Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations
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This event took place on Wednesday, January 11, 2017
JOANNE MYERS: Good morning, everyone. I'm Joanne Myers, and on behalf of the Carnegie Council I'd like to wish you all a very happy new year.
As we begin a year in which many of you may be feeling anxious, perplexed, or even gloomy about the future, it gives me great pleasure to welcome a self-declared optimist to this Public Affairs breakfast program. For some time now, Tom Friedman has held a special place in the world of journalism. Whether he is writing about globalization, technology, or climate change and what the misuse of the environment is doing to our planet, Tom has always had a way of diagnosing and dissecting the moment. His genius is not just in his ability to see what others seemingly cannot, but the application of this knowledge is what sets him apart.
In his most recent book, Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations, he has done it again. In helping us to understand the biggest trends of our time, Tom tells us that not only is the world flat, as he once wrote in an earlier book, but tectonic changes are here and accelerating at a pace faster than ever before, transforming our politics, geopolitics, community, workplace, and—yes—even our ethics. [See Tom Friedman's Carnegie Council talk on The World is Flat.]
In this new era of tumultuous technological developments, old ways of thinking and doing may not work. If Tom is right, which he is so often, we might ask: What will it take to adapt to all these crosscutting changes that are shaping the world? Well, if you're Tom Friedman, rather than panic, you pause, reflect, and reconnect to a time and place where politics worked and aspiration was a way of life.
In returning to his hometown, St. Louis Park, Minnesota, Tom finds answers. Not only is he inspired by what he sees, but he finds reasons to be optimistic about the future and the excitement that it can bring.
So, if your world seems as if it is spinning out of control, please stop and take this moment to join me in welcoming a person who will give you hope for thriving in the age of accelerations. Our guest is not only one of the most influential columnists in America, but someone who is the personification of Minnesota nice, Tom Friedman.
THOMAS FRIEDMAN: Thank you so much, Joanne.
What Joanne didn't tell you—she's hiding—is that we actually both grew up in the same little town in Minnesota, and that's why she's Minnesota nice also.
Thank you all for coming out this morning. It wouldn't be a book if I weren't at the Carnegie Council, because you all have hosted me so many times, and it's a treat to be back here. I see so many old friends. I'm so pleased that my former boss, Warren Hoge, is here, a great former editor, and so many other friends. It's great.
Let me tell you a little bit about my book Thank You for Being Late. The first question I always get is, "Where from comes the title, Thank You for Being Late?" The title comes actually from meeting people in Washington, DC, for breakfast over the years. I don't like to waste breakfast. If I'm downtown eating alone, I like to learn from someone, so I schedule a lot of work breakfasts.
Every once in a while, someone will show up 10 or 15 minutes late and say, "Tom, I'm really sorry. It was the weather, the traffic, the subway, the dog ate my homework."
About three years ago, when I started this project, one of them, Peter Corsell, who's an energy entrepreneur, showed up late and did the, "Tom, I'm really sorry, the weather, the traffic, the subway, the dog ate my homework."
I just spontaneously said to him: "Actually, Peter, thank you for being late. Because you were late, I've been actually eavesdropping on their conversation—fascinating; I've been people-watching in the lobby—fantastic; and, most importantly, I just connected two ideas I've been struggling with for a month. So thank you for being late."
People started to get into it, they'd say, "Well, you're welcome," because they understood that I was actually giving them permission to pause, to slow down, to reflect. In fact, my favorite quote from the opening chapter of the book is from my friend Dov Seidman, who says, "You know, when you press the pause button on a computer it stops; but when you press the pause button on a human beings they start, that's when you start to reflect, rethink, and reengineer." And boy, don't we need to do a lot of that right now? (Editor's note: For more from Dov Seidman, check out his Carnegie Council interview from 2012.)
The book actually started when I chose to pause and engage with someone who I wouldn't normally engage with. I live in Bethesda, Maryland, and I take the subway to work about once a week. For me that means driving from my home on Bradley Boulevard to the Bethesda Hyatt, I park in the public parking garage beneath the Bethesda Hyatt, and I take the Red Line into DC to the New York Times bureau.
I did that, came back, had my time-stamped ticket. I drove out of the parking lot and gave it to the cashier in the cashier's booth. He looked at it, he looked at me, and said, "I know who you are."
I said, "Great."
He said, "I read your column."
I said, "Great."
He said, "I don't always agree."
I thought, Get me out of here. But I actually said, "Well, that's great. It means you always have to check." And I drove off.
A week later, I took my weekly trip, came in, Red Line, New York Times, Red Line back, car, time-stamped ticket. The cashier, who was the same guy, this time said, "Mr. Friedman, I have my own blog. Would you read my blog?" I thought, Oh my god, the parking guy is now my competitor! What just happened? So I said, "Write it down for me and I will look it up."
He tore up a piece of receipt paper and he wrote on it "odanabi.com."
I got home. I looked it up. It turns out he's Ethiopian. He writes about Ethiopian politics. A real democracy advocate. He's from the Oromo people.
I talked to my wife Ann about it. I thought about it for a couple of days. I decided, This is a sign from God; I should actually pause and engage with this man. But I didn't have his email.
