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Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations: Pausing to Reflect on the Twenty-First Century Paperback – 24 Oct 2017
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His most ambitious book - part personal odyssey, part commonsense manifesto ... An honest, cohesive explanation for why the world is the way it is, without miracle cures or scapegoats. And that is why everybody should hope this book does very well indeed (John Micklethwait The New York Times)
Engaging ... In some senses Thank You For Being Late is an extension of [Friedman's] previous works, woven in with wonderful personal stories (including admirably honest discussions about the nature of being a columnist). What gives Friedman's book a new twist is his belief that upheaval in 2016 is actually far more dramatic than earlier phases. (Gillian Tett Financial Times)
From the Inside Flap
We all sense it: something big is going on. Life is speeding up, and it is dizzying. Here Thomas L. Friedman reveals the tectonic movements that are reshaping our world, how to adapt to this new age and why, sometimes, we all need to be late.
'A master class ... As a guide for perplexed Westerners, this book is very hard to beat ... an honest, cohesive explanation for why the world is the way it is, without miracle cures or scapegoats' John Micklethwait, The New York Times Book Review
'Wonderful ... admirably honest ... injects a badly needed dose of optimism into the modern debate' Gillian Tett, Financial Times
'His main piece of advice for individuals, corporations, and countries is clear: Take a deep breath and adapt. This world isn't going to wait for you' Fortune
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Perhaps it was the frightening aspect. Friedman’s analysis is that the modern world is experiencing a host of “accelerations” – things are changing at an ever faster pace, and those things are now interacting with each other to cause further acceleration. Increases in computing power, economic globalisation and climate change are the primary drivers, but there are others: in a two-page spread he presents 24 graphs, most of which show “hockey stick” curves with the uptick starting in 1950. Not all are bad, but the overall message is that things are not sustainable. Even if you dispute some of the data – like the graphs of extreme weather events, which may owe as much to increased insurance and building in areas prone to hurricanes and flooding – the case is a strong one. Moreover, Friedman says, just at the point where we most need trust and collaboration to help meet these challenges, behaviours are waning. They have not existed in the Middle East, he says, at any time in his adult life, but now they don’t exist in the US either, having started to break down during Reagan’s presidency. This book was written before Trump won the election, but I am sure that Friedman found that that rather proved his point.
I found the two penultimate chapters of the book most engaging. Friedman tells the story of the Minnesota suburb where he grew up, and which seems to have achieved a particularly high level of community cohesion and activity, and a lower level of racism (and anti-semitism) than most of the rest of the US. Even now, although the area has not been immune to the slide towards antisocial tendencies that the author feels is global (and often the consequence of social media), some present-day stories from Minnesota are used to illustrate the way we might make things better. He also presents 18 specific recommendations (most fairly US-specific) for new policies based on what he feels “mother Earth” would do – a rather random collection of recommendations ranging from funding a universal US medical system through a hypothecated consumption tax to giving security agencies the (controlled) right to monitor communications in order to counter terrorism, cyber and otherwise.
If I have a complaint about this book is that it could easily have been two or three books, and quite apart from making it rather long it does, at times, seem a slightly jumbled collection – perhaps based on stories he has written for the press over the years. Although I felt that perhaps he overstates the extent of the problems, Friedman states the case and offers solutions, and examples of where some of them appear to be working. Whether he will succeed in getting the world to slow down, to allow itself to be late from time to time, remains to be seen.