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似水流年

人生有度方坦然。。。

 
 
 

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总有一种声音,让人想起从前,总有一份记忆,徘徊在心的边缘,总有一种守侯,即使脚步渐行渐远。 流水涓涓,仿佛从不曾离去,在我们生命的故事中,细数着流年……

THE WORLD IS FLAT (One-2)  

2011-05-10 13:33:36|  分类: 【在线阅读】 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Although the great majority of the calls are rather routine and dull, competition for these jobs is fierce-not only because they pay well, but because you can work at night and go to school during part of the day, so they are stepping-stones toward a higher standard of living. P. V. Kannan, CEO and cofounder of 24/7, explained to me how it all worked: "Today we have over four thousand associates spread out in Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Chennai. Our associates start out with a take-home pay of roughly $200 a month, which grows to $300 to $400 per month in six months. We also provide transportation, lunch, and dinner at no extra cost. We providelife insurance, medical insurance for the entire family- and other benefits."

Therefore, the total cost of each call center operator is actually around $500 per month when they start out and closer to $600 to $700 per month after six months. Everyone is also entitled to performance bonuses that allow them to earn, in certain cases, the equivalent of 100 percent of their base salary. "Around 10 to 20 percent of our associates pursue a degree in business or computer science during the day hours," said Kannan, adding that more than one-third are taking some kind of extra computer or business training, even if it is not toward a degree. "It is quite common in India for people to pursue education through their twenties-self-improvement is a big theme and actively encouraged by parents and companies. We sponsor an MBA program for consistent performers [with] full-day classes over the weekend. Everyone works eight hours a day, five days a week, with two fifteen-minute breaks and an hour off for lunch or dinner."Not surprisingly, the 24/7 customer call center gets about seven hundred applications a day, but only 6 percent of applicants are hired. Here is a snippet from a recruiting session for call center operators at a women's college in Bangalore:

Recruiter 1: "Good morning, girls."

Class in unison: "Good morning, ma'am."

Recruiter 1: "We have been retained by some of the multinationals here to do the recruitment for them. The primary clients that we are recruiting [for] today are Honeywell. And also for America Online."

The young women-dozens of them-then all lined up with their application forms and waited to be interviewed by a recruiter at a wooden table. Here is what some of the interviews sounded like:

Recruiter 1: "What kind of job are you looking at?"

Applicant 1: "It should be based on accounts, then, where I can grow, I can grow in

my career."

Recruiter 1: "You have to be more confident about yourself when you're speaking.

You're very nervous. I want you to work a little on that and then get in touch with us."

Recruiter 2 to another applicant: "Tell me something about yourself."

Applicant 2: "I have passed my SSC with distinction. Second P also with distinction.

And I also hold a 70 percent aggregate in previous two years." (This is Indian lingo for their equivalents of GPA and SAT scores.)

Recruiter 2: "Go a little slow. Don't be nervous. Be cool."

The next step for those applicants who are hired at a call center is the training program, which they are paid to attend. It combines learning how to handle the specific processes for the company whose calls they will be taking or making, and attending something called "accent neutralization class." These are daylong sessions with a language teacher who prepares the new Indian hires todisguise their pronounced Indian accents when speaking English and replace them with American, Canadian, or British ones-depending on which part of the world they will be speaking with. It's pretty bizarre to watch. The class I sat in on was being trained to speak in a neutral middle-American accent. The students were asked to read over and over a single phonetic paragraph designed to teach them how to soften their r's and to roll their r's.

Their teacher, a charming eight-months-pregnant young woman dressed in a traditional Indian sari, moved seamlessly among British, American, and Canadian accents as she demonstrated reading a paragraph designed to highlight phonetics. She said to the class, "Remember the first day I told you that the Americans flap the 'tuh' sound? You know, it sounds like an almost 'duh' sound-not crisp and clear like the British.So I would not say"-here she was crisp and sharp-'"Betty bought a bit of better butter' or 'Insert a quarter in the meter.' But I would say" -her voice very flat-"'Insert a quarter in the meter' or 'Betty bought a bit of better butter.' So I'm just going to read it out for you once, and then we'll read it together.

All right? 'Thirty little turtles in a bottle of bottled water. A bottle of bottled water held thirty little turtles. It didn't matter that each turtle had to rattle a metal ladle in order to get a little bit of noodles.'

"All right, who's going to read first?" the instructor asked. Each member of the class then took a turn trying to say this tongue twister in an American accent. Some of them got it on the first try, and others, well, let's just say that you wouldn't think they were in Kansas City if they answered your call to Delta's lost-luggage number.

After listening to them stumble through this phonetics lesson for half an hour, I asked the teacher if she would like me to give them an authentic version-since I'm originally from Minnesota, smack in the Midwest, and still speak like someone out of the movie Fargo. Absolutely, she said. So I read the following paragraph: "A bottle of bottled water held thirty little turtles. It didn't matter that each turtle had to rattle a metal ladle in order to get a little bit of noodles, a total turtle delicacy . . . The problem was that there were many turtle battles for less than oodles of noodles. Every time they thought about grappling with the haggler turtles their little turtle minds boggled and they only caught a little bit of noodles."

