Up until now, mankind has only been able to engage with The New York Times columnist and haver-of-thoughts Thomas Friedman in a small number of limited ways. You could read his columns, read his books, watch him on the "Charlie Rose" show, see him at Davos or dream of him, fitfully, on those tempestuous nights where the world seemed all but uncertain. But all of that is about to change, because Thomas Friedman has seen the success of TED talks and the Aspen Ideas Festival and the Washington Ideas Forum and has decided that he should be able to get in on some of that sweet, sweet action his damn self.
So today we herald the coming of "Thomas L. Friedman's The Next New World," a forum of deep thoughts and zazz metaphors and lots of white guys being ponderous. It's being held on June 20 in San Francisco at the Metreon, which most San Francisco residents know as "the fancy mall with the once-cutting edge AMC theater where you can apparently get shot while on the the escalators." Per the forum's website, if you request an invitation by May 10, you can receive a discounted attendance fee of $995, so how can you not jump at this?
Why are we having a Thomas Friedman Global Forum? According to the website, the forum will bring together "chief executive officers, tech pioneers, government officials, influential decision-makers and scholars to discuss the new world economy, opportunities and challenges." There, the assembled shall "explore the complex dynamics of new-world infrastructure, especially the transformative electronic, digital and mobile environment."
"Attendees can expect invaluable insights into strategies for success in today’s new world order," apparently. There is no promise of getting your money back should this forum fail to achieve these expectations, because you were probably the problem, you always are.
If you are still a bit unsure whether you should attend, let's allow Thomas Friedman's words to convince you. On the website of the forum, they are offered up in a video clip that is sadly unembeddable because the people behind the forum perhaps haven't yet learned enough about "the complex dynamics of new-world infrastructure, especially the transformative electronic, digital and mobile environment," to know how to maybe make their video more shareable.
I shall provide the necessary annotations.
While we were sleeping, something really big happened over the last decade.
We slept through an entire decade? Oh well, at least we only missed the one big thing that happened.
While we were focused on post 9/11...
This was the part where we were supposed to be going door-to-door in Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with the events of 9/11, telling the people living there to "Suck on this," in which "this" was a "very big stick," but really we are talking about a gun. We are talking about "American boys and girls going house to house, from Basra to Baghdad" with guns, saying, "Suck on this."
...and the subprime crisis, something really big happened in the plumbing of the world...
The "plumbing"? What do you mean by that?
...and by the plumbing I mean, basically, the technological platform on which innovation and education and companies all rest.
The "plumbing" is a "platform"? Why not just call it a platform?
So back in 2004 I wrote a book called The World Is Flat, and the argument of the book is that the world was getting connected.
Well, I would argue that in the last 10 years, while you were sleeping...
I really don't remember all of this sleeping, actually!
...the world went from connected...
You're going to say "hyperconnected" right? I just know you are going to say "hyperconnected"!
Well, I obviously didn't sleep through the part of the decade where you said the word "hyperconnected" over and over and over and over again.
And went from interconnected to interdependent. And my view is that this is changing every job, every workplace, every industry, every school.
Changing every job except Thomas Friedman's, that is!
But we're not talking about it, yet we're all living and feeling it.
What are we supposed to be talking about, exactly?
What does it mean to be a business in this kind of world? What does it mean to be an academic organization in this kind of a world? What does it mean to be running a school? What does it mean to be an employee? Someone looking for a job? What does it mean to be an investor?
At this point in the video, you see a man in a grey suit typing away on a Blackberry. He then turns, looks over his shoulder, and gawks at the stock ticker mounted on the skyscraper behind him. It's all so bleeding-edge and modern and "hyperconnected" and "mobile platform" and, of course, essentially unknowable, this flat hot crowded interdependent suck-on-this world, through which we slept.
If you don't start your day, every day, asking this question, "What world am I living in?" Uhm. You're going to get yourself in a lot of trouble.
See, I'm a lot more worried about the people who do start their day, every day, asking themselves that question.
What this conference is about, is as best we can, bring some of the best minds in the world, just to talk about what world we are in.
"I know it's been a long time since I rapped at ya," said conference panelist Jim Anchower.
What does it mean to be living in a more interconnected and interdependent world?
Hold up, now. I thought you just said we were living in a world that "went from interconnected to interdependent." Now you are telling me that the world is simultaneously "interconnected and interdependent." Is this going to be what the conference is like? A series of contentions that are made and then contradicted inside of 60 seconds' time?
And if that's the world you're in, how do you take best advantage of it?
If you ask me, I'd start by charging people $995 to be blathered at in San Francisco.
We're doing it in San Francisco because obviously San Francisco-slash-Silicon Valley-slash-California has really been on the cutting edge of redefining this world.
The dream of the '90s is alive at the Metreon!
We think that this conference would be of interest to anyone who's in business, in academia, or just interested in where the world is going.
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