How the World Went From Flat to Fast – 2019 AT&T Business Summit

How the World Went From Flat to Fast – 2019 AT&T Business Summit


[MUSIC PLAYING] Morning, Kate. Thank you very much. Great to be with you
all this morning. You know, we’re living
through an incredibly complex and confusing time. And when people ask me what
I do for a living I tell them I’m actually a translator
from English to English. That’s really what I try to do. I try to take complex
subjects that I don’t understand and break them
down so others can understand. I really believe in the
dictum of Marie Curie that “now is the
time to understand more so we may fear less.” Unfortunately, a lot of
people are in the business these days of making us afraid. What I’m going to try to
do in the next half hour is share with you how I
look at the world today. What’s the lens through which
I try to navigate and make sense of things? I begin with something
that my teacher Lynne Wells likes to say, which today,
it’s vital that you never think in the box. You never think out of the box. Today, you have to
think without a box. And what I want to
do is share with you what that means for me. When I look at the
world today, what I think is the biggest framing
explanation system that I can employ is I think we’re actually
going through three climate changes at once. We’re going through three
climate changes driven by nonlinear accelerations in
what I call the market, which is globalization, Mother
Nature, which is climate, and Moore’s Law
which is technology. So we’re going through a
climate change in the climate. We’re going from what
I call later to now. So when I was growing up in
Minnesota in the ’50s and ’60s, later was when I could clean
that river, purify that lake, rescue that orangutan. I can do it now,
I can do it later. Today, later is officially over. Whatever you’re going to
save, please save it now. That’s a climate change. We’re going through a change in
the climate of globalization. We’re going from an
interconnected world to an interdependent world. Oh, that’s a very
different world. In an interdependent
world, first of all, your friends can kill you
faster than your enemies. If Greek and Italian banks
had gone under last night, AT&T probably would’ve
called me and said, Tom, we’ve had to cancel the meeting. I say, wha– Gree– Gree– Gree-
Greece, their allies. They’re in NATO. They’re in the EU. But in an interdependent
world, they’re melting down can deeply harm us. In an interdependent world,
your rival falling actually becomes more dangerous
than your rival rising. Had China seized six more
islands in the South China Sea last night, don’t tell anybody,
personally, couldn’t care less. Had China lost 6% growth last
night, oh, baby, this meeting would be canceled. China falling is much more
dangerous to us than China rising in the
interdependent world. That’s a climate change. And lastly, we’re going
through a climate change in business and technology. And the way I describe
that climate change is by pointing out how the
world is basically gone from flat to fast to smart to
deep in just the last 20 years. So what do I mean? Basically, technology
moves up in steps, and every step tends to be
biased toward a certain set of capabilities. And around the year 2000,
a set of capabilities came together that were
biased toward connectivity, toward connectivity. And that was because
of the dot-com boom, bubble and bust collapsed the
price of fiber optic cable, and we accidentally
wired the world. Honey, I didn’t mean to,
but I shrunk the world. And AT&T was actually
in the middle of that. And suddenly, we woke
up around the year 2000 and discovered that
we could touch people whom we could
never touch before, and we could be
touched by people who could never touch us before. I called my mom
back in Minneapolis, my 80-year-old mother back then. She said I was interrupting her
because she was playing bridge on the internet with
someone in Siberia. Suddenly, I could touch people
and be touched like never before, because connectivity
had become fast, virtually free, easy for you, and ubiquitous. And I actually came along
and gave that moment a name. I said it feels like
the world is flat. Around 2007, with the birth
of the iPhone, Facebook, AT&T, the cloud, we took
another step up. That step was biased
toward complexity. It was actually biased toward
abstracting complexity. It was driven by another price
collapse and acceleration, a collapse in the price
of compute and storage, and a massive acceleration
in their capabilities. Suddenly we could abstract
so much complexity from so many different things. We could take sand
out of the gears and put grease in instead. And suddenly now with one
touch, with one little touch, I could page a taxi, direct a
taxi, pay a taxi, rate a taxi, and be rated by a taxi with
one little touch on my iPhone. We abstracted massive
amounts of complexity, and the world got fast,
because complexity became fast, virtually free,
