The World is Flat

Book Review by Marilyn Maze

Review of Friedman, Thomas L. (2005). The World is Flat. A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. New York.

Have you experienced the flattening of the world? When I had a computer virus recently, I called an 800 number and spoke to a technical support person in India one day, in the Philippines the next day, and in El Salvador the next day. According to the author, Mr. Friedman, when you use the drive-through service at some McDonald's restaurants, you may be speaking to an order-taker in a different state who enters your food order and sends it, along with your picture, to the restaurant where your food is prepared and handed to you. This inter-state order-taking service reduces mistakes, thus making it more cost-effective than the traditional in-house process.

Friedman explains the history of the changes, describing ten 'flatteners."

Surprisingly, his first flattener is the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989. This flattener caused governments around the world to begin to lower their walls and collaborate. Another flattener was Internet Browsers, which allowed ordinary people to use the Internet to share and research information, for free. Sharing and collaboration took a big step forward. Yet another flattener was the Y2K problem, which required so many programmers that outsourcing to other countries was the only option. Telephone cables laid down in anticipation of the dot.com boom were used to connect U.S. companies to workers in other countries, and outsourcing greatly increased. His book outlines seven additional flatteners that career counselors should consider.

What does a flat world mean to our clients and the career development profession?

Many of Friedman's ideas are controversial. If we do accept them, how does that impact our work with clients? If we don't accept them, what impact might that have? How does the changing world of work impact both our roles as counselors and our clients' roles as workers?

Marilyn Maze, Ph.D., is a Principal Research Associate for ACT, Inc., and one of the developers of DISCOVER, a computerized career guidance program that includes extensive information about occupations, majors, schools, and other aspects of career planning. She also conducts research using ACT's extensive data related to career choices of youth and adults. Contact: 410-584-8000 or maze@act.org.

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