So the only thing I could do was park in the parking garage every day, which I did for four days. We eventually overlapped. I parked my car under the gate so it couldn't come down, and I got out and I said, "Ayele, I want your email." I know his name now, Ayele Bojia. "Would you give me your email?" which he gladly did.
That night I wrote him a message. I repeat our emails in the front of the book. It was sort of a funny exchange. I basically said to him, "I have a proposition for you. I will teach you how to write a column if you will tell me your life story."
He basically said, "I see you're proposing a deal. I like this deal."
So he asked that we meet near his office, at Peet's Coffee & Tea in Bethesda, which we did two weeks later. I arrived with a six-page memo on how to write a column: "The world is a big dataset. This is my algorithm, how I organize my thinking."
And he arrived with his life story: Ethiopian, graduate of Haile Selassie I University, economics grad, really involved in Oromo politics and the democracy movement in Ethiopia; was thrown out of the country 10 years ago, came to America; was blogging on Ethiopian websites, but they were too slow, he told me, they wouldn't turn his stuff around fast enough; so he decided to start his own blog, "And now, Mr. Friedman, I feel empowered." His Google metrics—yes, I love a parking guy who knows his Google metrics!—say he is read in 30 different countries. My parking attendant.
It's a wonderful story. He's a wonderful man. It's a wonderful story about the ability of anyone today to participate now in the global conversation. I really felt like we met as a couple of columnists and I was just sharing with him my approach. So I explained to him that a news story is meant to inform. I can write a news story about this event and it will inform, better or worse, and Joanne will even give me a thumbs-up or thumbs-down.
But a column is meant to provoke. So I'm either in the heating business or the lighting business. That's what I do. I either do a heating or a lighting, okay? I'm either stoking up an emotion in you or I'm illuminating something for you and trying to produce a reaction.
I explained to Ayele that to do that you have to combine three chemical compounds:
- The first is what is your value set; what do you stand for? Are you a communist, a capitalist, a neocon, a neoliberal, a libertarian, a Keynesian, a Marxist? What is the value set you're trying to push?
- Second, how do you think the Machine works? "The Machine" is my shorthand for: What are the biggest forces shaping more things in more places in more ways on more days? So, as a columnist, I'm always carrying around in my head a working hypothesis of how the Machine works, because what I'm trying to do basically is to take my value set and push this Machine; and if I don't know how it works, I either won't push it or I'll push it in the wrong direction. I believe you always have to have a working theory of the gears and pulleys of the world and how they interact.|
- And lastly, what have you learned about people and culture, because there is no column without people and there are no people without culture. I'm a huge believer, as those of you who have followed me know, that data is good, data is really important, but talking to another human being is also data. So I'm a big believer in always keeping that in mind.
If you actually meld those three together—your own value set, how the Machine works, and what you've learned about people and culture—stir, let it rise for 45 minutes, and then bake; if you do it right, you'll produce a column that produces either heat or light—or, ideally, both.
So I explained all this to Ayele. The more I explained it to him, the more I started to step back and say, "Well, if that's what a column is about, what is my value set, how do I think the Machine works today, and what have I learned about people and culture?" I decided that was the book that I wanted to write, and our conversations truly stimulated it.
Let me talk a little bit about how I think the Machine works today, and then I'll tell you a little bit about the back half of the book. The first half is about the Machine and the back half is about how it is reshaping the world.
Those of you who follow my column may know that I'm not exactly a liberal. I'm a radical free-trader. I'm very interested in business and entrepreneurship. I'm certainly not a conservative. It's because my politics actually emerges not from a philosopher or from a library, but from that small town where Joanne and I grew up in Minnesota. That's where my politics got shaped, because I grew up in a time and place where politics worked, and I've carried that with me for my whole life.
So how does the Machine work today? Well, I think what is shaping more things in more places in more ways on more days is that we are in the middle of three nonlinear accelerations all at the same time in the three largest forces on the planet, which I call the market, Mother Nature, and Moore's Law.
The market for me is globalization—but not your grandfather's globalization. That was containers on ships. That's actually going down. To me what is driving globalization today is digital globalization, everything that's now being digitized and globalized, whether it's Twitter or Facebook or PayPal or MOOCs (massive open online courses) or this event, which now can be digitized and globalized. That's really what's driving the world from connected to hyperconnected to interdependent. If you put digital globalization on a graph—whoop!—it looks like a hockey stick.
Mother Nature, for me, is climate change, biodiversity loss, and population growth. If you put that on a graph, it looks like—whoop!—a hockey stick.
And Moore's Law, coined by Gordon Moore, the co-founder of Intel in 1965, posited that the speedy power of microchips would double every 24 months. It's now closer to 30. Never mind. Moore's Law has held up now for 52 years. That is the exponential that is driving all technology. It's really the underlying engine of the whole thing. If you put it on a graph, it looks like—whoop!—a hockey stick.
We are in the middle of three hockey-stick accelerations all at the same time with the three largest forces on the planet—the market, Mother Nature, and Moore's Law—and they're all interacting with each other. More Moore's Law drives more globalization, more globalization drives more climate change—and, by the way, more solutions as well. What I think is going on is these accelerations aren't just changing the world; they're actually fundamentally reshaping the world, and they're reshaping five realms: politics, geopolitics, the workplace, ethics, and community. The first part of the book is about these three accelerations and the second part is about how they are reshaping these five realms.