The class responded enthusiastically. It was the first time I ever got an ovation for speaking Minnesotan. On the surface, there is something unappealing about the idea of inducing other people to flatten their accents in order to compete in a flatter world. But before you disparage it, you have to taste just how hungry these kids are to escapethe lower end of the middle class and move up. If a little accent modification is the price they have to pay to jump a rung of the ladder, then so be it-they say.

"This is a high-stress environment," said Nilekani, the CEO of Infosys, which also runs a big call center. "It is twenty-four by seven. You work in the day, and then the night, and then the next morning." But the working environment, he insisted, "is not the tension of alienation. It is the tension of success. They are dealing with

the challenges of success, of high-pressure living. It is not the challenge of worrying about whether they would have a challenge."

That was certainly the sense I got from talking to a lot of the call center operators on the floor. Like any explosion of modernity, outsourcing is challenging traditional norms and ways of life. But educated Indians have been held back so many years by both poverty and a socialist bureaucracy that many of them seem more than ready to put up with the hours. And needless to say, it is much easier and more satisfying for them to work hard in Bangalore than to pack up and try to make a new start in America. In the flat world they can stay in India, make a decent salary, and not have to be away from families, friends, food, and culture. At the end of the day, these new jobs actually allow them to be more Indian. Said Anney Unnikrishnan, a personnel manager at 24/7, "I finished my MBA and I remember writing the GMAT and getting into Purdue University. But I couldn't go because I couldn't afford it. I didn't have the money for it. Now I can, [but] I see a whole lot of American industry has come into Bangalore and I don't really need to go there. I can work for a multinational sitting right here. So I still get my rice and sam-bar [a traditional Indian dish], which I eat. I don't need to, you know, learn to eat coleslaw and cold beef. I still continue with my Indian food and I still work for a multinational. Why should I go to America?"

The relatively high standard of living that she can now enjoy-enough for a small apartment and car in Bangalore-is good for America as well. When you look around at 24/7's call center, you see that all the computers are running Microsoft Windows.

The chips are designed by Intel. The phones are from Lucent. The air-conditioning is by Carrier, and even the bottled water is by Coke. In addition, 90 percent of the shares in 24/7 are owned by U.S. investors. This explains why, although the United States has lost some service jobs to India in recent years, total exports from American-based companies-merchandise and services-to India have grown from $2.5 billion in 1990 to $5 billion in 2003. So even with the outsourcing of some service jobs from the United States to India, India's growing economy is creating a demand for many more American goods and services. What goes around, comes around.

Nine years ago, when Japan was beating America's brains out in the auto industry, I wrote a column about playing the computer geography game Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? with my nine-year-old daughter, Orly. I was trying to help her by giving her a clue suggesting that Carmen had gone to Detroit, so I asked her, "Where are cars made?" And without missing a beat she answered, "Japan." Ouch!

Well, I was reminded of that story while visiting Global Edge, an Indian software design firm in Bangalore. The company's marketing manager, Rajesh Rao, told me that he had just made a cold call to the VP for engineering of a U.S. company, trying to drum up business. As soon as Mr. Rao introduced himself as calling from an Indian software firm, the U.S. executive said to him, "Namaste," a common Hindi greeting.

Said Mr. Rao, "A few years ago nobody in America wanted to talk to us. Now they are eager." And a few even know how to say hello in proper Hindu fashion. So now I wonder: If I have a granddaughter one day, and I tell her I'm going to India, will she say, "Grandpa, is that where software comes from?"

No, not yet, honey. Every new product-from software to widgets-goes through a cycle that begins with basic research, then applied research, then incubation, then development, then testing, then manufacturing, then deployment, then support, then continuation engineering in order to add improvements. Each of these phases is specialized and unique, and neither India nor China nor Russia has a critical mass of talent that can handle the whole product cycle for a big American multinational.

But these countries are steadily developing their reseach and development capabilities to handle more and more of these phases. As that continues, we really will see the beginning of what Satyam Cherukuri, of Sarnoff, an American research and development firm, has called "the globalization of innovation" and an end to the old model of a single American or European multinational handling all the elements of the development

product cycle from its own resources. More and more American and European companies are outsourcing significant research and development tasks to India, Russia, and China.

