The World is Flat and Spiky.

The first three chapters of Thomas L. Friedman’s book, The World is Flat (2007), presents the economic, political and cultural impacts of the emergence of the personal computers with greater, faster, more networked computing capacities, and the emergence of the internet. The first three chapters highlight the impact of this emergence on globalization, mobility of job and job security, and greater capacity of talent than geography to determine someone’s fate. Friedman’s analysis is meant to challenge governments (primarily his American government), industries and societies to invest more and pay more attention to research and technology. Friedman, in chapter 2, presents the emergence of technology as a force that is encouraging the flattening of technology and opportunities.

Richard Florida in “The World Is Spiky” (2005) contends that the emergence of technology and the internet is encouraging the flattening of the world. Instead, for him, it is creating more differences. He demonstrates that the emergence of contemporary technologies are causing technologically advantaged parts of the world to grow into mountains/spikes, and leaving the technologically disadvantaged behind. Moreover, there is aggregation to the few technologically advanced centers, at the expense of the rest of the world.

Just around the turn of the millennium, during my undergraduate studies, one of our greatest criticisms of the Internet was that it was largely controlled by the few. The information superhighway was largely one directional. This reflects Florida’s (2005) concerns. Today, the case is changing. Like Friedman observed, more and more people are accessing the Internet and its related technologies, consuming and producing contents for the web that is for a more global audience. These technologies are making communication cheaper, more accessible and reducing the power of geography to define one’s fate. Technology is making work faster and more efficient. Furthermore, it is helping bridge educational gaps since more and more people can have access to good education for free or at more affordable costs in whatever part of the globe they reside. Furthermore, it is humbling us to realize that no one has the monopoly of knowledge. Educationists in this old vocation, are learning, for the better, that at the heart of learning is being part of a learning community and that no one has the totality of knowledge. And, one of the best skills to teach students is the skill to seek, identify the information they need, and to network with others to use these information collaboratively to solve the problems they face personally or in their work place.

Richard Florida’s views is relevant because technology may have succeeded in bridging information and socio-cultural gaps, but it has not been as successful in bridging economic gaps and leveling demographic gaps in the world. This is a relevant and pertinent concern that cannot be glossed over. The difference in perspectives between Friedman (2007) and Florida (2005) seems to be because Friedman was looking at these technologies with the interest of his country, the United States, while Florida was looking at these technologies with a more global concern.

Nick Bostrom (2015) cautions us to be careful and discerning in the technology we create. This is because, in the near future, artificial intelligence may overtake humans in capacity. It becomes necessary for the survival of our specie to see that the artificial intelligence in our technologies are taught or injected with the capacity to learn and understand the values we humans, cherish. This caution is important one as the use of technology today continue to generate several ethical concerns like privacy, bullying, work ethics, etc. These need to be attended to and not glossed over.

The foregoing reminds us that the Internet and the emerging communication technologies are powerful forces that shape life, culture, economies and societies in ways that we may find difficult to predict. Some of the impacts of these changes are advantageous, others are not. It becomes important that a deliberate effort is made to guide these impacts towards paths that do not destroy what humans cherish the most. For instance, technology and the Internet cannot be allowed to continue to create the huge economic gaps it is encouraging without deliberate effort to correct this anomaly.

References

Bostrom, N. (2015, March). TED: What happens when our computers get smarter than we are? Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/nick_bostrom_what_happens_when_our_computers_get _smarter_than_we_are

Florida, R. (2005). The world is spiky: Globalization has changed the economic          playing field, but hasn’t leveled it. Atlantic Monthly, 296(3), 48.

Friedman, T. L. (2007). The world is flat: A brief history of the twenty-first century.     [Kindle version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com

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9 thoughts on “The World is Flat and Spiky.

  1. Edletech,

    Thanks for the interesting blog.

    I agree with you that Florida (2005) does speak to disaggregation of populations and wealth between peaks of collaborative technical centers and valleys that are not part of this migration. What are the dangers to the United States economy of this type of movement?

    I also agree with you that artificial intelligence (AI) is a powerful force in the world. However, Bostrom (2015) does contend that making a super intelligent AI that contains the characteristics we value is a difficult talent. In addition, he asserts that making a super intelligent (AI) that involves an additional layer of safety involves even higher level talent. Bostrom (2015) then expresses the risk that someone will figure out how to crack the super intelligent artificial intelligence (AI) system and then will continue to try and break through the safety mechanisms as well. With today’s talent of hackers, what are your thoughts about cracking any system created, including the safety mechanisms? What other kind of precautions can be taken considering these possibilities?

    Best regards,
    Lisa Lee

    References

    Bostrom, T. (2015). What happens when our computers get smarter than we are? Retrieved from
    http://www.ted.com/talks/nick_bostrom_what_happens_when_our_computers_get_smarter_
    than_we_are

    Florida, R. (October, 2005). The world in numbers: The world is spiky globalization has changed the economic playing field but hasn’t leveled it. The Atlantic Monthly.

