This book purported to be about accelerations in technology, climate change, and globalization moving humanity into the future and exploring the priorities of what we as individuals ought to be doing now to prepare for these changes. It sort of did that, but the first third of Thank You for Being Late was mostly an overview of the past decade of computer chip improvements and the projecting of Moore’s law into the not too distant future. Thomas Friedman tells us that the year 2007 was the tipping point in the accelerating power of computers. He lists developments such as the founding of Facebook, Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android, Amazon’s Kindle and IBM’s Watson.
It isn’t apparent that Friedman is aware that on page 148 he sets up the meaning of the last third of this book. That part is totally different; it’s not about accelerating of technology and the society based in that, but a setup for what makes civilization take off. Friedman grew up in a small middle-class town that could have been anywhere, anywhere in America, but it produced a large number of very productive and thus famous people. On p. 148 he is quoting William H. McNeill:
The ultimate spring of human variability, of course, lies in our capacity to invent new ideas, practices, and institutions. But invention also flourished best when contacts with strangers compelled different ways of thinking and doing to compete for attention, so that choice became conscious, and deliberate tinkering with older practices became easy, and indeed often inevitable.
The book slowly drifts from future technology until in the final hundred or so pages it becomes mostly about Friedman’s hometown of St. Louis Park, Minnesota, and his friends there who became famous. Then it becomes obvious that the main point of the book is on page 316 – “Embracing Diversity – As for embracing diversity, it is more vital than ever today for creating resilience in a changing environment. Thanks to diversity, no matter what climate changes affect your environment, some organism or ensemble of organisms will know how to deal with it.” Friedman doesn’t quote Taleb but Amory Loving in the next sentence: “it automatically adapts to turn every form of adversity into a manageable problem, if not something advantageous.”
That diversity in Friedman’s town created a wonderful community of trusting people, which has carried over into more recent times coping with influxes of Somalis, Hmong and other immigrants.
Thank You for Being Late will help you to realize that human beings can become a wonderful species when they are raised properly.