easy for you, and invisible. Well, I would argue around
2015, another step up. And this step up was
based on the collapse in the price of sensing and
another massive acceleration in compute and storage which
created the opportunity for more powerful algorithms
around artificial intelligence and machine learning– around 2015 or so. Suddenly now with no touch, my
cell phone buzzed this morning and said you’re speaking
at AT&T in 55 minutes and you’re 54 minutes away,
so you better get going. With the dispersion of
sensors, we could now put intelligence everywhere. And we had put it so
much so, so diffused that that intelligence
was tracking where I was, where I was going, my
calendar, and now pushing it to me with no touch, So where are we today? Well, when the world goes
from flat to fast to smart, what it starts to do is go deep. So my wife is actually
building a word language museum in Washington DC. It’s called Planet Word. She’s a word person. AT&T’s actually one of
her biggest supporters. Were so grateful for that. And she likes to come home
at the end of every year and tell me, guess what
the word of the year is? Because the online dictionaries
now can track the most looked up word. And last year, the most looked
up word in Webster’s Merriam was “deep–” sorry, was,
excuse me, was “justice.” More people looked up the
meaning of justice last year than any other word,
kind of interesting. Well, I told my wife,
and I’ve already given you a clue,
that I can tell you what the word of the year is for
2019, and that word is “deep.” Have you noticed how we’re
applying the word deep to everything these days– deep state, deep faith, deep
surveillance, deep mind, deep research, deep
medicine, deep climate. We’re putting this adjective
“deep” on everything. And the reason we
are is that we intuit that when the world starts
going from flat to fast to smart and keeps accelerating,
it starts going deep. We’re now able to touch
things, to find things, to analyze things,
to remediate things with a precision that
just five years ago was thought of as science fiction. We are going deep, and it’s even
entered the popular culture. You may have noticed the
song that won the Academy Award last year
for Best Song was by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper,
and it was called Shallow. But think of what
the verses were. “I’m off the deep end. Watch as I dive in. I’ll never reach the shore,
crash to the surface where they can’t hurt us. We’re far from the shallow now. Oh, baby, we are far
from the shallow now.” Now, if you want to
know what’s going on between the US
and China today, it’s actually all about deep. You see, for 30 years, we
could sell China deep goods– technology,
software, computing– and they only sold
us shallow goods– things we could wear on
our back, on our feet, on our ankles, solar panels
we affixed on our roofs. They sold us shallow stuff,
and we sold them deep stuff. But now today, China can make
deep stuff like 5G by Huawei. And they’re coming to us and
saying we want to sell you our deep stuff, stuff that
goes into your sidewalk, into the walls of your house,
into the bot in your bedroom. And we’re saying
no, no, no, no, no. We don’t have a shared
trust and value framework to buy your deep stuff. And that’s why this US-China
trade deal is not going away. It’s really deep. So what happens when you’re in
three climate changes at once? What is it you want as
a business, as a parent, as a community, as an educator? What you want are
basically two things. You want resilience. You need to be able
to take a blow, because stuff happens
when the climate changes. But you also want propulsion. You want to be moving ahead. You don’t want
someone saying to you, I’m hiding under the table, Tom. Come out. The climate change is over. So we want resilience
and propulsion. That’s what every parent,
community, educator, and business is
searching for today. Because you’re in the
middle of multiple climate changes, and they’re
just getting faster. Well, then I
thought, well, who do I go to for advice on how you
get resilience and propulsion when the climate changes? And then I realized
I knew this woman. She was 3.8 billion years old. Her name was Mother Nature,
and she dealt with more climate changes than anybody. So I called her up,
made an appointment, went out to see her. I said, Mother
Nature, how do you build resilience and propulsion
when the climate changes? She said, well, Tom,
I got to tell you, everything I do I
do unconsciously, but these are my strategies. First, she said, I am
incredibly adaptive. You see, in my world, Tom, it’s
not the smartest that survive, it’s not the strongest
that survive, it’s actually the most
adaptive that survive. And I teach that lesson
through a process I call natural selection. You may have heard of it. Secondly, she said, I am
incredibly entrepreneurial. Wherever I see a
blank space in nature, I fill it with a plant or
animal perfectly adapted to that niche. I’m incredibly entrepreneurial. Third, she said, I’m
