Monday, 23 August 2010

Book afterthought: The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman

Score: 4.5/5

I actually started this book about 3 years ago, but only recently had the discipline to finish it.  The World is Flat is a book about globalization in the 20th century – what are the significant historic events that caused it, how technology helped to level many playing fields, how companies and individuals are and should cope, and what economic and geopolitical implications it has on the world at large.

Written by Pulitzer prize winning journalist Thomas Friedman, this book is a great introduction to the understanding of globalization.  It was easy to read, and covers many areas – education, technology, politics, and economics.  Though the book is 3 years old now and some examples are not as timely, many lessons are valuable nevertheless.  Below are some of my favourite parts of the book.

1. If you are not interested in your job.  Be careful if your competitors love what they do, because “Nobody works harder at learning than a curious kid”, and when the learning is materialized, it becomes a significant force.

2. Speaking about a key cause of violence:

This humiliation is the key.  It has always been my view that terrorism is not spawned by the poverty of money.  It is spawned by the poverty of dignity.  Humiliation is the most underestimated force in international relations and in human relations.  It is when people or nations are humiliated that they really lash out and engage in extreme violence.

3. About the tech bust’s lesser known impact on India’s tech industry:

India didn’t benefit only from the dot-com boom; it benefited even more from the dot-com bust!  That is the real irony.  The boom laid the cable that connected India to the world, and the bust made the cost of using it virtually free and also vastly increased the number of American companies that would want to use that fiber-optic cable to outsource knowledge work to India.

4. Why oil dependency hinders growth in oil rich countries:

Nothing has contributed more to retarding the emergence of a democratic context in places like Venezuela, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and Iran than the curse of oil.  As long as the monarchs and dictators who run these oil states can get rich by drilling their natural resources – as opposed to drilling the natural talents and energy of their people – they can stay in office forever.  They can use oil money to monopolize all the instruments of power – army, police, and intelligence – and never have to introduce real transparency or power sharing.  … They never have to tax their people, so the relationship between ruler and the ruled is highly distorted.  Without taxation, there is no representation.

It had been an insightful read, and I hope you find this book equally useful to you, too.

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