The World is Flat with Spikes and Valleys

Hello and Welcome!

It may seem like the easy way out but I see positives and negatives to all three perspectives (Friedman, Florida, and Bostrom) presented this week. My first reaction is that Friedman and Florida are both trying to categorize and perhaps simplify the revolutionary changes to human culture and society brought about by the advances in technology during the past 30 years. To me, it is too easy to say that the world has become flat or spiky since people, human interaction, and societies as a whole are too complicated for such labels. In some ways, the fast-paced workings of the internet and social media demand that we quickly attach a buzzword to an issue so that we may promptly move on to another web page to read about and superficially digest a tidbit of information concerning another societal issue. In my opinion as a leader and a manager, this fallacy of simplifying complicated issues also points out our tendency to avoid complicated issues in the workplace because humans tend to avoid sticky issues and confrontation. Technology only amplifies the avoidance issue since we now have computers to hide behind and e-mail / instant messaging as a tool for human interaction rather than relying on face-to-face communication. Perhaps the technological advances shared by Bostrom can assist leaders in this regard by having computer algorithms that can detect workplace issues at the earliest stage and prompt managers / leaders to offer assistance in person rather than on someone’s Facebook page.

Both Friedman and Florida provide truisms while also simplifying the real and various ways human interact. While it is true that technology has flattened the world in terms of communication, commerce, and the exchange of ideas, we still have disproportionate differences in wealth allocation, access to healthcare, and challenges in providing even basic human needs (clean water, food, shelter, security) to large swaths of the global population. Florida refers to these challenges as spikes but I do not think of them in the same way since while uneven, wealth still makes it way to the valleys in the form of remittances from city dwellers in much the same way an urban dweller in many parts of the world is only a part time resident. The best example I have is during my three years living in India and I learned that most of my employees kept in close contact with their home villages and returned to see their families at least once a year and did not consider themselves as fulltime residents of Mumbai. I see this as a case of both occupying the spikes and the valleys. My career has provided the opportunity to travel to over 40 countries in the last 30 years while living for many years in ten different countries mostly located in the developing world. As Friedman postulated, I have seen the world flatten during the last 30 years but the ability for everyone to access technology and improve their lives is not the same in every corner of the world. I also have not seen the ‘spikes’ in the same way as Florida though I have witnessed many instances of income disparity, gut wrenching poverty, starving people, and uncaring governments. The have-nots with whom I interacted were not seething containers of rage ready to foment civil war and topple governments as alluded to by Florida but rather people who were trying to better themselves and make a better life for their children. These same people view technologies such as cell/smart phones, the internet, and social media as tools and implements to make their work easier and increase their chances of a better life by interacting and networking with others on the web. Ben