(Yicai Global) March 12 -- Yicai Global commentator Feng Yuqing recently held a deep dialogue with Thomas Friedman, author of The World Is Flat, in New York, as part of the six-episode documentary series "World Movers." Friedman spoke how to flattening of the world is accelerating.
Migration and obstacles are a trend running through the history of mankind. Professor Yuval Noah Harari said in Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, “With one hand people willingly destroy the communal dams that held at bay the movement of money and commerce for so long. Yet with the other hand they build new dams to protect society, religion and the environment from enslavement to market forces.”
Thomas Friedman, the columnist at the New York Times who became well-known at home and abroad due to his observation that the world is flat, believes that the power to flatten the world is accelerating and that the tremendous fluctuations that have taken place are changing the boundaries between nations, ethnic integration, cultural norms and prospects of employment.
At his New York Times office in Washington, Friedman spoke to Feng with great gusto. “Do you still remember the famous story about the man who invented the game of chess seeking rewards from the king?” He asked me. “The man asked for one grain of rice for the first square of the chessboard, two grains for the second square, four for the third square and so on for all 64 squares, with each square doubling in terms of the number of grains compared to the square before. Finally, the king found that there was not enough rice in the entire kingdom to cover the reward.”
We’re seeing the huge double-fold change in the second half of the chessboard. This change is based on Moore’s Law. Intel’s co-founder Gordon Moore predicted in 1965 the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits would double every year since their invention, a trend which continued for 52 years.
"It's hard for humans to understand the power of exponential growth," Friedman said. "Therefore, we think that a lot of weird things have happened."
Friedman, a Jew born in Minnesota, US, went to London to work in journalism after finishing his graduate studies. He has covered the Middle East wars and the relations between Arab countries and Israel in Beirut since 1979. In 1981, he joined the New York Times as a war correspondent.
His international coverage in the Middle East earned him the first of his three Pulitzer Prizes. Later, Friedman returned to the US where he became a White House correspondent and began commenting on the US economy and foreign policy, turning into a famed columnist. With sensitivity to scientific and technological forces that change the world, he traveled through India’s science and technology center Bangalore and China’s Dalian in 2004 to obtain insights into the trend of globalization and the tremendous power behind it. Soon afterward, Friedman paid visits to technology giants of Silicon Valley and penned the work “The World Is Flat.”
With the expansion of the Internet bubble in 2000, large amounts of investment were channeled into the fiber optics industry, and the world was connected thanks to internet prosperity and its bubble. Afterward, when the bubble burst, all the cables had already been laid and could be purchased and used again at cheap prices. That’s when the flattening of the world began. In 2007, Twitter, Facebook, and Big Data began to spring up. It was the beginning of another global trend that would lead to the price collapse of complex technologies. The speeds of chips, software, internet, storage, and inductors all accelerated. All of these were converged into the concept of “cloud”. Thomas Friedman described the process as a supernova in his new book Thank You for Being Late.
“We are in the midst of the acceleration of the three largest forces on earth,” Friedman said with excitement in a quiet office. “These three forces, namely Moore’s law, climate change and the market, are redefining our world through interactions.”
In the US, white blue-collar people felt angry about this changing world, and so they chose a man, who was equally angry, to be their president.
Former President John F. Kennedy once raised his arm vehemently and said, “We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” However, Friedman maintains that under the Trump administration, the US will not pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, nor oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty, unless “we are paid”.
In Nigeria, global warming is causing the local agricultural environment to deteriorate even though science and technology have helped more children survive. The deterioration of living conditions is accompanied by an explosion in population. The drought caused by climate change is also an important factor in the civil war in Syria. These circumstances are driving large numbers of migrants to go to Europe, thus changing the political identification and ethnic structure of Europe. Europe’s concern about this situation has not only led to Brexit but also led to the rise of anti-immigration right-wing parties.
“If you think that this world is changing too fast,” said Friedman, pointing at a cameraman who was shooting, “wait for a few more years, and you’ll find that there’s no work for this cameraman. We don’t need him anymore. A robot can do the shooting, and all we need to do is to set a date.”
Many people are scared by the threat that AI will pose to their job opportunities in the future.
“Yes, we have reasons to be scared,” said Friedman.
Will AI bring more opportunities or more crises? Why are terrorists able to wreak havoc in the West? What is the source of terrorism? How do refugees from a disorderly world change the orderly world of Europe? For more intriguing contents, please watch the interview, filmed as part of Yicai Global’s new interview series "World Movers."