. As more of these products become more accessible to more people, the world will continue to “flatten”, to quote Friedman, with the constantly expanding networks through which globalization will continue to spread.
The Global Society’s Development and Changes in the World is Flat
Globalization implications in Friedman’s “Flat World”
In Thomas Friedman’s “The World is Flat 3.0,” the author discusses the changing in global society from a disunited world to one which is more interconnected. Through careful analysis on the top global issues, Friedman has distilled the most potent “flatteners” that cause our world to connect on a global level, making our planet a more level society. He talks about the ten flatteners of the world: the forces of our changing society that contribute to the shrinking of global society. Some such forces are Netscape, insourcing, outsourcing, supply-chaining, and others.
Friedman has many valid points in regards to Globilization. He talks about a “flat society,” meaning that all people live on a more equal playing field. Forces such as Informing, The Steroids, and Netscape bring people in third world countries or the impoverished in the first world information and connectivity to the rest of the world. However, despite the benefits, the downside is that it can be expensive to keep up to date with technology, and some areas of the world do not have reliable broadband access, which restricts the lowest class from the ability to keep up with the rest of the world as it advances. Outsourcing is also a great way to expand commerce into the third world. A common opposing view is that outsourcing cuts jobs from American citizens, although this may really be part of a larger issue of overpopulation. Lastly, I would not agree with Friedman on his first flattener, the destruction of the Berlin Wall. While I agree that this was a symbol of the world uniting after a century of world wars, I don’t think it can qualify as a flattener for a more technical reason. The other nine flatteners are constantly ongoing forces that continue to develop and bring the world closer together, whereas the destruction of the Berlin Wall was a one time event that functioned more of a launchpad than a continual force.
The Millennium Project defines fifteen global challenges which are the top threats to global society. This provides a plan for governments, private sectors, and NGOs to attack the top global issues in order to create a better world. The list is, in order of most to least critical: Sustainable Development and Climate Change, Clean Water, Population and Resources, Democratization, Global Foresight and Decision Making, Global Convergence of IT, Rich – Poor Gap, Health Issues, Education and Learning, Peace and Conflict, Status of Women, Transnational Organized Crime, Energy, Science and Technology, and Global Ethics. This is a very good guideline for the world’s top challenges, and covers nearly all of the bases. That being said, I would group some of these items differently, and re-order them based on my own personal beliefs.
I agree that “Sustainable Development and Climate Change” should be first on the list. While there are many other imperative challenges facing the world, climate change affects all of us. Though this may come across as selfish, it is an important factor that while millions of people have little to no access to clean water or food, not all people are affected by poverty. However, all seven billion people on the planet are affected by climate change, which makes it a more pressing issue. Furthermore, climate change affects the future of humanity as well, and will only get worse if the current situation does not change. I am glad the the Millennium Project included sustainable development in this category, but I may argue that clean water and energy should be included as well, making the list item a more broad entry of environmentalism. Environmentalism not only combating climate change, but also taking into account the developments in clean and sustainable energy, pollution in air and water, and access to clean water. My next list item would be Education. I believe that most political conflict and discrimination can be solved with proper education. Many terrorist organizations and dictatorships rely on brainwashing and hate preaching, and many conflicts between ethnic groups, such as the Israeli/Palestinian conflict stem from improper education about the opposition. My third list item would roll poverty, the rich-poor gap, health issues and hunger into a single challenge. Food and health are both on the bottom tier of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, meaning that they are physiological human needs that must be satisfied for basic human survival. If the world can focus on these three challenges, a significant betterment in the world would occur.
