How The World Has Become “Flat” Due To The Advances In Technology

Thomas L. Friedman’s book “It’s a Flat World After All” discusses Friedman’s views on how the advances in technology have caused the world to become as he describes it: “flat”. Friedman uses the “flat world” metaphor to describe how human advancements has evened out the economic playing field, and brought the entirety of humanity closer together than ever before. Freidman attributes this flattening as a result of ten events that took place around the turn of the millennium, these including; the fall of the Berlin wall and the creation of the internet. This flattening however has caused new challenges and opportunities to arise around the globe with previously less developed countries now able to compete with the west. This view is best summed up with Friedman comparing how his parents use to say to him “Tom, finish your dinner – people in China are starving” but now he is saying to his daughters “ Girls, finish your homework – people in China and India are starving for your jobs”. This clearly demonstrates how the world has changed in the span of a few decades and that there is no escaping the fact the world is growing “flatter” every day.

Thomas L. Friedman’s book “It’s a Flat World After All” discusses how the world has become smaller than ever before with the advancements of human technologies, and how this can be seen as both an improvement and a detriment to humanity. Friedman links these advancements to the three different stages of globalization that have taken place over the past couple centuries. The most resent of these stages which Friedman labels “globalization 3.0” unlike its predecessors has taken place over the course of only a couple decades instead of centuries. This rapid change can be attributes to ten events that have happened in the past 30 years, with all relating around changes to collaboration between nations. The past 30 years have seen drastic changes occur across the globe with the end of the Cold War and the creation of the internet; these events have continued to the cause of globalization and made it so there is no escaping the fact that the world is getting smaller every day.

The second half on the 20th century can best be characterized by the Cold War, which took place between the United States and the Soviet Union. It was a war above all else about ideologies, with the United States and its NATO allies supporting capitalism apposing the Communist Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact members. During this conflict the world was separated into East vs West, with collaboration and knowledge between the two sides being limited. This back and forth between the two continued for many decades, with proxy wars such as Korea and Vietnam being fought between the two powers. However, as the end of the millennia approached the might of the Soviets had began to wain. The once great power had stagnated economically and was beginning to fall behind its Western counterparts. To try and counteract this stagnation, General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev introduced the policies of Perestroika (reconstructing) and glasnost (openness). These policies attempted to rejuvenate Soviet society and bring some capitalist ideas into the Soviet Union. However, this new openness had a completely different affect and paired with the rising nationalism that had been growing within the Soviet block, Soviet control began to break down. This breakdown of Soviet power became apparent to the world on the 9th of November 1989 when the Berlin wall, a symbol of Soviet power came crashing down. This event is so significant due to it enabled the world to be thought of as a single entity for arguably the first time in human history. “The Berlin Wall was not only a symbol of keeping people inside Germany; it was a way of preventing a kind of global view of our future.'' Within the next 24 month the Soviet Union would collapse thus bringing the world closer together then ever before. For the fist time in decades man was able to travel between East and West and with the drastic improvements in technology and the removal of this ideological barriers the world began on its path to flatness.

The fall of the Berlin wall is seen by Friedman as the first event that began to flatten the world due to it destroyed the last great barrier separating human society. Nonetheless, communication across the globe was still difficult with mail and telephones still being the main way of communication. All this changed however when Netscape went public in 1995. With this introduction, connectivity was made easier and more accessible then ever before. Therefore Netscape going public can be viewed as one of the most important inventions in human history, due to how in a single event the world was transformed. The invention of the internet did not only have the affect of bringing humanity closer, it also caused the rise of a new field of business that of computers and programming. Microsoft founded by American software developer Bill Gates is once such business that benefited hugely from this new connectivity. With this new technology places that had been forgotten about by the West such as China and India were thrust back into the lime light. These nations with their huge population were full of untapped potential of companies such as Microsoft were in prime position to take advantage of it. Microsoft therefore opened an Asia center in Beijing in 1998 and with the huge competition within the region became the most productive branch of the company almost immediately. This paired with its all ready sound business model caused Microsoft to become one of the largest businesses in the world and becoming an essential part of day to day life.

This growth in the East consequently has been detrimental to the jobs in the West, causing the gap both financially and relevance to shrink. Freidman argues that if this trend continues the West will eventually be surpassed by its Eastern counterparts and can be attributed to the “three gaps”. The first of these gaps is known as the ambition gap. This gap compares the youth of countries such as India and China who are gunning to be above their competition to their western Counterparts have gotten lazy and lack ambition. The second is the numbers gap. India and China are hugely populated and therefore can produce more labor than the West. This inevitable leads to Western nations failing to fill all the positions needed and thus having to bring in labor from the other nations. The third and final gap is the education gap. Education in Western countries has become complacent. This has led to companies to outsource their jobs due to education being better in theses Eastern countries which directly correlates in producing better workers. Friedman uses this to demonstrate how through the world getting flatter the pre-established dominate countries have became complacent and the new and upcoming countries have adapted better to modernity. Therefore if these trends continue this new developed countries are in prime position to take over the mantle of power.

The world has always been progressing, but due to human advancements the world is doing so at a faster rate than it ever before. With this great strides have been made thus making humanity closer with people now able to communicate though a touch of a button. The big hurdles that faced humanity such as the Eastern block have been removed and society is more open now than ever before. Globalization has caused the world to be the way it is today and without it many things that are taken for granted would be non existent. However, with the world being so much more connected and closer, the status quo has began to fall apart. Nations such as the United States who have enjoyed years of being the dominate power have began to come unstuck. Countries like India and China have adapted to this flat world far better than their western counterparts and are beginning to catch up to these once dominate powers. Friedman uses his book as a warning to the west as he can see its failings “in a flat world, every individual is going to have to run a little faster” if they wish to compete with the ever growing competition. There is no mistaking the world is getting flatter everyday and they only way to make it is to adapt.

16 August 2021
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