Wired Friedman Interview

Wired has an interview with Tom Friedman by Daniel Pink:

WIRED: What do you mean the world is flat?
FRIEDMAN: I was in India interviewing Nandan Nilekani at Infosys. And he said to me, “Tom, the playing field is being leveled.” Indians and Chinese were going to compete for work like never before, and Americans weren’t ready. I kept chewing over that phrase – the playing field is being leveled – and then it hit me: Holy mackerel, the world is becoming flat. 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.

So, we’re talking about globalization enhanced by things like the rise of open source?
This is Globalization 3.0. In Globalization 1.0, which began around 1492, the world went from size large to size medium. In Globalization 2.0, the era that introduced us to multinational companies, it went from size medium to size small. And then around 2000 came Globalization 3.0, in which the world went from being small to tiny. There’s a difference between being able to make long distance phone calls cheaper on the Internet and walking around Riyadh with a PDA where you can have all of Google in your pocket. It’s a difference in degree that’s so enormous it becomes a difference in kind.

Why are supply chains so important?
They’re incredible flatteners. For UPS to work, they’ve got to create systems with customs offices around the world. They’ve got to design supply chain algorithms so when you take that box to the UPS Store, it gets from that store to its hub and then out. Everything they are doing is taking fat out of the system at every joint. I was in India after the nuclear alert of 2002. I was interviewing Vivek Paul at Wipro shortly after he’d gotten an email from one of their big American clients saying, “We’re now looking for an alternative to you. We don’t want to be looking for an alternative to you. You don’t want us to be looking for an alternative to you. Do something about this!” So I saw the effect that India’s being part of this global supply chain had on the behavior of the Indian business community, which eventually filtered up to New Delhi.

The book is almost dizzily optimistic about India and China, about what flattening will bring to these parts of the world.
I firmly believe that the next great breakthrough in bioscience could come from a 15-year-old who downloads the human genome in Egypt. 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?

Not even close.
Not even close. You’d much prefer to be the genius in Shanghai because you can now export your talents anywhere in the world.

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.