According to the information technology office of the state government in Karnataka, where Bangalore is located, Indian units of Cisco Systems, Intel, IBM, Texas Instruments, and GE have already filed 1,000 patent applications with the U.S. Patent Office. Texas Instruments alone has had 225 U.S. patents awarded to its Indian operation. "The Intel team in Bangalore is developing microprocessor chips for high-speed broadband wireless technology, to be launched in 2006," the Karnataka IT office said, in a statement issued at the end of 2004, and "at GE's John F. Welch Technology Centre in Bangalore, engineers are developing new ideas for aircraft engines, transport systems and plastics." Indeed, GE over the years has frequently transferred Indian engineers who worked for it in the United States back to India to integrate its whole global research effort. GE now even sends non-Indians to Bangalore. Vivek Paul is the president of Wipro Technologies, another of the elite Indian technology companies, but he is based in Silicon Valley to be close to Wipro's American customers. Before coming to Wipro, Paul managed GE's CT scanner business out of Milwaukee. At the time he had a French colleague who managed GE's power generator business for the scanners out of France.

"I ran into him on an airplane recently," said Paul, "and he told me he had moved to India to head up GE's high-energy research there."

I told Vivek that I love hearing an Indian who used to head up GE's CT business in Milwaukee but now runs Wipro's consulting business in Silicon Valley tell me about his former French colleague who has moved to Bangalore to work for GE. That is a flat world.

Every time I think I have found the last, most obscure job that could be outsourced to Bangalore, I discover a new one. My friend Vivek Kulkarni used to head the government office in Bangalore responsible for attracting high technology global investment. After stepping down from that post in 2003, he started a company called B2K, with a division called Brickwork, which offers busy global executives their own personal assistant in India. Say you are running a company and you have been asked to give a speech and a PowerPoint presentation in two days. Your "remote executive assistant" in India, provided by Brickwork, will do all the research for you, create the PowerPoint presentation, and e-mail the whole thing to you overnight so that it is on your desk the day you have to deliver it.

"You can give your personal remote executive assistant their assignment when you are leaving work at the end of the day in New York City, and it will be ready for you the next morning," explained Kulkarni. "Because of the time difference with India, they can work on it while you sleep and have it back in your morning." Kulkarni suggested I hire a remote assistant in India to do all the research for this book.

"He or she could also help you keep pace with what you want to read. When you wake up, you will find the completed summary in your in-box." (I told him no one could be better than my longtime assistant, Maya Gorman, who sits ten feet away!)

Having your own personal remote executive assistant costs around $1,500 to $2,000 a month, and given the pool of Indian college grads from which Brickwork can recruit, the brainpower you can hire dollar-for-dollar is substantial. As Brickwork's promotional material says, "India's talent pool provides companies access to a broad spectrum of highly qualified people. In addition to fresh graduates, which are around 2.5 million per year, many qualified homemakers are entering the job market." India's business schools, it adds, produce around eighty-nine thousand MBAs per year.

"We've had a wonderful response," said Kulkarni, with clients coming from two main areas. One is American health-care consultants, who often need lots of numbers crunched and PowerPoint presentations drawn up. The other, he said, are American investment banks and financial services companies, which often need to prepare glossy pamphlets with graphs to illustrate the benefits of an IPO or a proposed merger. In the case of a merger, Brickwork will prepare those sections of the report dealing with general market conditions and trends, where most of the research can be gleaned off the Web and summarized in a standard format. "The judgment of how to price the deal will come from the investment bankers themselves," said Kulkarni. "We will do the lower-end work, and they will do the things that require critical judgment and experience, close to the market." The more projects his team of remote executive assistants engages in, the more knowledge they build up. They are full of ambition to do their higher problem solving as well, said Kulkarni. "The idea is to constantly learn. You are always taking an examination. There is no end to learning . . . There is no real end to what can be done by whom."

Unlike Columbus, I didn't stop with India. After I got home, I decided to keep exploring the East for more signs that the world was flat. So after India, I was soon off to Tokyo, where I had a chance to interview Kenichi Ohmae, the legendary former McKinsey & Company consultant in Japan. Ohmae has left McKinsey and struck out on his own in business, Ohmae & Associates. And what do they do? Not consulting anymore, explained Ohmae. He is now spearheading a drive to outsource low-end Japanese jobs to Japanese-speaking call centers and service providers in China. "Say what?" I asked. "To China? Didn't the Japanese once colonize China, leaving a very bad taste in the mouths of the Chinese?"

Well, yes, said Ohmae, but he explained that the Japanese also left behind a large number of Japanese speakers who have maintained a slice of Japanese culture, from sushi to karaoke, in northeastern China, particularly around the northeastern port city of Dalian. Dalian has become for Japan what Bangalore has become for America and the other English-speaking countries: outsourcing central. The Chinese may never

forgive Japan for what it did to China in the last century, but the Chinese are so focused on leading the world in the next century that they are ready to brush up on their Japanese and take all the work Japan can outsource.