Let me just talk briefly about the engine of it all, which is that acceleration in Moore's Law. It's very hard for people to grasp an exponential because we rarely encounter one in our lives. The only time you really encounter an exponential is when you are merging onto the freeway and suddenly go from zero to 60—that's an exponential, velocity plus acceleration. But you rarely encounter that. In fact, the engineers at Intel who wanted to explain the power of Moore's Law took a 1971 Volkswagen Beetle and said, "What if this 1971 VW Beetle improved at the same rate as microchips over the last 40-odd years?" They estimated that if it did, that Beetle today would go 300,000 miles an hour, it would get 2 million miles per gallon, and it would cost four cents. In fact, you'd be able to drive it your whole life on one tank of gas.
That is an exponential. That's what we're in the middle of.
Now, my chapter on Moore's Law is called "What the Hell Happened in 2007?" 2007 sounds like such an innocuous year. But this was something I literally stumbled across in my research and then began to put together.
What happened in 2007? Well, the year was kicked off by Steve Jobs unveiling the first iPhone at the Moscone Center in San Francisco in January 2007, beginning a process by which we are now putting into the hands of, in time, everyone on the planet a handheld computer with more computing power than the Apollo space mission connected to the Internet. That's what we're doing. That was how 2007 kicked off.
But 2007 was just clearing its throat, because also in 2007 the most important software program you've probably never heard of, called Hadoop, which is named after the founder's son's toy elephant, was also released into the wild. Hadoop is the software that enables us to take a million computers, or 10 million computers, and get them to work together as one. That is the foundation of big data.
Hadoop didn't invent this; Google actually invented it. But as Doug Cutting, the founder of Hadoop, explained to me, "Google lives in the future and sends us letters back home." What Google did was invent this and then leave a trail of breadcrumbs for the open source community to reverse-engineer it and produce an open source version of this free for the world. That's what Hadoop is.
Also in 2007 a company called GitHub launched. GitHub is the second-most-important software platform you probably have never heard of. It is now the world's biggest library of open source software. There isn't a company in America today that doesn't directly or indirectly draw on GitHub's resources. Now if you start a company and you want a credit card payment system, you don't figure it out yourself; you just go to GitHub now and take it off the shelf, adapt it to your company, maybe improve it, and then put it back on the shelf, just like a library, for the next person to take advantage of.
But again, 2007 was just clearing its throat, because in 2007 a company called Google bought a little-known TV company called YouTube, and in 2007 the same company called Google released into the wild its open source operating system called Android.
In 2007 a guy up in Seattle named Jeff Bezos released into the wild the world's first e-book reader called the Kindle.
In 2007 a company called Facebook opened its platform to anyone with a registered email address. It had been previously confined to high schools and universities.
In 2007 another company called Twitter broke off on its own independent platform and went global.
In 2007 IBM started the world's first cognitive computer called Watson.
In 2007 three design students in San Francisco who were attending the Design Conference heard that all the hotel rooms were sold out, and they had three spare air mattresses that they decided to rent out to people who wanted to attend the Design Conference. It worked out so well for them they started a company in 2007 called Airbnb.
In 2007 the Internet for the first time crossed a billion users.
In 2007 Intel for the first time went off silicon and introduced non-silicon materials into its transistors, extending the exponential for Moore's Law and, which you didn't know, vastly expanding your battery power and making possible computers like the MacBook Air.
In 2007 the cost of sequencing a human genome—you'll see the graph in the book—collapsed. It was $100 million in 2001, went to $10 million to sequence one genome in 2005, and in 2007 it goes straight down like a waterfall.
In 2007 this thing we call "the Cloud" was born.
It turns out, friends, 2007 may in time be understood as the single greatest technological inflection point since Gutenberg invented the printing press. [Editor's note: actually these events happened "in and around 2007" as Friedman writes in a recent article. For further details, see transcript links, his article, and his book.]
And we completely missed it because of 2008. So right when the world went into this incredible technological inflection point and our physical technologies just took off—like we're on a moving sidewalk that suddenly went from 5 miles to 50 miles an hour and we all felt that "Whoosh" that the ground was moving under our feet—right when that happened, all of our social technologies—the political reform, the regulating, the deregulating—that should have gone with that completely froze because of 2008. We are now living in that dislocation, and a lot of people got dislocated in that gap.
So what actually happened in 2007? What produced this? What produced it is if you take your computer, your computer basically has five key parts: that Moore's Law microchip, it has a storage chip, it has software, it has networking, and it has a sensor—it has a camera that is a proxy for all sensors. In fact, all five of those have been in Moore's Law.
In 2007 they all melded together into this thing we call "the Cloud." But I never use the words "the Cloud" in my book because it sounds so soft, so fluffy, so cuddly. It sounds like a Joni Mitchell song—[singing] "I've looked at clouds from both sides now."
This ain't no cloud, folks. This is what I call in the book a supernova. A supernova is the explosion of a star. It's the largest force in nature. What we have created with the melding of all these in 2007 is actually an incredible release of energy, just like an explosion of a star, and this release of energy into the hands of human beings and machines has changed four kinds of power almost overnight.
