Sun, May 08, 2005 - Page 19 News List

'In China today, Bill Gates is Britney Spears'

By Mark Davis  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE

"Young Chinese and Indians are not racing us to the bottom. They are racing us to the top," writes Friedman. "They want to dominate us -- in the sense that they want to be creating the companies of the future that people all over the world will admire and clamor to work for."

Wisely, Friedman doesn't turn The World is Flat into a current-events essay. He spends almost the first half of it dealing with how events in the late 1980s and 1990s molded our current world. He likes to call this period "from 11/9 to 9/11," meaning from the fall of the Berlin Wall on Nov. 9, 1989, to the terrorist attacks in the US on Sept. 11, 2001. These 200 pages are the most fascinating in the book, many of which deal with how the World Wide Web seemingly came out of nowhere and changed the world forever.

Throughout the book but especially in later chapters, Friedman addresses how America has fallen behind in the flat world, especially when producing top-quality scientists and engineers.

Although the US isn't in a crisis now, he says Americans aren't as ambitious as their global brethren.

"In China today, Bill Gates is Britney Spears," Friedman writes about China's celebrity-like obsession with the computer pioneer. "In America today, Britney Spears is Britney Spears -- and this is our problem."

Friedman also presents a darker side to the flat world, especially how terrorists and the al-Qaeda network have exploited it to cause death and destruction.

"In a flat world, if you don't visit a bad neighborhood, it might visit you," he writes. However, "you can flourish in this flat world, but it does take the right imagination and the right motivation."

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