Globalization is the tendency for governments, multinational corporations, and other organizations to increase connectivity on a transnational level. Governmental forms of globalization include collaborating and forming relationships with each other. The United Nations create international laws so that governments can protect the fundamental human rights of people in other countries. Businesses expand to a multinational level by opening franchises worldwide and outsourcing branches of the company to other parts of the world. Individuals contribute to globalization by becoming more connected with other parts of the world. Technology makes communication, news, and travel between foreign nations much easier, which makes the world seem smaller. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) make the world a more level playing field by providing humanitarian services to all parts of the world. For example, Doctors Without Borders brings advanced medical technology to impoverished third world countries without access to safe medical treatments. This helps poorer parts of the world develop to a more sustainable level in line with the rest of the world.
Globalization is neither a positive nor negative force in today’s society, but rather a tool of our modern age that could be used for both good and bad. My examples above are mostly positive practices of globalization. While many people and organizations use the tool of globalization to do good, there will always be greedy and selfish entities that use the same technology to put themselves higher on the food chain. For example, cyberterrorism, sweatshop labor, and military industrial complexes are all outcomes of globalization. There are also many unintended consequences of globalization. Some civilizations can’t compete with the progress of the rest of society, and fall even further behind.
In this golden age of technology, it often seems as though technology is the be-all and end-all. However, it is important to realize the downsides of technology. Some harmful byproducts of the information age include environmental abuse, safety concerns, and justness. The constant use of electricity has had a severely detrimental effects on the environment. More energy is being consumed and there currently is no efficient sustainable source of clean energy. Another environmental issue caused by globalization is extreme environmental issue in concentrated areas. For example, industrialism in China has lead to severe pollution at record levels. This is a direct result of globalization, as production from many other countries has moved to China. Given enough work and cooperation, it could be possible to create an environmentally sustainable society even despite the level of energy consumption and toxic byproducts in today’s tech-infused world. However, this would require global cooperation, which is very hard to come by in a world rife with political conflict. Even in the United States, it is remarkably difficult to garner bipartisan support on environmental issues. Another hurdle to overcome is the cost of implementing clean energy sources, cleaning existing pollution, and curbing toxic factory byproducts. While I believe that we have the technology to combat environmental issues, it is not feasible until political issues are solved or set aside so that the world can unite.
Globalization has done a lot to help justness and safeness of the world. Our world has a long history of degradation against minorities, women, and the lower class. In the past decade, the progressive movement has enforced fair treatment both legally and socially of all people regardless of race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or socioeconomic status. With more global media coverage, people know more about unjust conditions around the world. Technology gives individuals and governments more reach to support the discriminated classes of other nations. For the same reasons, it is easier to make the world a safer place. As mentioned before, Doctors Without Borders helps treat people of third world, and western medicine can eradicate deadly diseases. During the ebola epidemic, patients were transported to the United States for treatment. Other unsafe conditions concerning war and violence may take longer to make safer. As globalization continues to bring the world together, violent conflict may be lessened. The Dell Theory of Conflict Prevention, which will be discussed more later, says that war and global conflict may be reduced as countries become more economically interdependent.
The essence of the Dell Theory of Conflict Prevention, as explained by Friedman, is that no two countries would declare war on one another if doing so would be mutually detrimental. More specifically, the countries’ economic systems are interconnected through the same supply chain, such that the destruction of one’s economy would lead to a slump in the other’s. To further explore this theory, let us take into consideration the relationship between the United States of America and China. China, a communist country, could be considered a political enemy of the United States. Recent hostility between the two nations, such as the hack on government personnel databases, further proves this point. However, despite the animosity, it is unlikely that America and China will go to war due to their level of interdependence. America relies on China to produce goods, and China relies on America for commerce. A war between the two nations would but such an extreme damper on the other’s economy that engaging in such a war would be comparable to mutually assured destruction.
In theory, this concept makes a lot of sense. A government generally will only enact on operations in its own best interest. That being said, there are some extreme examples in which it may be more logical to go to war or take other offensive measures against a foreign nation. For example, in the year of 2015, the United States has imported approximately 2.5 billion USD worth of goods (presumably composed primarily of oil) from Iraq . This is a drop from 2014 in which we imported nearly 14 billion USD, with similar figures appearing for the past ten years. While 2015 is not yet over, which may account for the significantly lower figure, the monthly average of 2015 is $309 million, which is astoundingly lower than $1.2 billion monthly average of 2014. This timeline coincides with the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). These figures signify a current example of the United States sacrificing trade and commerce when a more perilous global issue arises.
