Monday, January 31, 2011

The world is flat

This is an idea by Thomas L. Friedman in his book, The World is Flat.
Friedman's argument spans the better part of his book, but luckily for you, I'm here to summarize.

 The world is flat. We all know that this is a ridiculous statement- the world is clearly round.'s more of an oval, depending on where the moon is, but that's neither here nor there.

 Sorry...ah yes...the world is flat.

I've grossly oversimplified Friedman's point here in an effort to make it somewhat comical. What he's really saying is that the world is flat, not in a geographical sense, but in an available-opportunities sense. The playing field has been leveled. Someone in a developing country now has comparable resources for success to that of someone in a developed country.

This didn't just happen overnight, mind you. There have been three stages of 'globalization.' The following is an excerpt from a presentation I gave about 2 months ago.
Jump to today. You live in India. An average country, with a huge population. You're an average person, you don't come from money but you do want to make some. Today there are many more tools to get you there- the Internet, wifi, cell phones, online degree/diploma programs, open access literature. Suffice it to say, if you want to make it big, all you have to do is buy a high-speed connection!
 Some will correct me and say that, yes, there have been a handful of people who have done it. But, as epidemiologists say, 'remember the denominator'. The proportion of people who 'made it big' 100 years ago while starting from less than average is pretty low.
 Picture the world 100 years ago. Say you're not living in one of the few dozen developed countries in the world and you're not a member of a royal family or some other inherited fortune. You don't have a cell phone, the Internet, your own can't even afford to take a boat to another part of the world. You're just an average person in an otherwise average country. What are your chances of becoming the richest person in the world? Ok, maybe that's a bit far. How about this- what are your chances of having the same type of lifestyle as the average person in a more developed country? As you've probably guessed, next to nil.

The first, globalization 1.0, existed from about 1492, when Columbus set sail for the new world, until about 1800. The driving force of information growth this era was countries and nations, where individuals asked themselves “How can my country participate in a global market?”
The second era, globalization 2.0, takes place from 1800 to the year 2000. The driving force of economic and information growth in this era was the multinational company. In this era, individuals may have asked themselves, “How can my company access information on a global scale?”

From about 2000 to the present, the third era, Globalization 3.0, can be thought of as the age of the individual. Three major advances in technology have allowed individuals to compete for information on a global scale: the PC, the fibre optic cable and work-flow software.

The PC enabled individuals around the world to easily communication with one another, while the fibre optic cable allowed them to do so in an instant. Finally, work-flow software allowed multiple individuals to collaborate on the same digital project from anywhere in the world. Websites that focus on health-related content are a great example of how globalization 3.0 has shaped how individuals access information: they communicate with one another in the blink of an eye to collaborate on the same content.

Individuals may now ask themselves, "How I can access information and collaborate with others on a global scale?"

 Do people in developing countries have the same resources that people in developed countries have?



  1. I think people have their own resources depending on the countries that they live in. Developing countries don't have the resources yet to succeed the way that deveopled countries have, so it makes it difficult for one person to increase their wealth. I think over time as the world increases in weathc and developing countries increase in wealth, so will the people living there. BUt right now, it is easier and faster to run a business and gain money in Cananda or the U.S. than in still developing countries.

  2. I would disagree (first comment). I think it far more difficult for an entire society to increase their overall wealth or social status than for an individual to do so. One person can increase their wealth, improve their lifestyle, etc- but doing so for an entire society would quote an old professor of mine- a logistical nightmare.

    Not so much about perpetual increases in wealth either...the income gap (difference between richest and poorest) is larger in most areas of the world than it has ever been (including developed countries).

    I think you nailed it on the notion of 'how does one define wealth.' In a country with an average income of $3/day (about $782/year), someone under the poverty line in some developed countries would be rich! (say, $15 000). What we must consider here is cost of living...and arguably, it costs more to live in a developed world anyways :)