- It has changed the power of one, what one person can do now. Oh my god, we have a president-elect who can tweet to hundreds of millions of people around the world directly, without an editor, a libel lawyer, or a filter. I'm not going there. I'm just making a statement of fact. [Laughter] But what's really scary is that the head of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) can do the exact same thing from Raqqa Province. That's when you have a real amplification of individual power.
- It changed the power of machines. Machines now have all five senses. We've never lived in a world of intelligent machines. I wrote about this last week and again quoted my friend Dov Seidman, who said, "Descartes said, 'I think, therefore I am.' But what am I when machines can think better?" This is a deep philosophical and ethical question. That change happened, or we understood the full implications of that change or the power of it, on February 14, 2011, when in, of all places, a game show there were three contestants. The first two were the all-time Jeopardy! champions and the third simply went by his last name, Watson. Mr. Watson passed on the first question. On the second question he buzzed in first and then answered in under 2.5 seconds, beating the two humans, this question: "It's worn on the foot of a horse and used by a dealer in a casino." Watson, in perfect Jeopardy! language, in under 2.5 seconds, said, "What is a shoe?" And for the first time a computer figured out a pun faster than two human beings. The world kind of hasn't been the same since. So it changed the power of one, it changed the power of machines.
- It changed the power of ideas. Ideas now flow and change at a speed we've never seen before. Five years ago, Barack Obama said, "Marriage is between a man and a woman. Sorry." Today, blessedly so, he says, "Marriage is between any two people who love each other" and he will follow Ireland in that opinion. Think how quickly that changed. Dylann Roof, this terrible guy who shot up a black church in South Carolina—in a week the Confederate flag, which had flown over that capital proudly for almost a century, was gone, thanks to Twitter and Facebook. In a week no more Confederate flag. So ideas now whip around and change faster than we've ever seen before.
- And lastly, it has changed the power of many. We now, with our amplified powers, are now a force of and in nature, which is why the new geophysical era is actually being named after us, the Anthropocene, because we are now the biggest force driving climate change.
Now, my argument, again, is that these four changes in power have reshaped—are reshaping—the world and they're reshaping those five realms. Let me just give you a couple of examples and we'll go to questions.
First off, it is reshaping the workplace. I know a lot of you are experiencing that. My chapter on that is called "Turning AI into IA." How do we turn artificial intelligence into intelligent assistance, intelligent assistants, and intelligent algorithms so more people in their work and life can actually live and thrive at a higher pace of change?
In my chapter on intelligent assistance, the example I use is the human resources department at AT&T. I spend a lot of time at AT&T in Dallas. AT&T has 360,000 employees, living right next to the supernova, competing every day with Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint. There's a pretty good chance that what AT&T is doing in its human resources department is going to come to a neighborhood near you.
What is AT&T's human resources strategy? Very simply, they begin every year with Randall Stephenson, their CEO, giving a radically transparent speech about how he sees the world, where he sees AT&T's business going, and what skills you need to be a worker that year at AT&T.
Then they put every AT&T employee on their own in-house LinkedIn system. So they've got Joanne there, and they see that—I'm making up the number—there are ten skills you need to be a worker now at AT&T, and they see that Joanne has seven of them—she's doing well—but she's missing three.
Then they come to Joanne and say, "Joanne, here's the deal. We will give you up to $8,500 a year to take these three courses you're missing. And by the way, if you want to take an archaeology course, we're in for that too. Or if you want to take our online Master's degree we just created with Georgia Tech for $6,000 in computer science, we're in for that too. There's just one condition, Joanne: you have to take these courses on your own time, at home, after work."
Now, Joanne may say, "You know what? I've actually climbed up one too many telephone poles and I just don't want to work here anymore." In which case they now have a wonderful severance package for Joanne, but she will not be working at AT&T anymore.
AT&T's social contract with their employees now is very simple: If Joanne takes those courses, they will promise her that when new jobs open she will get the first crack, they won't go outside. But their message to her is that "If you want to be a lifelong employee now at AT&T, you have to be a lifelong learner. That's the only way now you can be a lifelong employee at AT&T." That is the social contract coming to a neighborhood near you.
Later on in the book I quote a congressman from Minnesota who talked about growing up in Minnesota in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, when you could be a high-school grad and basically get a white-collar or blue-collar job. In fact, they were so prevalent back then, because America so dominated the global economy, he said, "Growing up in Minnesota in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, if you were a white male, you basically needed a plan to fail." You needed a plan to fail because there was such an updraft of work and opportunity. I remember my uncle, my dad's brother, worked as a loan officer in a bank. He only had a high-school degree.
Today you need a plan to succeed, and the plan has to be updated every six months. That's one of the things really driving the angst in our society now.
That's my example of intelligent assistance.
Intelligent assistants: my example is Qualcomm, another company you may never have heard of, or barely. They actually made the inside of your iPhone. That was not actually made by Apple; that was made by Qualcomm. They own all the patents on the inside of your iPhone. They have an amazing 64-building campus in San Diego. I spend a lot of time with them and their founder, Irwin Jacobs, to understand telephonic technology.
