The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman: the USA Must Wake Up

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Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Industry 3.0 and the Growth of East
  • The Setbacks of the Movement Towards a Flatter World
  • The Flatteners
  • Conclusion


Thomas Friedman’s eye opening theory about the flattening of the world really awoke my perception of the current status of western countries in modern times and in the future. His most convincing quote, also the title of his first chapter, “While I was sleeping” throws his occidental audience in a vocabulary of dormancy. In the literal sense, the oriental world is awake while the occidental world sleeps. In the figurative way, the average westerner is ignorant of the evolutions going on in the “other world”. Friedman’s truly persuasive arguments based on personal encounters and experiences lead his audience to believe in his logical theory.

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Industry 3.0 and the Growth of East

Today the world is flat. We see an increasing number of occidental companies venturing abroad with the objective to widen their global market shares. Walmart is a paradigm, the family owned company is the seventh largest export market of China representing just over 12% of their exports going into the United States. In addition, Walmart has annuals sales of approximately $7.5 billion in the country of the four seas (Hays). This phenomenon does not limit itself to goods being traded. Facebook and other direct messaging tools such as Apple’s “Imessage” can instantly connect two individuals opposite sides of the world simply through internet. This 21st century technology has greatly facilitated the flow of information and therefore facilitated international commerce.

As numerous visionaries, including Friedman, believe we are moving into a new industrial age. This age, which he refers to as industry 3.0, is associated with individuals and small groups able to globalize themselves (Friedman). With the creation of e-commerce giants such as Amazon and their partnerships with distribution companies such as Borderlinx the world is becoming flatter. More and more products that were reserved to the western world have found oriental buyers. While this globalization is happening, major companies have found a way to globalize themselves by investing in oriental countries. Indeed, the outsourcing phenomenon has accentuated this flatness. As Friedman explains, India has created a capital of outsourcing known as Bangalore. American giants such as Cisco, GE and Microsoft have all pursued outsourcing in the Indian silicone valley. This shows the growth potential of “The technology hub of the east” which is already the spine of India’s $60.5 billion outsourcing industry (Outsource Services Home).

The Setbacks of the Movement Towards a Flatter World

This movement towards a flatter world does have some setbacks. The current American president’s catch phrase “make America great again” was to motivate companies to bring back outsourced jobs and investments to America. However, companies such as Loewe’s have taken the lower cost option. They cut American employees and outsourced their Information Technology to the land of spices (Peralta). This outsourcing, as previously mentioned, will continue to grow and will have detritus effects on the American economic and employment activity.

Another setback, this time cultural, is the ignorance and dormancy of occidentals. In fact, In the 1980s, American writer Isaac Asimov was interviewed and introduced the idea of the “cult of ignorance in the US”. This illustrates the absence of enthusiasm of Americans to learn about other countries cultures (Nichols). John Trapaghan comments on the idea by stating the big problem this can cause. Other countries, known to be Americas contenders, created a culture that he describes as the “cult of intelligence”. The rest of the world has more knowledge and curiosity about what is going on in the geopolitical climate than Americans. This potentially threatens Americans when it comes to international problems, they will be discredited when discussing foreign affairs. In a world where it is knowledge is never far, it is primordial to be aware of the situations around the globe for success. Therefore, this lack of curiosity and ignorance about Asia will play in favor of the emerging world and solidifies Friedman’s theory of the new era not being dominated by “White Individuals” as the two previous industrial revolutions were (Friedman). If this theory is what the world is moving towards, the United States will be threatened as world leaders. Although this will redistribute power it will create a lot of uncertainty with new and unexperienced powers of the world.

The Flatteners

The flatness of the earth of this 21st century is due to numerous event, Friedman states 10, but one date stands out, the first he mentions. November 9th, 1989, or the fall of the Berlin wall was the start of a new era. The image of tensions symbolically began to fall between the two superpowers of the time with the world erasing the physical division between the two big political systems (Kohut). Without it’s contested iron curtain, the world established itself as a great leveled horizon. It opened new countries of opportunities for the western and vice versa. The countries formerly constrained by the pressure of the Cold War now had the opportunity to grow towards a new future (Academicviews). Windows 3.0 shipped less than half a year after the reunification of the two worlds. This was a revolution, as the wall fell and windows came up, computers that will be of vital importance in the following decades marked the debut of their success. Multitasking made its appearance on Windows computers and a technological revolution was launched (Microsoft Windows 3.0).


In conclusion, the great plain the world has become has been redistributing power a lot more than us, westerners, know it. With globalization and international commerce continuously increasing the American role in the future world is very uncertain. It seems like the oriental part of the planet is getting ready to become leaders of the current industrial change. The United States must wake up from this prolonged rest and work towards a sustainable economic and social country to keep their role as leaders in Friedman’s Industry 3.0.

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