"The recruiting is quite easy," said Ohmae in early 2004. "About one3? third of the people in this region [around Dalian] have taken Japanese as a second language in high school. So all of these Japanese companies are coming in." Ohmae's company is doing primarily data-entry work in China, where Chinese workers take handwritten Japanese documents, which are scanned, faxed, or e-mailed over from Japan to Dalian, and then type them into a digital database in Japanese characters. Ohmae's company has developed a software program that takes the data to be entered and breaks it down into packets. These packets can then be sent around China or Japan for typing, depending on the specialty required, and then reassembled at the company's database in its Tokyo headquarters. "We have the ability to allocate the job to the person who knows the area best." Ohmae's company even has contracts with more than seventy thousand housewives, some of them specialists in medical or legal terminologies, to do data-entry work at home. The firm has recently expanded into computer-aided designs for a Japanese housing company. "When you negotiate with the customer in Japan for building a house," he explained, "you would sketch out a floor plan-most of these

companies don't use computers." So the hand-drawn plans are sent electronically to China, where they are converted into digital designs, which then are e-mailed back to the Japanese building firm, which turns them into manufacturing blueprints. "We took the best-performing Chinese data operators," said Ohmae, "and now they are processing seventy houses a day." Chinese doing computer drawings for Japanese homes, nearly seventy years after a rapacious Japanese army occupied China, razing many homes in the process. Maybe there is hope for this flat world . . .

I needed to see Dalian, this Bangalore of China, firsthand, so I kept moving around the East. Dalian is impressive not just for a Chinese city.

With its wide boulevards, beautiful green spaces, and nexus of universities, technical colleges, and massive software park, Dalian would stand out in Silicon Valley. I had been here in 1998, but there had been so much new building since then that I did not recognize the place. Dalian, which is located about an hour's flight northeast of Beijing, sym34 bolizes how rapidly China's most modern cities-and there are still plentyof miserable, backward ones-are grabbing business as knowledge centers, not just as manufacturing hubs. The signs on the buildings tell the whole story: GE, Microsoft, Dell, SAP, HP, Sony, and Accenture- to name but a few-all are having backroom work done here to support their Asian operations, as well as new software research and development.

Because of its proximity to Japan and Korea, each only about an hour away by air, its large number of Japanese speakers, its abundance of Internet bandwidth, and many parks and a world-class golf course (all of which appeal to knowledge workers), Dalian has become an attractive locus for Japanese outsourcing. Japanese firms can hire three Chinese software engineers for the price of one in Japan and still have change to pay a roomful of call center operators ($90 a month starting salary). No wonder some twenty-eight hundred Japanese companies have set up operations here or teamed up with Chinese partners.

"I've taken a lot of American people to Dalian, and they are amazed at how fast the China economy is growing in this high-tech area," said Win Liu, director of U.S./EU projects for DHC, one ofDalian's biggest homegrown software firms, which has expanded from thirty to twelve hundred employees in six years. "Americans don't realize the challenge to the extent that they should."

Dalian's dynamic mayor, Xia Deren, forty-nine, is a former college president. (For a Communist authoritarian system, China does a pretty good job of promoting people on merit. The Mandarin meritocratic culture here still runs very deep.) Over a traditional ten-course Chinese dinner at a local hotel, the mayor told me how far Dalian has come and just where he intends to take it. "We have twenty-two universities and colleges with over two hundred thousand students in Dalian," he explained. More than half those students graduate with engineering or science degrees, and even those who don't, those who study history or literature, are still being directed to spend a year studying Japanese or English, plus computer science, so that they will be employable. The mayor estimated that more than half the residents of Dalian had access to the Internet at the office, home, or school.

"The Japanese enterprises originally started some data processing industries here," the mayor added, "and with this as a base they have now moved to R & D and software development... In the past one or two years, the software companies of the U.S. are also making some attempts to move outsourcing of software from the U.S. to our city . . .

We are approaching and we are catching up with the Indians. Exports of software products [from Dalian] have been increasing by 50 percent annually. And China is now becoming the country that develops the largest number of university graduates. Though in general our English is not as competent as that of the Indian people, we have a bigger population, [so] we can pick out the most intelligent students who can speak the best English."

Are Dalian residents bothered by working for the Japanese, whose government has still never formally apologized for what the wartime Japanese government did to China?

"We will never forget that a historical war occurred between the two nations," he answered, "but when it comes to the field of economy, we only focus on the economic problems-especially if we talk about the software outsourcing business. If the U.S. and Japanese companies make their products in our city, we consider that to be a good thing. Our youngsters are trying to learn Japanese, to master this tool so they can

compete with their Japanese counterparts to successfully land high-salary positions for themselves in the future."

The mayor then added for good measure, "My personal feeling is that Chinese youngsters are more ambitious than Japanese or American youngsters in recent years, but I don't think they are ambitious enough, because they are not as ambitious as my generation.

Because our generation, before they got into university and colleges, were sent to distant rural areas and factories and military teams, and went through a very hard time, so in terms of the spirit to overcome and face the hardships, [our generation had to have more ambition] than youngsters nowadays."