incredibly pluralistic. Oh, Tom, she said, I’m the
most pluralistic person you’ve ever met. I try 20 different
species of everything. I see what comes
out, see who wins. And she told me
something interesting. She told me she noticed that
her most diverse ecosystems are also her most resilient
and propulsive ecosystems. I love diversity, she said. First, she said, I’m incredibly
high bred and heterodox in how I think about the world. Nothing dogmatic about me. I’m always experimenting. And I’ll try any
trees with any soils, any bees with any flowers. Fifth, she said, I’m
completely open-source. I let everyone in my systems
fork off wherever they want to discover something new. Seventh, she said, I notice
my healthiest ecosystems all network together and create
complex adaptive networks to maximize their
resilience and propulsion. And lastly, she
told me, Tom, I do believe in the
laws of bankruptcy. I kill all my
failures, I return them to the great
manufacturer in the sky, and I take their energy
to nourish my successes. Well, I’m here to tell you today
that the company, the country, the university, the community
that most closely mirrors Mother Nature’s strategies
for building resilience and propulsion when
the climate changes is the one that’s
going to thrive in this age of three
accelerating climate changes at once. So what does that mean
for different realms? Let’s look at a few. Let’s look at, first of
all, the realm of politics. Well, you may have noticed
that every political party in the world has basically
blown up in the last five years. They’re all blowing up. The American parties are
completely transformed in the last five years. Britain’s two governing parties
have completely blown up. France is ruled by a
man who is actually a president with no party. He’s got an opposition
with no leader. OK, all of these industrial
parties are blowing up. Why is that? Why is it? It’s because they
are actually built around a set of five very
stable binary choices that have been in place for 50
years when the world was slow pre these accelerating
climate changes. And those binary
choices were capital versus labor, big government
versus small government, open to trade, closed to
trade, open to immigrants, closed to immigrants,
embracing of new social norms– transgender rights, gay
marriage– not embracing, and green versus growth. And every party in
the industrial world just lined up on one
side or the other. And then came my age
of accelerations, and it completely
blew up the list. Let’s imagine I am a
steelworker today in Pittsburgh, and I belong to the steel union. Monday to Friday,
I’m with labor, baby. I’m with Bernie. I got the Bern Monday to Friday. I got the Bern. But on Saturday,
I drive for Uber to pick up a little spare cash. And on Sunday, I rent out my
kid’s spare bedroom on Airbnb before I go shopping
at Walmart to buy the cheapest-made
Chinese goods I can find. And what I can’t find
there I get on Amazon.com On Sunday, baby,
I’m with capital. I’m a total deregulation guy. Which party am I in? Which party am I in? These parties, people
often call me a centrist. It’s usually said with a sneer. You’re a centrist. And I say, well,
that actually implies that I am mush between
your right and left polls. I’m actually not a centrist. I’m not on your grid. I’m on a completely
different grid. I’m on Mother Nature’s grid. That’s why in my last book,
Thank You For Being Late, I actually imagined what
if Mother Nature had run against Hillary Clinton
and Donald Trump in 2016, and I created Mother
Nature’s political party. And I tell you, friends,
were in a transition to have a completely different
kind of political party all across the
Western world, one that mirrors Mother
Nature’s goals of resilience and propulsion, not this
traditional right/left list. You can see this, of
course, in other realms, how Mother Nature’s rules apply. Let’s talk about business today. If you want to have
resilience and propulsion in the world of business, it’s
very clear what you need to do. You need to sensorize. You need to capture all the
data around your business. You need to be able to analyze
that data using cutting-edge AI to see patterns, to see needles
in haystacks that were never apparent before. You then need to be able
to optimize off that data. You then need to
prophesize off that data. You’ve seen the IBM Watson ad
for the elevator repair man. Shows up at a
high-rise building. Tells the doormen, I’m
here to fix the elevator. Doorman says, sorry, the
elevator’s not broken. IBM repairman says,
I know, but it will be in six weeks and three days. You need to be
able to prophesize. You need to be able to customize
just for guys with brown eyes and a mustache from Minnesota. You need to be able to localize. You need to be able to
digitize and automatize new jobs, products, and
services at a constant pace. If you are not doing
that, you will never be resilient and propulsive
as a business today. Because I’m a big believer–
