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The World Is Flat 3.0: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century

I recently finished reading The World Is Flat 3.0: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century by Thomas Friedman. It was a good read, though not a fast one. He presents the notion of 10 "Flattening Forces" that have taken place over the past 20 years that have led toward the opportunities for globally sourcing goods and services that exist today. In a nutshell, the world is not flat – but the playing field has been leveled and widened to the point that there are very few barriers for anyone in the world participating in it.

This isn't a self help book. It does not predict the future or give you a framework for achieving success in the 21st century. What it does very well is present several events and trends that have recently emerged in a very precise manner. Perhaps you could call his style redundant, but he relates many stories and anecdotes to illustrate the points he is laying out. Most of us have been alive as the Internet emerged and took a foothold as a tool for information and commerce. How many of us have looked at the minutiae of the events that unfolded to lead to this point of ubiquitous Internet?

I've thought a lot about Friedman's writing and have taken away one thing – the need to be a versatilist. In the beginning, I wanted to be in the I.T. field because I enjoyed using computers to solve problems. Once in the field, I decided to specialize in a particular platform and sought to solve the world's problems through that platform (hey – when you have a hammer in your hand, everything looks like a nail). Over time I realized that platforms and languages don't solve problems – people do. And the person that could talk with real, every day people (whether they run a Fortune 500 company or run the mailroom of a Fortune 500 company) and then work with skilled technology professionals to solve the problems of these real, every day people would be a tremendous asset. I wasn't sure what to call myself in that role, but I think Friedman summed it up best as being versatilist – someone who is a continuous learner that evolves and innovates with time.

I have always seen myself as a continous learner. The thought of returning to graduate school (maybe for a doctorate) has crossed my mind more than twice. At this point I do not think I need to formalize my learning plan through the use of an institution though. Times will change though and I am sure the discussion will arise again. Until then, Friedman's book at least has helped validated my personal framework and made me think more about why things are rather than just accepting or wondering why they are and moving on.

Overall, I give the book 3.5 stars. A little less redundance would have cut out about 25% of the book, not lost any of its meaning, and earned higher marks. 

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