“While We are Sleeping,” the World Keeps Changing – Insight from a Decade+ Ago from Thomas Friedman


WorldisflatProfessionally, the recognition that the world was flat was unnerving because I realized that this flattening had been taking place while I was sleeping, and I had missed it. I wasn’t really sleeping, but I was otherwise engaged. Before 9/11, I was focused on tracking globalization and exploring the tension between the “Lexus” forces of economic integration and the “Olive Tree’ forces of identity and nationalism…
Thomas Friedman, The World is Flat, 2005

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I am feeling my age. Not physically (though, probably, that too), but I am feeling my age in that I have trouble understanding just how much the world has changed/is changing.

I write this the morning after the New Hampshire primary. The only demographic Hillary Clinton won is the oldest voter demographic – age 65 and older. That demographic is… my demographic.

And every baby boomer pundit predicted, over and over again, that Donald Trump (and, Bernie Sanders) would fade away before the primaries finally hit. How did that turn out?

And, I ask my college students what they spend time on on their phones. Is it Facebook; Twitter; LinkedIn?, I ask. All the cool sites that I post to and follow? Nope, they name sites I have not heard of, or barely heard of, but never have looked at.

Of all the things I have learned in the books I have read over the last few years, this is a truth/fact worth paying attention to – things are changing fast; faster than ever. What you learn today may be obsolete by the time entering freshmen finish their fourth year of college. Maybe make that “likely will be obsolete,” not just “may be obsolete.”

The quote above from Thomas Friedman is especially interesting. As he began his observations of the “ten flatteners” in The World is Flat, he described how the world kept right on changing as he was sidetracked by the events of 9/11. The truth behind that observation is a big truth – the world keeps right on changing no matter what we get sidetracked by. And every time we take our eyes off the ball of where and how and what is changing, we miss the change(s), and fall further behind.

I don’t know what to do with this. But I know how surprised I am at the ascendancy of both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in this presidential race. How have things changed so dramatically that I, like so many others, did not quite see this coming?

By the way, this is not a political post. It really is a post about how we miss the changes that have come and the changes that are coming. Why do so many miss so many of these changes, in politics, in business, in societal concerns… in every arena? That is the question I am pondering this morning.

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