Two years ago, just in passing, they mentioned to me one day that they had taken six of their buildings and put sensors on everything—every pipe, every faucet, every sink, every door, window, HVAC system, computer, light bulb. They have everything sensored now. So if something breaks, what they do is they take all that data, they beam it up to the supernova, and then they beam it down onto an iPad for their janitors, with an incredibly simple user interface. So if Joanne's computer breaks or if she leaves her light on or if her faucet breaks, they know immediately. They swipe down and it tells them where to get it repaired or how to repair it themselves.
They have turned their janitors into maintenance technologists. Their janitors now give tours to foreign visitors. Think what that does for the dignity of the janitor that he or she now has an intelligent assistant to help them live at this higher rate of acceleration.
We all know the story. In 11th grade Joanne had to take the PSAT exam to get her ready for the SAT exam so she could get into a good college. Her parents were as neurotic as many of us, so they went out and hired a tutor to goose her scores a little bit in math and verbally. It's okay. We all did it. You don't have to be embarrassed.
A completely rigged game. If you could afford the tutor, you could goose your kid's scores 20 or 30 points. If you didn't even know you could do this, you come from a disadvantaged family or neighborhood, let alone be able to afford $200 an hour for a college student to tutor your kid to goose their PSAT score, you are at an incredible disadvantage. A completely rigged game.
So two years ago Sal Khan from Khan Academy, the online learning platform, partnered with the College Board, which administers the PSAT and SAT exams, and they created a platform for free PSAT and SAT prep. So now Joanne takes the PSAT in 11th grade, and she gets her results back from Khan Academy, and they say, "Joanne, you did well, you got good scores. But you have a problem with fractions and right angles."
It then takes Joanne to a practice site just devoted to fractions and right angles for her precise weakness. It doesn't waste any of her time on all of her strengths. If she does well there, it comes back and says, "Joanne, have you ever heard of AP Math?" Maybe Joanne came from a family or a neighborhood where no one had ever been through AP Math. In 12th grade you could take AP Math. So she signs up, does well.
It takes you to another site with 180 college scholarships and another site where they have partnered with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America to provide coaches for any kid who wants to go through this process. Last year 2 million American kids availed themselves of free PSAT and SAT prep on this platform, on this intelligent algorithm.
Now, I'm going to bet that none of you have heard of any of these things. That's because you were following our election for the last year, and our election will make you stupid [Laughter] because basically Bernie Sanders' big idea of intelligent assistance was to tear down the big banks, Donald Trump's big idea was to tear down Hillary Clinton, and Hillary Clinton's big idea was to send you to her website. But no one was actually telling you about the massive social entrepreneurship innovation going on in the pipeline from education to work. And what I've just given you is a fraction of what I write about in that chapter. There's actually massive innovation going on in communities and companies around this theme.
Let me, because we're here at Carnegie, say a little bit about my chapter on ethics. How is the age of acceleration affecting ethics? That chapter in my book is called "Is God in Cyberspace?" That comes from the best question I ever got on a book tour. In 1999 I'm in Portland, Oregon, at the Portland Theater. I'm selling The Lexus and the Olive Tree.
A man stands up in the balcony at question time and says, "Mr. Friedman, I have a question: Is God in cyberspace?"
I said, "Uh, uh, uh—I have no idea. No one has ever asked me that before." And frankly, I felt like an idiot.
So I went home and I called one of my real spiritual guides, a great Talmudic scholar, Rabbi Tzvi Marx. I got to know him at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem when I was The New York Times correspondent there. He lives in Amsterdam, married to a Dutch priest. A very interesting guy.
I got him in Amsterdam, and I said, "Tzvi, I got a question I've never had before: 'Is God in cyberspace?' What should I have said?"
He said, "Well, Tom, in our faith tradition we actually have two concepts of the Almighty, a Biblical and a post-Biblical concept. The Biblical concept says God is Almighty, He smites evil and rewards good, and if that's your view of God, He sure isn't in cyberspace, which is full of pornography, gambling, cheating, lying, prevarication, and terrible talk"—and now, we know, fake news. "But," he said, "fortunately we have a post-Biblical view of God that says God manifests Himself by how we behave. So if we want God to be in cyberspace, if we want cyberspace to be an ethical realm, we have to bring Him there by how we behave there."
Well, I really liked his answer, and it went on in greater depth. So I put in in the paperback edition of The Lexus and the Olive Tree, where I forgot about it and none of you saw it.
Twenty years later, I'm working on this book, and I suddenly find myself retelling that story. I said, "Why are you retelling that story?" The answer is two reasons.
One I wrote about in my column this morning. It's because our lives have now moved to cyberspace. It's now where we work, where we learn, where we find a date, where we meet a spouse, where we engage with friends and family, where we do commerce. Cyberspace is now where we interact in more and more ways.
There's just one problem: Cyberspace is a realm where we are all connected but no one is in charge. And boy, didn't we learn that in this election! Who do I call if I get hacked, 1-800-Putin-hacked-me-please-stop-him? There are no police, no judge, no courts in cyberspace. Our lives have moved to a realm where we are all connected but no one is in charge. So how do you get ethics in cyberspace? That's one reason I realized I was asking.
