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Pulitzer Prize winning reporter discusses new “age of acceleration”

| Monday, September 3, 2018

Thomas Friedman, three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and author of six best-selling books, discussed his book “Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations” on Friday in the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center during a lecture hosted by the Mendoza College of Business.

Titled “The Big Trends Shaping the World Today: Economics, Technology and Geopolitics,” the event was part of the annual Thomas H. Quinn lecture series, named after a Notre Dame alumnus who previously served as chair of the Mendoza Business Advisory Council.

A New York Times columnist who was a White House correspondent during Bill Clinton’s presidency, Friedman spent over 40 years covering international affairs. He said his book about the age of accelerations discusses the manner in which he considers the world. While sentiment in the past might have encouraged thinking inside or outside of the box, Friedman urged people to “think about the world today without a box.”

This reflective thinking led to the title “Thank You for Being Late,” Friedman recalled. When waiting for guests to arrive to breakfast, he had time to ponder the world around him and ultimately came to new conclusions about it.

“When you press the pause button on a computer, it stops, but when you press the pause button on a human being, it starts,” he said. “That’s when it starts to reflect, re-think and re-imagine.”

Friedman discussed what he refers to as “the machine,” or the forces shaping and transforming the world today. 

“The machine is re-shaping five rounds [of the world]: politics, geopolitics, ethics, the workplace and community,” Friedman said.

He asserted people are actually in the middle of three non-linear accelerations occurring at the same time due to three forces: the market, Mother Nature and “Moore’s Law.” 

“[Moore’s Law] predicts that the speed and power of microchips will double roughly every 24 months, and the price will stay roughly the same,” he said.

Friedman explained his chapter on Moore’s Law is named “What the Hell Happened in 2007,” because 2007 can be understood in time as one of the greatest technological inflection points in history. Not only was the first iPhone released that year, he said, but Twitter went global, Google bought YouTube and Android, the Kindle launched and Netflix streamed its first video, to name a few.

This sudden exponential increase in technology, Friedman said, created a large gap between social and physical technologies that was exacerbated with the 2008 stock market crash.

Technology is advancing faster than the average human being in society, he said, and we need to consider how we can enable everyone to learn faster and govern smarter to take advantage of new technology.

“The days where you could go to college for four years and think you can rely on that for 30 years is so 1950s,” Friedman said. “There are things students will learn in their first year that will be updated by their third year.”

The digital divide was one of the most prominent divides in the past, Friedman said, but now people all over the world have access to technology. Nowadays, there’s the self-motivation divide, where people must learn to integrate technology to improve a world that has moved from being interconnected to “interdependent.”

“[Mother Nature’s] most healthy ecosystems are all built on complex, adaptive networks and systems, where different parts work together to prove their resilience and propulsion,” he said. “My argument is that the company, the country, the university, the political party that most mirrors Mother Nature’s strategies of resilience and propulsion when the climate changes is the one that will thrive in this age of acceleration.”

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