Mayor Xia had a charmingly direct way of describing the world, and although some of what he had to say gets lost in translation, he gets it-and Americans should too:

"The rule of the market economy," this Communist official explained to me, "is that if somewhere has the richest human resources and the cheapest labor, of course the enterprises and the businesses will naturally go there." In manufacturing, he pointed out, "Chinese people first were the employees and working for the big foreign manufacturers, and after several years, after we have learned all the processes and steps, we can start our own firms. Software will go down the same road . . . First we will have our young people employed by the foreigners, and then we will start our own companies. It is like building a building.

Today, the U.S., you are the designers, the architects, and the developing countries are the bricklayers for the buildings. But one day I hope we will be the architects."

I just kept exploring-east and west. By the summer of 2004,1 was in Colorado on vacation. I had heard about this new low-fare airline called JetBlue, which was launched in 1999. I had no idea where they operated, but I needed to fly between Washington and Atlanta, and couldn't quite get the times I wanted, so I decided to call JetBlue and see where exactly they flew. I confess I did have another motive.

I had heard that JetBlue had outsourced its entire reservation system to housewives in Utah, and I wanted to check this out. So I dialed JetBlue reservations and had the following conversation with the agent:

"Hello, this is Dolly. Can I help you?" answered a grandmotherly voice.

"Yes, I would like to fly from Washington to Atlanta," I said. "Do you fly that route?"

"No, I'm sorry we don't. We fly from Washington to Ft. Lauderdale," said Dolly.

"How about Washington to New York City?" I asked.

"I'm sorry, we don't fly that route. We do fly from Washington to Oakland and Long Beach," said Dolly.

"Say, can I ask you something? Are you really at home? I read that JetBlue agents just work at home."

"Yes, I am," said Dolly in the most cheerful voice. (I later confirmed with JetBlue that her full name is Dolly Baker.) "I am sitting in my office upstairs in my house, looking out the window at a beautiful sunny day. Just five minutes ago someone called and asked me that same question and I told them and they said, 'Good, I thought you were going to tell me you were in New Delhi.'"

"Where do you live?" I asked.

"Salt Lake City, Utah," said Dolly. "We have a two-story home, and I love working here, especially in the winter when the snow is swirling and I am up here in the office at home."

"How do you get such a job?" I asked.

"You know, they don't advertise," said Dolly in the sweetest possible voice. "It's all by word of mouth. I worked for the state government and I retired, and [after a little while] I thought I have to do something else and I just love it."

David Neeleman, the founder and CEO of JetBlue Airways Corp., has a name for all this.

He calls it "homesourcing." JetBlue now has four hundred reservation agents, like

Dolly, working at home in the Salt Lake City area, taking reservations-in between babysitting, exercising, writing novels, and cooking dinner.

A few months later I visited Neeleman at JetBlue's headquarters in New York, and he explained to me the virtues of homesourcing, which he actually started at Morris Air, his first venture in the airline business. (It was bought by Southwest.) "We had 250 people in their homes doing reservations at Morris Air," said Neeleman. "They were 30 percent more productive-they take 30 percent more bookings, by just being happier.

They were more loyal and there was less attrition. So when I started JetBlue, I said, 'We are going to have 100 percent reservation at home.'"

Neeleman has a personal reason for wanting to do this. He is a Mormon and believes that society will be better off if more mothers are able to stay at home with their young children but are given a chance to be wage earners at the same time. So he based his home reservations system in Salt Lake City, where the vast majority of the women are Mormons and many are stay-at-home mothers. Home reservationists work twenty-five hours a week and have to come into the JetBlue regional office in Salt Lake City for four hours a month to learn new skills and be brought up to date on what is going on inside the company.

"We will never outsource to India/' said Neeleman. "The quality we can get here is far superior . . . [Employers] are more willing to outsource to India than to their own homes, and I can't understand that. Somehow they think that people need to be sitting in front of them or some boss they have designated. The productivity we get here more than makes up for the India [wage] factor."

A Los Angeles Times story about JetBlue (May 9, 2004) noted that "in 1997, 11.6 million employees of U.S. companies worked from home at least part of the time. Today, that number has soared to 23.5 million-16% of the American labor force. (Meanwhile, the ranks of the self-employed, who often work from home, have swelled during the same period-to 23.4 million from 18 million.) In some eyes, homesourcing and outsourcing aren't so much competing strategies as they are different manifestations of the same thing: a relentless push by corporate America to lower costs and increase efficiency, wherever that may lead."

That is exactly what I was learning on my own travels: Homesourcing to Salt Lake City and outsourcing to Bangalore were just flip sides of the same coin-sourcing. And the new, new thing, I was also learning, is the degree to which it is now possible for companies and individuals to source work anywhere.

