06/20/2013 04:31 pm ET Updated Aug 20, 2013

Darwin? Hobbes? No, Tom Friedman's 401(k) World

Atomized individuals eking out an existence in their small niches, engaged in a competitive war of all against all, addled with fear that only the paranoid survive. Nothing is given or ascribed, everything must be invented. One's labor is never finished; it's relentless innovation or death. Destruction is always threatening what was just created. On this breathless treadmill there are no hours that have lost their clock, no time for just living or the luxury of repose.

Is this Darwin's vision? Or Hobbes? No, it is Tom Friedman's 401(k) world of defined contributions instead of defined benefits. This is not the world Friedman wants, of course, but it is the world he so accurately describes in the forum he is hosting today on "The Next New World."

Paradoxically, we are coming full circle. Our hyper-connected world sounds a lot like the distant and isolated primitive ages we had once left behind. Instead of a life that is nasty, brutish and short we seem now to be facing lives that are nasty, brutish and long.

Friedman sees that the less than average will fall into the lumpen black hole of surplus population, the average must struggle mightily just to maintain while only the ruthlessly excellent will prevail.

Knowing such a fate is untenable, Friedman hints at some of the solutions: the other side of robust economic flexibility must be a safety net far stronger than ever before. Perhaps even redistribution is in the cards with the "race against the machine" as information technologies displace all routine or average work (the ghost of the ATM machine) that once sustained the middle class.

In any case, Friedman has really done a great service in connecting the dots and trying to devise a "general theory" of where we are headed in his conference on "The Next New World."

Take a look at his very stimulating conference in San Francisco with some of the best minds around.