First, let me say congratulations to all of the award winners and honorees yesterday – definitely an awe-inspiring group. It makes me want to run out and go do something over them top! Second, let me applaud the SLA 2011 conference planners for getting such a brilliant speaker! Thomas Friedman certainly inspired many of us last night!
Thomas Friedman had quite a bit to say and most of it was on the “flattening” of the world – or the reducing of barriers between different areas especially when it comes to the exchange of information. According to him, globalization has undergone three periods and all of them have made the world smaller – this final one starting around thee turn of the century and defined by the “degree to which individuals must act”. He suggested that there were four key forces behind this new era of information exchange: the personal computer, the IPO of Netscape on 8/9/95, protocol transformation (meaning that all of our new-fangled computers could talk to each other), and uploading (meaning that anyone could share their own digital creations with the world). According to Mr. Friedman, this is the biggest “inflection point since Gutenberg invented the printing press”.
This new period of information exchange has four trends. First, “whatever can be done, will be done” so do it yourself before someone else capitalizes on your idea. Second, “the single most important competition is between you and your imagination”, suggesting that the world will split once more: no longer among developed and developing economies but between high imagination enabling and low imagination enabling economies. My thoughts on this will follow at a later time, but the idea is that the only precious commodity that you have is that spark of an idea. Third, “the world is getting flatter and more hyperproductive”. This means that a number of the jobs lost in the recent recession may never come back, we’re going to have to invent and reinvent our jobs to keep them – of course this is something that the information professional is extremely talented at. Again, more on this later as I want to fully expound on the ideas he presented on education and the future.
He could not emphasize enough that we should all watch Steve Jobs 2005 Stanford University Commencement address (here). Other takeaways from this brilliant presentation include: creativity is vital and that we need to encourage the next generation too, information is a growth industry and we as information professionals are vital, and that trust, value and ethics are going to become important as the world becomes flat and borders vanish.
Must head off to catch the train for more stimulating presentations and idea sharing! But first a shout out to the IT folks for an excellent first gaming night!