I just kept moving. In the fall of 2004,1 accompanied the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, on a tour of hot spots in Iraq. We visited Baghdad, the U.S. military headquarters in Fallujah, and the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit encampment outside Babil, in the heart of Iraq's so-called Sunni Triangle. The makeshift 24th MEU base is a sort of Fort Apache, in the middle of a pretty hostile Iraqi Sunni Muslim population. While General Myers was meeting with officers and enlisted men there, I was free to walk around the base, and eventually I wandered into the command center, where my eye was immediately caught by a large flat-screen TV. On the screen was a live TV feed that looked to be coming from some kind of overhead camera. It showed some people moving around behind a house. Also on the screen, along the right side, was an active instant-messaging chat room, which seemed to be discussing the scene on the TV.

"What is that?" I asked the soldier who was carefully monitoring all the images from a laptop. He explained that a U.S. Predator drone-a small pilotless aircraft with a high-power television camera-was flying over an Iraqi village, in the 24th MEU's area of operation, and feeding real-time intelligence images back to his laptop and this flat screen. This drone was actually being "flown" and manipulated by an expert who was sitting back at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nevada. That's right , the drone over Iraq was actually being remotely directed from Las Vegas. Meanwhile, the video images it was beaming back were being watched simultaneously by the 24th MEU, United States Central Command headquarters in Tampa, CentCom regional headquarters in Qatar, in the Pentagon, and probably also at the CIA. The different analysts around the world were conducting an online chat about how to interpret what was going on and what to do about it. It was their conversation that was scrolling down the right side of the screen.

Before I could even express my amazement, another officer traveling with us took me aback by saying that this technology had "flattened" the military hierarchy-by giving so much information to the low-level officer, or even enlisted man, who was operating the computer, and empowering him to make decisions about the information he was gathering. While I'm sure that no first lieutenant is going to be allowed to start a firefight without consulting superiors, the days when only senior officers had the big picture are over. The military playing field is being leveled.

I told this story to my friend Nick Burns, the U.S. ambassador to NATO and a loyal member of the Red Sox Nation. Nick told me he was at CentCom headquarters in Qatar in April 2004, being briefed by General John Abizaid and his staff. Abizaid's team was seated across the table from Nick with four flat-screen TVs behind them. The first three had overhead images being relayed in real time from different sectors of Iraq by Predator drones. The last one, which Nick was focused on, was showing a Yankees-Red Sox game.

On one screen it was Pedro Martinez versus Derek Jeter, and on the other three it was Jihadists versus the First Cavalry.

Flatburgers and Fries I kept moving-all the way back to my home in Bethesda, Maryland. By the time I settled back into my house from this journey to the edges of the earth, my head was spinning. But no sooner was I home than more signs of the flattening came knocking at my door. Some came in the form of headlines that would unnerve any parent concerned about where his college-age children are going to fit in. For instance, Forrester Research, Inc., was projecting that more than 3 million service and professional jobs would move out of the country by 2015. But my jaw really dropped when I read a July 19, 2004, article from the International Herald Tribune headlined: "Want Fries With Outsourcing?"

"Pull off U.S. Interstate Highway 55 near Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and into the drive-through lane of a McDonald's next to the highway and you'll get fast, friendly service, even though the person taking your order is not in the restaurant-or even in Missouri," the article said. "The order taker is in a call center in Colorado Springs, more than 900 miles, or 1,450 kilometers, away, connected to the customer and to the workers preparing the food by high-speed data lines. Even some restaurant jobs, it seems, are not immune to outsourcing.

"The man who owns the Cape Girardeau restaurant, Shannon Davis, has linked it and three other of his 12 McDonald's franchises to the Colorado call center, which is run by another McDonald's franchisee, Steven Bigari. And he did it for the same reasons that other business owners have embraced call centers: lower costs, greater speed and fewer mistakes.

"Cheap, quick and reliable telecommunications lines let the order takers in Colorado Springs converse with customers in Missouri, take an electronic snapshot of them, display their order on a screen to make sure it is right, then forward the order and the photo to the restaurant kitchen. The photo is destroyed as soon as the order is completed, Bigari said. People picking up their burgers never know that their order traverses two states and bounces back before they can even start driving to the pickup window.

"Davis said that he had dreamed of doing something like this for more than a decade.

"We could not wait to go with it,' he added. Bigari, who created the call center for his own restaurants, was happy to oblige- for a small fee per transaction."

The article noted that McDonald's Corp. said it found the call center idea interesting enough to start a test with three stores near its headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois, with different software from that used by Bigari. "Jim Sappington, a McDonald's vice president for information technology, said that it was 'way, way too early' to tell if the call center idea would work across the thirteen thousand McDonald's restaurants in the United States. . . Still, franchisees of two other McDonald's restaurants, beyond Davis's, have outsourced their drive-through ordering to Bigari in Colorado Springs. (The other restaurants are in Brainerd, Minnesota, and Norwood, Massachusetts.) Central to the system's success, Bigari said, is the way it pairs customers' photos with their orders; by increasing accuracy, the system cuts down on the number of complaints and therefore makes the service faster. In the fast-food business, time is truly money: shaving even five seconds off the processing time of an order is significant," the article noted. "Bigari said he had cut order time in his dual-lane drive-throughs by slightly more than 30 seconds, to about 1 minute, 5 seconds, on average. That's less than half the average of 2 minutes, 36 seconds, for all McDonald's, and among the fastest of any franchise in the country, according to QSRweb.com, which tracks such things. His drive-throughs now handle 260 cars an hour, Bigari said, 30 more than they did before he started the call center . . . Though his operators earn, on average, 40 cents an hour more than his line employees, he has cut his overall labor costs by a percentage point, even as drive-through sales have increased . . . Tests conducted by outside companies found that Bigari's drive-throughs now make mistakes on fewer than 2 percent of all orders, down from about 4 percent before he started using the call centers, Bigari said."

