Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Tom Friedman follow-up

Wow, what a great night.

Tom Friedman delivered more than I expected in his near 90-minute address last night. He outlined the premise of his new book "Hot, Flat and Crowded" (HFC).

Friedman advanced his theory that 5 problems are causing HFC: an increased demand for energy and natural resources; "petro-dictatorships"; climate change; energy poverty; and biodiversity loss. He added that whichever country steps up and uses its governmental authority, business and innovation acumen, and its most important resource -- its people -- will be the country that wins the "Energy Technology" race.

Mr. Friedman suggested that the U.S. is the country that should win this race, but to do so it must first regain its "groove." He said that 9-11, a government that got lazy after winning the Cold War, and the belief that government could/should solve problems allowed nations such as China and India to blow past us and win the "IT" race.

He equated America's sclerotic effort in IT to the space shuttle taking off -- the thrust from below is the innovation of American businesses; the leaky booster rockets (government bureaucracy or inaction) prevent the shuttle from reaching the highest possible orbit; and while this is happening the astronauts (government leaders) argue over a flight plan...instead of how to fix the real problem.

At the end, Mr. Friedman challenged the U.S. to be more like a DEMOCRATIC CHINA -- relying on its people to advance the society -- and less like a BANANA REPUBLIC. In his words, BANANA is an acronym for BUILD ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ANYWHERE NEAR ANYTHING.

My wife and I had plenty to talk about on our way home.

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