After a brief hiatus, during which I stayed home with my kids and had them drain the life and brains out of me, I am resurfacing to post on our infamous blog. The majority of my reading this summer kept with my theme of getting some R&R and was mindless; the one exception to this was The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman.
If you are going to read one educational book this year, this is the one to read. Now let me preface this by saying that I am a huge Thomas Friedman fan. His first book, From Beirut to Jerusalem, was amazing, and he is my favorite NYTimes OpEditor. So clearly I am biased and already predisposed to all of Friedman’s opinions.
The whole premise of this book is that with global technology, the internet, outsourcing, etc., the world has become “flat” and in the process India and China are kicking our butts. Friedman covers a very complex and technical topic but he does so in a way that is understandable to the layperson. I am not a technogeek at all (unlike our blog owner) but Friedman first describes the ten forces that flattened the world (from when Netscape went public, to outsourcing Y2K to in-forming [google, yahoo!, etc] to “the steroids” Digital, Mobile, Personal, and Virtual. He then discusses in detail how developing countries have responded to this change versus how America has and then concludes with what this means for America (in a nutshell – we’re ***ed.)
My first reaction while reading the book was “ohmigod I am being totally left behind in the 21st century and know nothing about this new world.” For example, does anyone else know what Apache is? It is an underlying web server that was built by a bunch of nerds working online in an open-source chat room which all the big technology companies built their e-commerce engines on. What floored me was that this was all developed by techno-geeks from around the world for free and they built something better than Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, Sun could. Apache today powers about 2/3 of the websites in the world and since it’s free – it has allowed people in Russia or Vietnam to develop their own websites and be part of the worldwide ecommerce system – pretty cool right? This is just one example of the many factoids that I learned from this book.
On the depressing side – the book also made me realize just how far behind the US is falling. Bangalore, India is apparently taking over the world and most probably when you call customer service for Amazon, Dell or even New Jersey unemployment – it is being answered by an Indian sitting in a Bangalore customer service center. The book discusses at length how there is a huge Indian population of young ,educated, aggressive people ages 15 to 25 years old (they’re known as zippies) who want the good life. They are like the equivalent of the 19th century American immigrants but because of the flattening of the world – they no longer have to come to America for oppportunity, they can stay in India. So, America is no longer going to attract the best and the brightest because they can all stay in their home countries.
Furthermore, India and China are continuing to put a lot of government funding into the science, engineering and technology programs while our brilliant President just cut funding for the National Science Foundation by $100 million. Factiod #2 – 40% of NASA employees are 50 or older. Only 4% of NASA workers are under thirty. And we wonder why our space program sucks???
The book at times did get a little repetitive but it opened up my mind so much to this new world and I definitely feel more knowledgable and certainly will be more focused on keeping up with the times. Most importantly – once I finished reading the book – I told my boys that they WILL be engineers when they grow up because according to Friedman, they will definitely be able to get a good job.
Phew……got in the blog before the summer ended.