Bigari "is so enthusiastic about the call center idea," the article noted, "that he has expanded it beyond the drive-through window at his seven restaurants that use the system. While he still offers counter service at those restaurants, most customers now order through the call center, using phones with credit card readers on tables in the seating area."

Some of the signs of flattening I encountered back home, though, had nothing to do with economics. On October 3, 2004,1 appeared on the CBS News Sunday morning show Face the Nation, hosted by veteran CBS correspondent Bob Schieffer. CBS had been in the news a lot in previous weeks because of Dan Rather's 60 Minutes report about President George W. Bush's Air National Guard service that turned out to be based on bogus documents. After the show that Sunday, Schieffer mentioned that the oddest thing had happened to him the week before. When he walked out of the CBS studio, a young reporter was waiting for him on the sidewalk. This isn't all that unusual, because as with all the Sunday-morning shows, the major networks-CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, and Fox-always send crews to one another's studios to grab exit interviews with the guests. But this young man, Schieffer explained, was not from a major network. He politely introduced himself as a reporter for a Web site called InDC Journal and asked whether he could ask Schieffer a few questions. Schieffer, being a polite fellow, said sure. The young man interviewed him on a device Schieffer did not recognize and then asked if he could take his picture. A picture ? Schieffer noticed that the young man had no camera. He didn't need one. He turned his cell phone around and snapped Schieffer's picture.

"So I came in the next morning and looked up this Web site and there was my picture and the interview and there were already three hundred comments about it," said Schieffer, who, though keenly aware of online journalism, was nevertheless taken aback at the incredibly fast, low-cost, and solo manner in which this young man had put him up in lights.

I was intrigued by this story, so I tracked down the young man from In DC Journal.

His name is Bill Ardolino, andhe is a very thoughtful guy. I conducted my own interview with him online -how else? -and began by asking about what equipment he was using as a one-man network/newspaper.

"I used a minuscule MP3 player/digital recorder (three and a half inches by two inches) to get the recording, and a separate small digital camera phone to snap his picture," said Ardolino. "Not quite as sexy as an all-in-one phone/camera/recorder (which does exist), but a statement on the ubiquity and miniaturization of technology nonetheless.

I carry this equipment around D.C. at all times because, hey, you never know. What's perhaps more startling is how well Mr. Schieffer thought on his feet, after being  jumped on by some stranger with interview questions. He blew me away."

Ardolino said the MP3 player cost him about $125. It is "primarily designed to play music," he explained, but it also "comes prepackaged as a digital recorder that creates a WAV sound file that can be uploaded back to a computer . . . Basically,

I'd say that the barrier to entry to do journalism that requires portable, ad hoc recording equipment, is [now] about $100-$200 to $300 if you add a camera, $400 to $500 for a pretty nice recorder and a pretty nice camera. [But] $200 is all that you need to get the job done."

What prompted him to become his own news network?

"Being an independent journalist is a hobby that sprang from my frustration about biased, incomplete, selective, and/or incompetent information gathering by the mainstream media," explained Ardolino, who describes himself as a "center-right libertarian." "Independent journalism and its relative, blogging, are expressions of market forces-a need is not being met by current information sources. I started

taking pictures and doing interviews of the antiwar rallies in D.C, because the media was grossly misrepresenting the nature of the groups that were organizing the gatherings-unrepentant Marxists, explicit and implicit supporters of terror, etc.

I originally chose to use humor as a device, but I've since branched out. Do I have more power, power to get my message out, yes. The Schieffer interview actually brought in about twenty-five thousand visits in twenty-four hours. My peak day since I've started was fifty-five thousand when I helped break 'Rathergate'... I interviewed the first forensics expert in the Dan Rather National Guard story, and he was then specifically picked up by The Washington Post, Chicago Sun-Times, Globe, NYT, etc., within forty-eight hours.

"The pace of information gathering and correction in the CBS fake memo story was astounding/' he continued. "It wasn't justthat CBS News 'stonewalled' after the fact, it was arguably that they couldn't keep up with an army of dedicated fact-checkers.