The other reason is that in a world of amplified power of machines and humans to this scale, I think we're standing now at a moral intersection we've never stood at before as a species. In 1945 we entered a world where one country could kill all of us. If it had to be one country, I'm glad it was ours. I think we're entering a world now where one person can kill all of us and where all of us could actually fix everything. We have never stood at this intersection before as a species where one of us could kill all of us and all of us could actually feed, house, clothe, and educate every person on the planet with the same powers. We have never stood at an intersection where one of us could kill all of us and all of us could fix everything.
What does that mean? It means we have never been more God-like as a species. And if we are going to be God-like, we all better have the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you wish them to do unto you," because we now live in a world where more people can do unto you and you can do unto others than ever before, and every faith has their version of the Golden Rule, and we better scale it.
Now, I know what you're thinking. I gave this talk as the commencement address at Olin College of Engineering last May. I said to the parents there, "I know what you're thinking: You paid 200 grand so your kid could get an engineering degree, and they brought in a knucklehead commencement speaker who is lecturing about the Golden Rule. Is there anything more naïve? My message is naïveté is the new realism. Because I'll tell you what's really naïve: naïve is thinking we're going to be okay in a world where individuals and machines get this empowered and we are this interdependent without everyone getting the Golden Rule."
So where does the Golden Rule come from? How does it scale? I think it comes from two places primarily, strong families and healthy communities. That's where you learn to do unto others as you wish them to do unto you.
I'm not an expert on strong families. I hope I've built one, but I never presume to lecture anyone on that subject. But I am an expert, as Joanne is, on healthy communities, because I grew up in one, this small town in Minnesota called St. Louis Park outside of Minneapolis. The last two chapters are about this community and what I learned growing up there.
The short story is the Jews in Minneapolis all lived in a ghetto on the north side with African Americans, not because there was integration but because we were both stuck there. Minneapolis was the capital of anti-Semitism—my parents couldn't join AAA (American Automobile Association), for instance, until Hubert Humphrey became mayor and he cleaned it out of city government. A big hero in our house.
In the 1950s, after the war, the boys come home, and Jews all escape the north side of Minneapolis in one mass migration in three years, between roughly 1953 and 1956. I was born in 1953. My parents were part of that migration. They all moved to one suburb, the only one that didn't have restricted covenants and had enough housing stock, and that was this place called St. Louis Park. My uncle and aunt moved on one side of us and my other uncle moved on the other side of us. We all moved together. So a suburb that had been 100 percent Protestant/Catholic/Scandinavian overnight became 20 percent Jewish and 80 percent Protestant/Catholic/Scandinavian. If Sweden and Israel had a baby, it would be St. Louis Park. [Laughter]
We suddenly had this experiment in pluralism and inclusion, where we—the Jews of the northern tundra who called ourselves "The Frozen Chosen"—we and the Scandinavians all had an experiment in how you build an inclusive community. And it was pretty interesting, and we got to know each other, and there were crushes and friendships and broken things and broken bones and whatnot. But over a period of 30 years we built a pretty remarkable community.
I went to high school or I went to Hebrew school or religious school or lived in the same neighborhood with the Coen brothers, Al Franken, Norman Ornstein, Michael Sandel, Peggy Ornstein, Alan Weisman, Dan Wilson who co-wrote "Someone Like You" with Adele; the Hautman brothers, the great stamp artists who won the National Book Award. We all went to the same high school. We all grew up in the same neighborhood. This is not a neighborhood in the Upper West Side of New York. This is a one-high-school town in Minnesota.
The Coen Brothers' movie A Serious Man was about our neighborhood. If you go watch No Country for Old Men, you remember the scene where Chigurh breaks into a car and blows it up outside of a pharmacy in Mexico so he can go in and steal drugs? If you look, the camera pans to the pharmacy. It's called "Mike Zoss Pharmacy." That was our local drugstore in St. Louis Park. The Coen brothers are always putting homages to St. Louis Park in their movies.
So it was a pretty interesting place and we all were affected by it. Sandel's communitarianism, my own centrist politics, the Coen Brothers' own art, Al Franken, Ornstein—we all took a little bit of Minnesota and we took it out into the world in our own form of civic engagement.
It's a unique place. I tell the story when I went back home for a wedding a couple years ago when I was working on the book. A dear childhood friend of mine, Jay Goldberg, came to the wedding. Jay said his wife, Ilene—we all grew up together—had been driving on 494, the ring road around Minneapolis, and a guy almost drove her off the road. She came home and said, "Jay, I was so mad I almost honked!"—which is the Minnesotan definition of road rage [Laughter] —"I was so mad I almost honked!"
There was a Jewish Mafia in Minneapolis when I grew up. My dad grew up with a lot of these guys. He was not in the mafia, but he knew a lot of them. When I was very young—I tell this story—when I was four or five, one of my dad's friends got thrown in jail, in prison. I just thought that was like Holy mackerel! My dad knows someone in prison! So I came to him and I said, "Dad, what did he do?" In answering—again, I was a very young boy, but I never forgot it—he said, "Son, he was shopping in a store before it was open." [Laughter] There has never been a better euphemism for breaking and entering. It was so powerful I never forgot it.
Anyway, I tell the whole story of St. Louis Park. And what was the secret to its sauce? Its secret to its sauce was the combination of leadership and trust.