    Like

    • Lisa,
      Thanks a lot for your comments. You are right that creating and teaching a super intelligent artificial intelligence our human values will be difficult and quite challenging. Bostrom (2015) believes, however, it may not be impossible. He feels that we should consider that option as the main solution to ensuring that if/when artificial intelligence get smarter, they will do so with important aspects of our human values. I share this perspective with him. Or, what would be your recommendation, given the scenario Bostrom presents?

      Hacking is one of the ethical questions around technology today. This needs to be given the attention it deserves and appropriately addressed. Given the potent power of technology to impact on our life today, it is important that ethics is given an important place in technology education. Creation and implementation of appropriate laws by governments is also essential.

      I think it will be better to invest our time and energy on creating a super intelligent AI with our human values. We could begin with the most important human values that we agree on. Then, allow this super intelligent AI to defend/protect itself against hackers.

      Reference

      Bostrom, N. (2015, March). TED: What happens when our computers get smarter than we are? Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/nick_bostrom_what_happens_when_our_computers_get _smarter_than_we_are

      Like

      • Hi Edletech,

        Truthfully I am not sure what the answer is but it seems that something in line with Bostrom’s thinking needs to be started as soon as possible. I am not as familiar with AI parameters but it does seem we are now in the middle of hackers getting into all kinds of information. If Bostrom (2015) feels it is still possible to control this I am all for it.

        Best regards,
        Lisa

        References

        Bostrom, N. (2015, March). TED: What happens when our computers get smarter than we are? Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/nick_bostrom_what_happens_when_our_computers_get _smarter_than_we_are

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I like how you examined each of the theories, including Bostrom’s TED talk, to show how the world is changing, and the direction in which it is going. I’m still not sure, though, which theory resonated with you the most. Do you think the world is flat, or is it spiky? Why?

    Like

    • I see technology flattening the world when it comes to access to information, communication, and generation of some socio-cultural artifacts. Technology is giving voice to more people, and its penetration has greatly increased. By giving voice to more people, it is allowing these millions of people not remain passive consumers of socio-cultural artifacts from one part of the globe. It is helping them create, celebrate and globalize aspects of their identities and cultures. I see technology engendering spikes with regards to innovations and earnings from technology. Thus, it is difficult to say, across board, that technology is causing the world to be solely spiky or flat.

      Like

  3. Edletech:
    Thanks for your post and insights. I have wondered, lately, if technology really does make work faster and more efficient as you mention. I mean in the comprehensive sense, not the case-by-case examples where we all see economies and efficiencies. My concern, I guess, is three fold. I see the time wasting that can so easily occur because of access to an almost infinite variety of technologies, apps, games, etc. Secondly, I don’t know about you, but 200+ emails arriving every day infringes on the time I have available for work. Many of these emails are redundant, simply because they are so easy to send. These are work-related emails, not personal. Thirdly, I find technological changes to be very time consuming. Others at my institution are always implementing a new system or upgrading something, which requires me to expend the time to learn something new, create new log-ins, etc. I wonder if the summative value of some technologies is, in fact, faster or more efficient.
    Randy Roberts

    Like

    • Randy,
      Thanks for your remarks and observations. I agree with you that the fast pace of technological change can be stressful. The three points you mention present technology as time consuming. One of the challenges of modern technology is that we can be bombarded with too much information and can be easily distracted. These can lead to time wasting. These are some of the disadvantages of technology’s affordability, availability, and widespread accessibility. But again, can we imagine life today without them? Just two hours ago, I sent a very important work-related message to over 130 members of our organization in at least three continents. I did all that in less than 15 minutes. Imagine the cost and time it would have taken me to draft and write such letter or place such calls?

      The concerns you raise are important observations that we have to deal with as individuals and organizations in the face of affordable, available and widespread technological access today. You are right that not all technology may be useful, effective or appropriate for our use. However, I will maintain that, in general, technologies make work effective and faster. The concerns you raised can be dealt with if we learn to use technologies discerningly. Moving forward, one of the critical skills we ought to learn and our education ought to teach is how to identify useful or appropriate technologies we need for the work we do or for our life. Again, it is an important leadership role to understand when it is essential to change the technologies we use due to the time it takes and the anxieties and stress it causes employees and clients.

      On the other hand, I wonder if given the nature of your work, you may need an assistant to help you sort through that mountain of mails daily. Two hundred seems like a lot of mails for one person to be dealing with daily.

      Once again, thanks for your remarks and observations.

      Like

  4. Edletech,

    You say that there is aggregation to the few technologically advanced centers, at the expense of the rest of the world. What expense are we paying? I understand technology is taking away jobs, driving people further away from socialization, but there are positives that have risen from advancements in technology, in medicine, and a variety of other fields. Without these technologies, there would be a lot that we couldn’t do. It sounds like you feel these advancements have proven as a disservice to our society. Is that how you feel?

    Thank you!

    Kaylea

    Like

    • Kaylea,
      Thanks for your observation. Not at all. As a matter of fact, I feel that technology has brought us so much good and we cannot do without the many benefits of technology. I know that there are some disadvantages of technology (apart from those you mentioned, there are others like people work longer hours, there are concerns that microwave emissions from cell phone and too much use of such may be unhealthy, cyber-bullying, etc). But, overall, I believe that the benefits and advantages dwarf the disadvantages. Moreover the disadvantages are things we can work to improve on.

      Like

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