Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations Hardcover – 22 Nov 2016
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His most ambitious book - part personal odyssey, part commonsense manifesto. ... Friedman wants to explain why the world is the way it is - why so many things seem to be spinning out of control... after your session with Dr. Friedman, you have a much better idea of the forces that are upending your world, how they work together - and what people, companies and governments can do to prosper. You do have a coherent narrative - 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 Book Review)
The globe-trotting New York Times columnist's most famous book was about the world being flat. This one is all about the world being fast ... 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)
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)
About the Author
Thomas L. Friedman has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize three times for his work with The New York Times, where he serves as the foreign affairs columnist, and is read by everyone from small-business owners to President Obama. Friedman is also the author of From Beirut to Jerusalem (1989), which won both the National Book Award and the Overseas Press Club Award, The Lexus and the Olive Tree (1999), Longitudes and Attitudes (2002), The World Is Flat (2005), which won the first Financial Times/Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award, and Hot, Flat, and Crowded (2008). He lives in Bethesda, Maryland.
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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.
Good purchase. R
If you've read "Coming Apart", seen Trump and Brexit triumph and wept then read this. Not enough data to keep the sociologists happy and all the better for it.