As do most writers who try to describe a period in history, Friedman gives us a quick glimpse of modern history through a particular lens as he tries to make sense of the changes in recent world culture. His lens, of course, is the new information technology. He frames his overview by suggesting three large movements toward globalization, or a flat world. Globalization 1.0 (1492-1800) involved the expansion of Western European nations to global power through a process of colonization and subjugation. Globalization 2.0 (1800-2000) involved the expansion of mostly Western businesses to global power through a process of corporate colonization and consolidation.
We are now at the start of Globalization 3.0, which involves the expansion of the individual to global power. How can one individual have global reach? Friedman says:
Globalization 3.0 … is the newfound power for individuals to collaborate and compete globally. … The flat-world platform is the product of a convergence of the personal computer … with fiber-optic cable … with the rise of work flow software. … As a result, every person now must, and can, ask: Where do I as an individual fit into the global competition and opportunities of the day, and how can I, on my own, collaborate with others globally? … Because it is flattening and shrinking the world, Globalization 3.0 is going to be more and more driven not only by individuals but also by a much more diverse—non-Western, non-white—group of individuals.
If Friedman is correct, then the entire globe is in the midst of a giant shift away from old hierarchical political and corporate power structures controlled mostly by white men of European ancestry to a network power structure controlled by no one in particular. Whereas the old hierarchical structures were exclusive and empowered the few, the new network structures are inclusive and empower the many. The old structures gave voice to few people, while the new structures give voice to many people.
Or so goes the promise. Do you think you have global reach? Do you accept this simplified view of modern history? Do you think the Net-age is really that big a deal? Do you corporations have supplanted the power of nations? Do you think individuals will supplant the power of corporations and nations? Is it likely that the new Net structures will undermine nations and corporations, or even universities?