Online Study Guide: The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman|
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ONLINE BOOK SUMMARY FOR THE WORLD IS FLAT
The eighth flattener is insourcing. Friedman argues that when the world became
flat, small companies “could suddenly see around the world,” meaning that
they became aware of more avenues to sell and produce their products as
well as to buy materials. Because most companies did not have the capacity
or the desire to develop a supply chain as complex as Wal-Mart’s, they
hired other companies to do it for them. To explore this concept more
concretely, Friedman considers UPS’s role in insourcing. For example,
if a Toshiba laptop breaks while under warranty, the customer can drop
the computer off at a UPS store to have it shipped to Toshiba. But what
actually happens is that UPS repairs the laptop in Louisville in a UPS
workshop. A few years ago, Toshiba was criticized for taking too long
to repair broken computers, so Toshiba collaborated with UPS to make the
process go faster.
The ninth flattener is in-forming, Google, Yahoo!, and MSN Web Search. Friedman
defines in-forming as “searching for knowledge” and having the resources
to become “your own self-directed and self-empowered researcher, editor,
and selector of entertainment without having to go to the library or the
movie theater or through network television.” Friedman argues that world
becomes flatter as resources like Google become more readily available.
As knowledge becomes more accessible (Google can already be searched in
100 languages) more people become empowered. Friedman also considers how
this knowledge jeopardizes our privacy. Friedman claims that it will be
increasingly difficult to keep information about our pasts private as
we leave electronic footprints behind.
The tenth and final flattener is what Friedman calls “the steroids.” Friedman
calls certain technologies steroids (digital, mobile, personal, and virtual),
because they augment and strengthen other flatteners. An example Friedman
offers is voice over Internet protocol, or VoIP. This service allows customers
to make unlimited, local and long-distance, phone calls through the internet
for the cost of local calls. This will revolutionize telecommunications
because companies will no longer be able to charge for distance and time.
Connecting via telephone, anywhere in the world, will become extremely
In chapter 3 Friedman explores what he calls “the triple convergence,” or
the way the ten flatteners converged to create an even flatter global
playing field. The first convergence encompasses how the ten flatteners
came together in such a way that people could see that things were different
after 2000. The convergence of these flatteners created a global, Web-enabled
platform that allows for multiple forms of collaboration. The second convergence
is the appearance of a set of business practices and skills--managers,
innovators, business consultants, business schools, designers, IT specialists,
CEOs, and workers--that make the most of the ten flatteners, thus enhancing
the flatteners’ potential. The third convergence is the entrance of some
three billion people onto the playing field. During the 1990s the economies
and political systems of China, India, Russia, Eastern Europe, Latin America,
and Central Asia opened up in such a way that the citizens of these nations
were able to join the free-market game. Thus there has been an explosion
in the number of workers in the global economic labor force.
In chapter four, “The Great Sorting Out,” Friedman describes what he believes
will follow the triple convergence. The triple convergence is likely to
cause some chaos and confusion; the great sorting out will recalibrate
the ceilings, walls, and floors that define us. Friedman offers some examples
of the issues that result from the triple convergence that will have to
be negotiated in the great sorting out, such as when an Indian company
won the contract to upgrade the unemployment department of the state of
Indiana because it was able to place a bid 8.1 million dollars lower that
its competitors. Some questions that arise are: what should be the relationship
between companies and the communities in which they operate?; how do we
navigate our multiple identities as consumers, employees, citizens, taxpayers,
and shareholders?; who owns what, particularly in the case of intellectual
There are two glaring issues in this section of text. The first is the parallel that Friedman draws between himself and Christopher Columbus by claiming that Columbus had to prove to his contemporaries that the world was round (while Friedman will prove that it is flat). As James Lowen deftly demonstrates in his book Lies My History Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong (Touchstone, 1995) most Europeans and Native Americans knew the world was round when Columbus set sail. The idea that Columbus was challenging the status quo was popularized by Washington Irving in his biography of Columbus, written in 1828.
The second issue that emerges in this section is also related to metaphor:
Friedman’s concept of the world as flat. It seems this notion emerges
from the convergence of two ideas--the first, that the global market has
become a level playing field, and the second, which describes the complexities
of 21st century globalization. While this metaphor works because Friedman
can weave it throughout his narrative, which is at times unwieldy, it
may not accurately portray what Friedman is arguing. After all, Friedman
contends that Globalization 3.0 is “shrinking the world from a size small
to a size tiny” (10). One must ask if a “tiny” world with greater access
is necessarily a “flat” world.
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. 09 May 2017