Christopher Columbus had first discovered that the world is round. Thomas L. Friedman believes otherwise, metaphorically speaking, of course. One must wonder, even as a metaphor, how can the world, in its massive spherical form, be compared to a mere playground? In his book, The World is Flat (Release 3.0), he explains why the world is flat, and how it is becoming even flatter.
Friedman came to this conclusion when Nandan Nilekani, the CEO for Infosys (one of India’s leading information technology companies) told him that ‘the playing field is being leveled’.
This means that the world of leading technology and globalization is not dependent on multinational companies or industrialized countries. It now depends on driven, innovative individuals, not just from the westernized world, but also from countries all over the world. To expand, it is getting easier and easier for individuals to compete and to work together in a global sense.
Friedman argues that the flat world is when technology and collaborative economies come together to offer opportunities to lots more people. It will raise competition and require not only an emphasis on new skill sets, but a much more self-reliant, creative, and innovative mindset. With careful choice of anecdotes, use of logos, and irony, Friedman’s proposal that the world is flat, in reference to technology, is legitimate.
There are many anecdotes that the author uses to prove his thesis and to establish how the author originally developed his thesis. “Jaithirth “Jerry” Rao was one of the first people I met in Bangalore… He was too polite to say it – that he may already be my accountant, or rather my accountant’s accountant, thanks to the explosion in the outsourcing of tax preparation.” (Friedman, 12). This anecdote gives the readers an example of outsourcing, which is one of the leading factors as to why the author believes the world is flattening.
Outsourcing is when a company subcontracts a service such as manufacturing to a third party, usually to reduce production costs and to make efficient use of available labor. The third-party companies are usually located in a part of the world where labor is cheap but the quality is not compromised. The author is trying to emphasize that it is easy to outsource manufacturing but to outsource services such as tax returns, done by accountants across the world, is truly an example of an even world.
With technology, the initial accountant can scan their customer’s previous years’ tax returns, and all the other documents needed to file a tax return to an account in India, and the third-party accountant can do the returns and send it back to the initial accountant in no time. Friedman uses this story to show that individuals in India, now have a chance to excel in what they have a passion for and make themselves available in the global market, flattening the playing field.
Friedman repeatedly tries to prove that India needs America, just as much as America needs India, creating an even, level economic relationship. It is easy to understand why America needs India: lower costs of labor, but it is hard to imagine why India would need America… well except for Britney Spears and pop culture. Friedman tries to prove his point by the comprehensive use of logos.
In addition, 90 percent of shares in 24/7[a call center in India] are owned by U.S. investors. This explains why, although the united states have lost some service jobs to India in recent years, total exports from American-based companies – merchandise and service – to India have grown from 2.5$ billion in 1990 to $5 billion in 2003. (Friedman,29)
The increase in revenue for American companies, prove Friedman’s point in a way that qualitative words could not. A call centre is a major, major way of outsourcing. These jobs are low-prestige in America but in India, they are seen as one of the more respected position. If an average Joe wanted to work in a call centre in America, he would be disappointed because all the call marketing jobs are shifted to countries with lower labour costs.
However, Joe could work at Pepsi Co. because the employees at the call center in India may be drinking Pepsi Co. products and using other American-based products as proven by the increase in revenue for American0based companies. So even though we will not have American workers practicing the Indian accent for some time, the playing field is that much more even because companies need each other more than ever before.
When the opposite of what is expected happens, it always tends to amuse the readers and forces the readers to think about the inference. Friedman tries to persuade his readers that the world is horizontal by the use of irony. “Chinese doing computer drawings for Japanese homes, nearly seventy years after a rapacious Japanese army occupied China, razing many homes in the process.” (Friedman, 33)
This emphasizes how ironic it is that the two companies are working together, after a long-lasting hatred for each other. This just goes to show that technology does not differentiate but brings countries together making the world a big technological playing field regardless of the past.
Even though, the world is obviously not flat – Friedman comes on strong to make us believe otherwise, figuratively. The world of technology does not discriminate against countries, cultures, and/or income but welcomes it. Friedman believes that the world is flat because now, it is a lot more convenient for people to get ahead in the global competition using technology such as the internet and fiber optics. Friedman persuades us through the use of rhetorical devices such as logos, irony, and anecdotes.
Friedman acknowledges that there are parts of the world that are not technologically advanced. However, just as the western world was not advanced some hundred years ago, these places will also come forward and be a part of a massive shift in economies, politics, and international relationships. Even though there will not be a world-wide singing of Kumbayah, the future looks very bright for the flat world.