Professor Column

Like groundhogs in winter, mathematicians like me, come out of our underground world only to see if the weather is good. And since mathematicians are sometimes surprised by what normal people see as good weather, I duck back underground if things don’t feel as comfortable as they do in my cozy underground world of equations, statistics (I teach statistics at Castleton and Champlain), graphs, correlations, web pages, computers, algorithms and calculations.

Figuratively speaking, I poked my head out and actually bought a non-math book called The World is Flat, A Brief History of the 21st Century by Thomas L. Friedman, a book about globalization, information technology, e-commerce, education or our children’s future.

I bought the audio-book version 2.0 because I drive 75 miles to and from Castleton every Tuesday and Thursday and wanted to listen to something other than Don Imus or love songs. And there are only so many times per hour that I need NPR to update my on current news.

This book is FANTASTIC! I think colleges could teach an entire 3 credit class around this book. The title comes from the common business phrase, “level the playing field” which refers to “remove obstacles so businesses can more freely compete with each other.”

When Friedman says “the world is flat,” he means that the United States and Europe now have to compete with India, China and Eastern Europe.

Here is my synopsis of the first few chapters of the book, namely the 10 things that have made the world flatter (more competitive).

* 11/9/89 Berlin Wall falls! Free markets win!

* 8/9/95 Netscape goes public! Open standard network protocols ftp, http, ssl, smtp, pop, tcp/ip. Dot com boom fuels wiring the world.

* Work flow software. XML, SOAP and Business applications software allow dis-aggregation and re-aggregation of business processes.

* Open-sourcing. Apache, shareware for web servers technology, is developed and widely used.

* Out-sourcing. Y2k Programmers in India do the work.

* Offshoring. China joins the WTO. Labor is cheaper outside the U.S.

* Supply Chaining. WalMart’s example.

* In-sourcing. UPS as an example.

* Informing. Search Engines; Google, Yahoo, MSN web search.

* The Steroids of IT. Digital, mobile, wireless, personal and virtual speeds everything and makes everyone a participant in the global marketplace.

If you’re interested, here are a couple of links to get you to this book.

Enjoy! I’m going back to my equations now.

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