Introduction: Thomas Freedman and the MIT Milestone Celebration
There is no need to introduce either Thomas Friedman, or his concept of the flat world – both seem to have gained the world recognition since recently. While the book is extremely entertaining, with a plethora of innovative ideas, each being a potential means to reinvent people’s perception of the world, it cannot match the public performance of the master of economics himself.
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The Organization of the Speech: An Unusual Way to Present an Idea
Actually, it would be weird to expect that one of the best Times columnists would deliver his speech in a traditional boring and predictable way. Friedman throws in some jokes: “I know some of you’ve read the book, some of you haven’t – I know who you are” (Friedman 3:01), thus, creating a comfortable atmosphere, in which the complex issues of the flat world can be discussed. The given approach, however, begs the question whether the audience will be able to take the ideas conveyed by the lecturer seriously.
Conclusion and What Followed It: An Unexpected Twist Ending
Concluding his speech with the discussion of the current problems of the humankind evolution and the need for “being smart about the innovative things we have” (Friedman 38:13), Friedman gives his audience a lot of food for thoughts.. It would be unreasonable to assume that consumerist tendencies are necessarily bad. Instead, it will be more reasonable to introduce people to other options that are tied in with the concept of consumerism, such as creating more comfortable setting for everyday life.
Delivery of the Speech: When the Style Matches the Substance
Surprisingly enough, Friedman never resorted to any of the traditional antics of public speakers in his MIT speech; instead, he calmly got his point across. In many ways, this was the right thing to do, because the audience wanted him to talk honestly. Seeing how Friedman’s book featured a very honest and open approach towards the readers, the audience in the lecture hall had the rights to expect the same from the author.
Analyzing the Scenarios: Freedman’s Experience
One of the doubtless advantages of Friedman’s speech concerns numerous examples, which the author offers for the audience to consider, therefore, making his arguments all the more impressive. Of all the stories that Friedman shares with his audience in the MIT speech, three key examples of how flat the world can get are worth specifying and analyzing.
Netscape: flattening the world to the bursting point
Netscape, with its open transmission protocols, gave “two basic flatteners that changed the world” (Friedman 13:18), which were a browser and the dot-com bubble. However, it seems that Friedman still overrates the significance of Netscape.
While it should be credited as the browser that allowed for the creation of Mozilla Firefox, one of the most widely used browsers, the credits for creating the first browser ever should be given to Tim Bernes-Lee and his WorldWideWeb, as known as Nexus. Therefore, Friedman raises an interesting dilemma of choosing between the invention that technically was the first discovery, and the invention that spawned further technological evolution.
Southwest Airlines calligraphy classes: the art of convincing
With his incredible skill of telling a story, Friedman managed to turn his experience of booking a ticket at Southwest Airlines into a lesson in the flatness of the world.
Emphasizing the fact that he had to change his manner of communicating with the Southwest Airlines “from vertical to horizontal” (Friedman 31:47), Friedman explained that the introduction of online facilities, such as ticket booking, had, once again, simplified the process from having the employees to fill out the ticket information to having “calligraphy classes” by making the customers fill out the forms and interacting with people representing companies.
Friedman’s remark regarding the given innovation as a step forward is, actually, rather questionable. On the one hand, the idea of interacting with the company’s representatives directly gives one a pleasant feeling of being treated like an individual. On the other hand, the process going through the routine of talking to the company’s agents whenever buying or booking something quickly wears off its novelty and becomes unnecessarily tedious.
Green Revolution as a necessary step in the world progress
Friedman makes it evident that people, in fact, need Green Revolution as one of the key steps on the way to further progress. However, what the humankind has now is a “Green Party” – a revolution in which “no one gets hurt” (Friedman 42:06). To make the Green Revolution work, one must take more drastic measures, Friedman stresses. It is peculiar that Friedman compares the unsuccessful Green
Revolution to the IT Revolution, which was “real,” as Friedman explains, because it had a tangible and not necessarily good effect on people’s lives. Yet Green Revolution seems to have failed for different reasons than the ones mentioned by Friedman. Unless its organizers had thrown a recycled, completely worn out principle of “saving the planet” into it as the motto, coming up with a more original idea instead, the idea of the Green Revolution might have caught on with people.
Conclusion: A Speech Worth Being Remembered
Definitely one of the most memorable performances ever given in MIT, Friedman’s speech has shed some light on the processes that are currently taking place on many levels, including economical, social and sociopolitical ones.
While some of the ideas that Friedman conveyed during his performance are very arguable, there is one thing that he is perfectly right about: the world is changing fast, and people have to keep in pace with the recent tendencies. A speech to remember, the MIT performance allows evaluating the scale of “flatness” of the present-day world.
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Friedman, Thomas. “MIT Milestone Celebration | Keynote Address.” YouTube. 11 Jan. 2013. Web. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EcE2ufqtzyk>.