whatever can be done will be done. That’s why I’m always
focused on the technology. Whatever can be
done will be done. And the only question
for your business is will it be done
by you or to you by a bad guy or a competitor? And they’re both early adopters. That’s the challenge of managing
the climate change in business. There’s a challenge of
managing the climate change in education. Because when we’re in the middle
of multiple climate changes at once, we need two
new radical reforms. We need, first of all,
lifelong learning. The only– one of my teachers
Heather McGowan likes to say to me, Tom, never
ask your kids today what you want to be
when you grow up, because whatever it is,
not going to be here. Only ask your kids how you
want to be when you grow up. Will you be predisposed
to be a lifelong learner? Because other than
policemen or firemen, pretty much every job is going
to be constantly in play. And it is only your
willingness and inspiration to be a lifelong
learner that will be your single most important
competitive advantage. And at the same time, again, if
I were applying Mother Nature’s politics, if I were running
for president right now, what would be my
number one thing? It would be radically
incentivizing companies to go back into the
education business, to be educating their workers,
to be constantly investing in their workers. Because who knows better
where the cutting-edge of your business is and what
are the cutting-edge skills than businesses themselves? I’d actually be working
on education for all all the time, not Medicare for all. That would be my priority. That’s how businesses are
going to be resilient. What about government? What about government? Well, we talked about
politics, but what about actual governance? You see, the people who run the
College Board, the people who do the PSAT and SAT exams, they
actually got onto something a couple of years ago. They said, well, they’re
many things every high school student should
know, all your kids. But they decided they’re are
two things every high school student should know– two codes, and so they
created two new SAT 2s– how to code a computer, and the
code of the US Constitution. And they think those two
should actually go together. And I would tell you
that Mark Zuckerberg is exhibit A of someone who
took the first course and not the second. And you see, we have a
big problem with that. Because when the world goes deep
at this pace, what’s going on is that technology is going
deeper, deeper, and deeper into your life at the
pace of Moore’s Law. But our ability to
govern that technology with the right norms, ethics,
standards, and regulations is operating at the
pace of human biology, and there’s a complete
mismatch in those. So technology is going so
much deeper into your life than our governing systems can
generate the ability to govern them with the right norms. And that’s why you get Senator
Orrin Hatch questioning Mark Zuckerberg and asking him,
Mr. Zuckerberg, if you give your product away for
free, how do you make money? And Mr. Zuckerberg,
stifling a laugh, said, Senator, we sell ads. If that’s where the regulator
is and the technology is going that deep, we
live in a huge mismatch. So how do you get resilience
and propulsion in governance? You’ve got to approach it in
a completely different way. I call it quantum government. OK? It isn’t binary. It doesn’t exist in just
a one-and-a-zero state. We are going to have to
actually create a system where businesses partner
with govern to write the regulations in real time. That’s the only way
government can keep up with this ethical
challenge we face today. So let me end with
that ethical challenge, because we have a
ethics challenge with all these climate
change that is radically new. I started thinking about
this many years ago. In 1999, I was in
Portland, Oregon, talking about my book,
Lexus and the Olive Tree in the Portland theater. And a young man at question
time raised his hand from the far balcony. He said, Mr. Friedman,
I have a question. Is God in cyberspace? Is God in cyberspace? I said, ah– ah– ah– I have no idea. Felt like an idiot I got home. I called my spiritual teacher. He’s a rabbi I got to know
when I was the New York Times Correspondent in Jerusalem
named [INAUDIBLE],, brilliant Talmudic scholar,
now lives in Amsterdam, married to a Dutch priest,
interesting character. I tracked him down in Amsterdam. I said, [INAUDIBLE],, I got a
question I’ve never had before. Is God in cyberspace? What should I have said? He said, well, Tom and
our faith community, we actually have two
concepts of the Almighty– a biblical concept and
a post-biblical concept. The biblical concept says the
Almighty is, uh, 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 people smearing one another on Twitter, and now fake news. But fortunately, he said,
we have a post-biblical view of God. And the post-biblical
view of God says God manifests
himself by how we behave. If we want God to
