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The Globalization and Development Reader: Perspectives on Development and Global Change, 2nd Edition by Nitsan Chorev, Amy Bellone Hite, J. Timmons Roberts

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16 It’s a Flat World, After All (2005)

Thomas L. Friedman

In 1492 Christopher Columbus set sail for India, going west. He had the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa María. He never did find India, but he called the people he met “Indians” and came home and reported to his king and queen: “The world is round.” I set off for India 512 years later. I knew just which direction I was going. I went east. I had Lufthansa business class, and I came home and reported only to my wife and only in a whisper: “The world is flat.”

And therein lies a tale of technology and geoeconomics that is fundamentally reshaping our lives – much, much more quickly than many people realize. It all happened while we were sleeping, or rather while we were focused on 9/11, the dot-com bust, and Enron – which even prompted some to wonder whether globalization was over. Actually, just the opposite was true, which is why it’s time to wake up and prepare ourselves for this flat world, because others already are, and there is no time to waste.

I wish I could say I saw it all coming. Alas, I encountered the flattening of the world quite by accident. It was in late February of last year, and I was visiting the Indian high-tech capital, Bangalore, working on a documentary for the Discovery Times channel about outsourcing. In short order, I interviewed Indian entrepreneurs who wanted to prepare my taxes from Bangalore, read my X-rays from Bangalore, trace my lost luggage from Bangalore and write my new software from ...

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