The speed and openness of the medium is something that runs rings around the old process. . . I'm a twenty-nine-year-old marketing manager [who] always wanted to write for a living but hated the AP style book. As iiberblogger Glenn Reynolds likes to say, blogs have given the people a chance to stop yelling at their TV and have a say in the process. I think that they serve as sort of a 'fifth estate' that works in conjunction with the mainstream media (often by keeping an eye on them or feeding them raw info) and potentially function as a journalism and commentary farm system that provides a new means to establish success.

"Like many facets of the topic that you're talking about in your book, there are good and bad aspects of the development. The splintering of media makes for a lot of incoherence or selective cognition (look at our country's polarization), but it also decentralizes power and provides a better guarantee that the complete truth is out there . . . somewhere . . . in pieces."

On any given day one can come across any number of stories, like the encounter between Bob Schieffer and Bill Ardolino, that tell you that old hierarchies are being flattened and the playing field is being leveled. As Micah L. Sifry nicely put it in The Nation magazine (November 22, 2004): "The era of top-down politics-where

campaigns, institutions and journalism were cloistered communities powered by hard-to-amass capital -is over. Something wilder, more engaging and infinitely more satisfying to individual participants is arising alongside the old order."

I offer the Schieffer-Ardolino encounter as just one example of how the flattening of the world has happened faster and changed rules, roles, and relationships more quickly than we could have imagined. And, though I know it is a cliche, I have to say it nevertheless: You ain't seen nothin yet. As I detail in the next chapter, we are entering a phase where we are going to see the digitization, virtualization, and automation of almost everything. The gains in productivity will be staggering for those countries, companies, and individuals who can absorb the new technological tools. And we are entering a phase where more people than ever before in the history of the world are going to have access to these tools- as innovators, as collaborators, and, alas, even as terrorists. You say you want a revolution? Well, the real information revolution is about to begin. I call

this new phase Globalization 3.0 because it followed Globalization 2.0, but I think this new era of globalization will prove to be such a difference of degree that it will be seen, in time, as a difference in kind. That is why I introduced the idea that the world has gone from round to flat. Everywhere you turn, hierarchies are being challenged from below or transforming themselves from top-down structures into more horizontal and collaborative ones.

"Globalization is the word we came up with to describe the changing relationships between governments and big businesses," said David Rothkopf, a former senior Department of Commerce official in the Clinton administration and now a private strategic consultant. "But whatis going on today is a much broader, much more profound phenomenon." It is not simply about how governments, business, and people communicate, not just about how organizations interact, but is about the emergence of completely new social, political, and business models. "It is about things that impact some of the deepest, most ingrained aspects of society right down to the nature of the social contract," added Rothkopf. "What happens if the political entity in which you are located no longer corresponds to a job that takes place in cyberspace, or no longer really encompasses workers collaborating with other workers in different corners of the globe, or no longer really captures products produced in multiple places simultaneously? Who regulates the work? Who taxes it? Who should benefit from those taxes?"

If I am right about the flattening of the world, it will be remembered as one of those fundamental changes-like the rise of the nation-state or the Industrial Revolution-each of which, in its day, noted Rothkopf, produced changes in the role of individuals, the role and form of governments, the way we innovated, the way we conducted business, the role of women, the way we fought wars, the way we educated ourselves, the way religion responded, the way art was expressed, the way science and research were conducted, not to mention the political labels we assigned to ourselves and to our opponents. "There are certain pivot points or watersheds in history that are greater than others because the changes they produced were so sweeping, multifaceted, and hard to predict at the time," Rothkopf said.

If the prospect of this flattening-and all of the pressures, dislocations, and opportunities accompanying it-causes you unease about the future, you are neither alone nor wrong. Whenever civilization has gone through one of these disruptive, dislocating technological revolutions- like Gutenberg's introduction of the printing press-the whole world has changed in profound ways. But there is something about the flattening of the world that is going to be qualitatively different from other such profound changes: the speed and breadth with which it is taking hold. The introduction of printing happened over a period of decades and for a long time affected only a relatively small part of the planet. Same with the Industrial Revolution. This flattening process is happening at warp speed and directly or indirectly touching a lot more people on the planet at once. The faster and broader this transition to a new era, the more likely is the potential for disruption, as opposed to an orderly transfer of power from the old winners to the new winners.

To put it another way, the experiences of the high-tech companies in the last few decades who failed to navigate the rapid changes brought about in their marketplace by these types of forces may be a warning to all the businesses, institutions, and nation-states that are now facing these inevitable, even predictable, changes but lack the leadership, flexibility, and imagination to adapt-not because they are not smart or aware, but because the speed of change is simply overwhelming them.

And that is why the great challenge for our time will be to absorb these changes in ways that do not overwhelm people but also do not leave them behind. None of this will be easy. But this is our task. It is inevitable and unavoidable. It is the ambition of this book to offer a framework for how to think about it and manage it to our maximum benefit.

I have shared with you in this chapter how I personally discovered that the world is flat. The next chapter details how it got that way.

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