be in cyberspace, we have to bring him there
by how we behave there. Only we can bring
God into cyberspace. Really liked his answer,
put it into the paperback edition of Lexus and the
Olive Tree in the year 2000 where none of you saw it,
and it sat there for 16 years. Anyways, I started
writing my new book Thank You For Being Late, and I found
myself spontaneously retelling that story. And I finally sat myself down. I said, why are you
retelling that story? And the answer became
quickly apparent to me. It was for two reasons,
and one just happened. The one that just happened is
that in the developed world, we are now living 51% of
our lives in cyberspace. Yeah, that’s where you
find a date, find a spouse, buy a house, buy a car, get
a mortgage, do your banking, do your brokerage, get your
news, generate your news, buy a book, write a book. You’re living now 51% of
your life in cyberspace. And what’s my definition
of cyberspace? It’s a realm where
we’re all connected, and no one’s in charge. It’s a realm where
we’re all connected, and no one’s in charge. There are no police
in cyberspace, no editors, no courts, no
stoplights, no stop signs, no 1 800 please stop Putin
from hacking my election. But that’s where you’re
living 51% of your life. You’re living 51% of
your life in a realm that is fundamentally God free. At the same time, because of
these incredible accelerations and globalization of
technology, we are now standing, we, the human species, at a
moral intersection none of us has ever stood at before. In 1945, we entered a
world where one country could kill all of us. If it had to be one country,
I prefer it be mine. I think in this age
of acceleration, we’re entering a world where
one person can kill all of us, and at the same
time, where all of us could actually fix everything. We’ve actually never
been here before. We are entering a world where
one of us can kill all of us. And all of us, if we
put our minds to it, we now have the tools and
accelerating even more powerful ones that could feed,
house, clothe, and educate every person on the planet. We’ve never been here
before where one of us could kill all of us, and all
of us could fix everything. Well, put those two together. We’ve never lived
more of our life in a realm that is God
free and we have never been more Godlike. What does that mean? It means if we want true
resilience and propulsion in the world we’re
going into, everyone needs to be in the embrace
of sustainable values, at a minimum the Golden
Rule– do unto others as you wish them to do
unto you, as you’ve never lived in a world where
more people can now do unto you farther, faster,
deeper, cheaper than ever before, and you can do unto
others farther, faster, deeper, cheaper than ever before. Everyone needs to be in the
embrace of the Golden Rule, and every faith in culture
has their version of it. I know what you’re thinking. I know what you’re thinking. I gave this part of my talk
as the commencement address at Olin College of
Engineering a few years ago. And I said to the parents there,
I know what you’re thinking. You paid $200,000 so your
kid could get an engineering degree. And who do they bring in as
the commencement speaker? But a knucklehead
promoting the Golden Rule. Is there anything more naive? And what I’m here to
tell you, folks, is in this age of multiple
accelerating climate changes, naivete is the new realism. Because I’ll tell you
what’s really naive– thinking we’re going
to be OK in a world that it’s this super
empowered and interdependent if everyone is not in the
embrace of the Golden Rule. Where do we learn that? We learned it in strong families
and healthy communities, which is why my book
ends on community. Don’t have time to
get into it now. I’ll just conclude, as my book
concludes, with my theme song. I have a theme song. When I wrote my
book, I’d checked if I could buy the song, so
when you open the book up, it would play this
song like a hallmark card plays Happy Birthday. The song is by one of
my favorite singers. Her name is Brandi Carlile. Her song is called The Eye. The Eye– E-Y-E. And
I believe that song is the anthem of our time. 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. You can dance in a
hurricane, but only if you’re standing in the eye.” My three climate change,
folks, they’re a hurricane. We have leaders
all over the world trying to build a
wall to the hurricane. I’m actually trying
to build an eye– an eye that moves with the
storm, draws energy from it, but creates a platform
of dynamic stability, like riding a bike,
where people can feel connected,
protected, and respected, and both resilient
and propulsive. That is the healthy,
governed, ethical community. And I believe the great struggle
in our world going forward is going to be between the
wall people and the eye people. And my book and my
talk is a manifesto on behalf of the eye people. Thank you very much. [APPLAUSE] [MUSIC PLAYING]

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