Again to quote Dov Seidman, "Trust is the only legal performance-enhancing drug. Where there is trust there is a hard floor; you can jump so high as a basketball player off a hard floor. Where there is no trust you can't jump anywhere at all." What was the secret to St. Louis Park was they had amazing leaders—rather ordinary people, but amazing in their own way—who generated a lot of communal trust, and that trust fed back on the leaders so they could create an incredibly progressive high school.
I came back 40 years later. I left St. Louis Park in 1971 to discover the world, and I came back 40 years later and found the world had discovered St. Louis Park. Now my high school is 50 percent white Protestant/Catholic/Scandinavian, 10 percent Jewish, 10 percent Hispanic, and 30 percent Somali and African American. The same suburb that took the Jews took the Somalis, with the same sort of progressive impulse. Now the inclusion challenge is so much deeper and wider, religiously and racially. But ain't that the story of America and ain't that the story of the world? And now my little suburb is really a microcosm of the challenge of the world.
I tell the story of how they're doing—and they're doing pretty well. The Washington Post rated St. Louis Park High School the fifth-best high school in the State of Minnesota, with a completely different demographic. I tell the whole story of how these people are now getting to know each other. It's a remarkable story.
It's got its problems—in fact, it's got a lot of problems—and I say in the book I don't know if they're going to make it the way we made it with a bunch of white Judeo-Christians 40 years ago. But there are sure a lot of people who want to get caught trying. That's the source of my optimism.
My friend Amory Lovins, a great physicist who helped me on the science part of this book, said to me one day, "You know, people ask me, Tom, whether I'm an optimist or a pessimist, and I always tell them I'm neither, because they are actually just two different forms of fatalism—everything will be great; everything will be awful." Amory said, "I believe in applied hope." I love that phrase because I believe in applied hope. What I've seen in places like St. Louis Park—and it is not alone—is a lot of people applying hope, and that is the source of my optimism.
So my book and my talk end with my book's theme song. I explored whether I could buy this song so when you opened the book it would play this song like a Hallmark card plays "Happy Birthday." The song is by one of my favorite singers, Brandi Carlile. She's a great country-folk singer. I believe it's the anthem of our time. The song is called "The Eye." The main refrain is:
I wrapped your love around me like a chain
But I never was afraid that it would die
You can dance in a hurricane
But only if you're standing in the eye
I believe my three accelerations are like a hurricane. I believe we have a politician who is about to take over our country who wants to build a wall against the hurricane. I think you have to build an eye. The eye is the healthy community. It moves with the storm, draws energy from it, but creates a platform of dynamic stability within it where people can feel protected, respected, and connected. And I believe the great struggle in America, and I think across the whole industrial world, in the coming years is going to be between the wall people and the eye people, and my book is a manifesto for the eye people.
Thank you very much.
QUESTION: Thank you. James Starkman. That was a wonderful talk.
As a firm believer in Moore's Law and being on an intimate basis with Watson, I would just ask two questions, one of which is a phrase: When was the last time that the Minnesota Golden Gophers played in the Rose Bowl? And second, when would you project, or Watson would project, that they might play again in the Rose Bowl?
QUESTION: Warren Hoge.
Tom, as New York Times guys, we are both guilty of being members of the mainstream media. One of the things that has happened with great velocity in the context of what you have been talking about has been the discreditation, the disparagement, of the mainstream media, but discreditation of fact-based analysis. What can we, as members of the mainstream media, do to regain the trust of viewers and readers?
THOMAS FRIEDMAN: That's a really good question. You know, like you, Warren, I think and worry about this every day. One of the things I question is, did we lose it or was it stolen from us? I don't think The New York Times operates any differently from when you were foreign editor and I was out there in the Middle East for you.
I think what's new is that we have an anger industry. I think the biggest industry in America over the last eight years was the anger industry that deliberately made people angry and stupid.
I got an email this morning from a friend of mine who said: "Shame on The New York Times for putting those Donald Trump allegations about misbehavior in Russia on the front page. Shame on you. These are just unsubstantiated allegations."
I, very calmly, said to this guy, "Well, first of all, it's on the front page of The Wall Street Journal and every other newspaper in the world. The fact is we've known about this for two weeks. We didn't publish it because it was an unsubstantiated allegation. The story that we reported was that our three intelligence chiefs informed Trump and Obama about this. Now, if that isn't news I don't know what is. Are we supposed to ignore that? But it gets immediately politicized as 'You New York Times guys spreading evil rumors about Donald Trump,' as if we're the only ones in the world who did it. So I've known about this story personally for two weeks. I didn't do anything with it because I couldn't substantiate it. I thought it may never come out. But what came out was the fact that our intelligence chiefs, as you know, did this, and we of course had to report that."
So I think there is a real anger industry in this country. And now, because of the Internet, it is very loud. So that's a real challenge.
And then, to conflate, if we get a story wrong, people say "fake news." No. We get things wrong, and when we get them wrong, as you know, we correct them the best we can. We're not out there generating deliberate lies to make money. So I think you have to start there.
The second point is that—look, Mark Zuckerberg, when this fake news story came out, said, "That's crazy. It didn't affect the election. It's kind of nuts to say we have anything to do with fake news." To which I said in my column this morning, "Let's see, Mark, you want all The New York Times readers, you want all The New York Times advertisers, but you want none of The New York Times editors like Warren Hoge. You don't want to pay them. You want to actually use an algorithm."
