Read Thomas Friedman in the New York Times Magazine today and you’ll get a sense of how the explosion of the Internet and Web is changing the world. Here are some snippets:
Infosys, he explained, could hold a virtual meeting of the key players from its entire global supply chain for any project at any time on that supersize screen. So its American designers could be on the screen speaking with their Indian software writers and their Asian manufacturers all at once. That’s what globalization is all about today, Nilekani said. Above the screen there were eight clocks that pretty well summed up the Infosys workday: 24/7/365.
When all of these things suddenly came together around 2000, Nilekani said, they ”created a platform where intellectual work, intellectual capital, could be delivered from anywhere. It could be disaggregated, delivered, distributed, produced and put back together again — and this gave a whole new degree of freedom to the way we do work, especially work of an intellectual nature.
At one point, summing up the implications of all this, Nilekani uttered a phrase that rang in my ear. He said to me, ”Tom, the playing field is being leveled.” He meant that countries like India were now able to compete equally for global knowledge work as never before — and that America had better get ready for this.
”Today, the most profound thing to me is the fact that a 14-year-old in Romania or Bangalore or the Soviet Union or Vietnam has all the information, all the tools, all the software easily available to apply knowledge however they want,” said Marc Andreessen, a co-founder of Netscape and creator of the first commercial Internet browser. ”That is why I am sure the next Napster is going to come out of left field. As bioscience becomes more computational and less about wet labs and as all the genomic data becomes easily available on the Internet, at some point you will be able to design vaccines on your laptop.”
Friedman refers to all of this as the “flattening of the world” in the context of “Globalization 3.0,” an era that began in 2000 and is quickly making the world smaller and flatter (a more level playing field) because of technology. It’s an important read for anyone wanting to get a sense of our challenge.
Ironically, I’m in the middle of reading Next by Michael Lewis, and he talks about how the Read/Write Web is doing some flattening of its own. He talks about “pyramid shaped, hierarchical organizations” that have a few appointed experts that deal out relevant information (Read: Schools.) But the Web is nurturing less hierarchical, “pancake-shaped” organizations where networks allow all of the members to contribute whatever relevant information they might have. (Read: Wikipedia)
So I’m wondering…when do we start flattening our classrooms to equip our kids more realistically for the world that awaits them?