Adapting to an accelerating world

We live in an Age of Acceleration. At least that’s what New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman, calls it in his 2016 book, Thank You for Being Late. The world is becoming ever more connected and events occur on a global scale with ever increasing rapidity. How can we stay grounded in such an overwhelmingly dynamic world? How do we adapt to the Age of Acceleration?

Friedman focuses on three main themes in his analysis of the 21st century: technological development, globalization, and climate change. He starts his story in 2007, the year the first iPhone was released.

Friedman uses the well-known ideas of Moore’s Law as a jumping off point for discussing technological development. Technology and automation are transforming the workplace and the economy at large. It is possible that vast swathes of the workforce will become outmoded due to AI.

At the same time, social media isolates and frustrates millions of people under the veneer of connection and community. And of course, there is the looming and existential threat of global climate change. These sections of the book are extensively researched and gripping. They honestly paint a rather bleak vision of the future.

Things were changing rapidly in 2016 when the book was first published. In 2021, it almost seems outdated, after the radical changes that occurred last year. There has seldom been a time in which our everyday lives have felt more caught up in global and historical trends. This certainly bears out the main thesis of the book. The world is changing ever more rapidly.

Ultimately, Friedman is much stronger in his analysis of current events than in his proposed solutions. He spends the second half of the book reminiscing about his childhood in the suburbs of Minneapolis and how his hometown of St. Louis Park transformed itself from a bigoted, close-minded town to a diverse, progressive one. The key to this transformation was community spirit and dialogue, people forging relationships for the common good.

Friedman suggests that something like this could be applied on a global scale. This is all well and good, but his proposed solutions fail somewhat short in comparison to the legitimately massive problems he identifies in the first of the book.

So, while you may not find the answer to all the world’s problems in the pages of Thank You for Being Late, there are still some actionable ideas. Most critically, in a world that is defined by accelerating change, agility becomes an essential skill. Only those who know how to pivot quickly and efficiently will be able to handle the breakneck speed of Age of Acceleration.

Thank You for Being Late is available for purchase here.

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