Well, if you go to my column today, you'll see comments next to it, hundreds of them I'm sure by the end of the day. There's actually a human being watching those comments. If someone says a bad word or something false, they'll take it down. I tell the story in my book about how YouTube was running Miller Beer ads on ISIS videos. Of course, YouTube didn't decide one day to run Miller Beer ads on ISIS videos. The algorithm was doing it. And Google depends on its viewers to report things. But if they don't report things, guess what? That's when Uber does surge pricing in the middle of a terrorist attack in Sydney. Well, they didn't decide to do surge pricing when everyone wanted to get out of the central city. The algorithm did it.
So we're letting algorithms make moral judgments that human beings normally should do. So that's another strain.
But I think the third and most important thing we can do, Warren—it's a long-term project—is we have to teach digital civics to every kindergartener now. We have to teach them, first of all, how to behave and speak on the Internet, that just because it's free doesn't mean you can slander or slur people or friends. But, most importantly, we have to teach them how to think—this is not my idea; it's a Stanford professor—how to think horizontally, not vertically, that you can't just read something on the Internet. Because the Internet is an open sewer of untreated, unfiltered information, you have to move horizontally: "Oh okay, the Internet says this; let me check that here, let me check that there." We have to digitally train now our young people in order to understand how to read unfiltered news.
I think this has to start at kindergarten, and we need digital civics. The Stanford study I quoted is horrifying because it's based on Stanford students. They gave them things like a story, one of these native news stories, that was written by a banker about the banking industry, and they asked them, "What was wrong with this story?" Not a single one of them said, "God, it was written by a banker about the banking industry."
So we have a real problem. And we're just at the beginning of this, and it is going to require massive education. I think that's the only way.
But also pushback. When Kellyanne Conway says, "You in the media, don't just listen to what Donald Trump says; you have to look into his heart to understand that when he makes fun of someone with a mental incapacity, you have to understand in his heart he was really just trying to be kind to him." You have to understand this is our next minister of propaganda. The president's spokesperson actually said that with a straight face.
So unless journalists are really right on it—first, we were told that we took Trump literally while other people just took him figuratively—stupid us, we took what he said seriously. Now we're told, "Don't even take it figuratively; you have to look into his heart to understand it."
These are signs of the Apocalypse. This is sheer madness. But that's what we've got coming. So I think we really have to push back.
And we have to be proud of what we do. I'm not on the defensive about what I do. If I make mistakes, I try to correct them. But we have to really defend what we do and not be in a crouch from these people.
Thank you for the question.
QUESTION: Hi. Thanks for your talk. Susan Ball.
What role does emotion play in any of this forward-looking place?
THOMAS FRIEDMAN: That's a good question.
I wrote a column last week, again I'll repeat, with my friend Dov Seidman, about where I think work is going to come from in the age of intelligent machines. The basic argument was that we are going from a world where first we worked with our hands, then we worked with our heads, and next we'll work with our hearts, because hearts are the one thing machines can never have. They don't and can never have.
I think the biggest jobs, the best-paying jobs, in the future will be what I call in the book STEMpathy jobs that combine STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) skills with human empathy. I think that's going to be the next great growth industry.
I tell the story of the fastest-growing restaurant chain in America in 2015, which was called Paint Nite. It's basically paint-by-numbers for adults in bars. Who ever thought there would be a career doing paint-by-numbers for adults in bars? Well, it turns out one of my very favorite quotes from an interview in the book is with our surgeon general, Vivek Murthy, who's a wonderful guy, an amazing guy, an Indian-American. We were talking about disease in America. I was asking him what's the most prevalent disease in America; is it heart disease, diabetes, or cancer? He said, "It's none of those. It's actually isolation." So think about that. We live in the most connected age in history, and the surgeon general of the United States says the most prevalent disease in the country is people feeling isolated and depressed.
I think connecting people in a human and humane way is going to be a huge industry. I'm really old-fashioned in many ways, and the book is a celebration of everything old and slow. The theme of the book is that what really matters today are all the things you can't download. It's all the things you have to upload the old-fashioned way, one human being to another. That really is the über-theme of the book.
Again, I was driving in my car listening to Sirius Radio yesterday. I'm so old that I listen to the station called The Coffee House, which is acoustic guitar folk music—which is, by the way, where I heard the Brandi Carlile song, and pulled over to the side of the road, I was so taken by it, just to make sure I got the name of the artist.
I was listening to Sting doing a performance of his song "Message in a Bottle." Because it was acoustic guitar and his voice, I could actually hear the words for once. There's a wonderful voice in there. He says, "I discovered I wasn't alone and feeling alone."
I think there are a lot of people who are alone and feeling alone. I think it's going to be huge. Especially when my Baby Boomer generation retires, the amount of connecting of hearts to hearts that we're going to need is going to be huge.
JOANNE MYERS: I have to thank you for not only being—I don't think you're old, I don't think you're slow, but I think you're thinking very fast on your feet. I thank you so much. It was just a wonderful morning.
THOMAS FRIEDMAN: Thank you, Joanne. Thank you very much.