Is the Technology Contributing to the Flattening of the World?
The World is Flat v Not Flat
Regardless if the world is flat or if it is not, we still have an unprecedented situation to deal with. The world’s economy is being enlarged, or as Thomas Friedman explains, becoming tinier. At this very moment, a fifteen-year-old child in Spain can look at the exact same content as a college professor at Harvard. With this occurring all around the world with even more extreme examples, the question arises, is this good for our world, or can it be devastating? Thomas Friedman argues it is unbelievable for the world and going to send us to reaches we never thought we could attain, however others argue that this flattening has horrific affects as others argue that this flattening does not even exist.
Any individual in the world can access virtually anything. This is causing a revolution of technology, knowledge, relationships, and things never thought possible. Not only does this flattening affect our economy but every single aspect of our lives. In the article Why the World is Flat by Daniel H. Pink, Pink sits down with Friedman and interviews him on his theory of the flat world. Pink asks Friedman about his book as he explains that China and India are parts of the world that are going to greatly influenced by flattening. Friedman replies with an astonishing example: “Bill Gates has a nice line: He says, 20 years ago, would you rather have been a B-student in Poughkeepsie or a genius in Shanghai? Twenty years ago you’d rather be a B-student in Poughkeepsie. Today? ” This exemplifies the key aspect of how the flat world can change lives. The answer is the boy from Shanghai. In the past, only the countries that were atop the wealthiest had abilities to create futures for students and give them proper schooling. However now, anyone with a ten-year-old computer or a phone can access any piece of knowledge on the Internet. Friedman also mentions more support in Pinks article. After Friedman explains how he first got the idea why the world is flat he says, “Several technological and political forces have converged, and that has produced a global, Web-enabled playing field that allows for multiple forms of collaboration without regard to geography or distance – or soon, even language.” This promotes the stance of why a flat world can give anyone anything. However, anyone can talk about this subject, but can anyone back it up with statistics to prove it?
With all the talk from Thomas Friedman, it is easy to get caught up in the movement of the flattening world. However, is the world as interconnected as Friedman believes it to be? Dr. Pankaj Ghemawat, a professor at IESE in Barcelona, explains that using statistics, we really are not that interconnected at all. We discussed in class that Ghemawat says that only two percent of calls around the world are International, six percent including skype and web chats. This supports the idea that our world is not flat, in fact far from it. If the world is so flat why are only six percent of the calls around the world are international? Also, Ghemawat brings up the idea that maybe immigration could show us how the world is beginning to be flattened. He poses the question, how many first generation immigrants currently are in different countries around the world. The answer is three percent. This is a harsh blow to Friedman’s theory because if it were correct, the “No-boarder effect” would mean there are upwards to one hundred percent immigration. Lastly, Ghemawat uses a term, Globaloney, saying that Friedman is in fact exaggerating the conception of how technology is going to over power all cultural, political, and geographical barriers. Friedman believes that maybe with in the next ten years, technology will be the cause for the flat world. Although it may seem very likely, until the teleporter is invented, geographical barriers will always exist. Cultural and language barriers as well are very hard to overcome although they have a more likely chance of being accomplished.
In contrast to why the world is not flat, Ghemawat had only looked at the exact numbers currently standing, however he had not looked into the past. However, if you look into the past, you may be a little convinced the world is actually flattening. Each of the statistics that Ghemawat found: International calls and immigration as well as technology. These all have increased insanely in the past twenty years and are expected to skyrocket in the future. Although the future is always unknown, Ghemawat may want to prepare for Friedman’s theory, because I think I can feel the world flattening.