Fans of Thomas Friedman will be happy to know that he’s back with another comprehensive look at the world’s trends and troubles. In Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations, Friedman, longtime New York Times columnist and author of six previous books, returns to the forces of globalization, climate change and technology. These are themes he’s covered before, but in this book he explains that we’re living in an age of simultaneous accelerations—ever-faster changes in climate, globalization and technology—that affect different parts of the world differently. These accelerations work together, Friedman argues, to create effects as disparate as an intelligent electrical grid that makes wind power viable, vast waves of migration out of overpopulated regions of Africa, and the political rise of Donald Trump.
Drawing on interviews with academics, CEOs, Silicon Valley innovators and other experts, as well as quotations from books, magazines and TV interviews, Friedman distills complicated concepts, using catchphrases and analogies to underscore his points; for instance, he refers to the amplifying effect of the computing cloud as “the supernova.” While the mix of sources and quoted passages can occasionally make for jumpy reading, Friedman’s informal style keeps the reader engaged.
The accelerations that Friedman describes are worrisome indeed, especially climate change and “the world of disorder,” his phrase for an increasing number of disintegrating nations. As to solutions, Friedman goes in two directions: He makes recommendations based on Mother Nature (be adaptive, embrace diversity, build ownership culture). He also returns to his hometown of St. Louis Park, Minnesota, a Minneapolis suburb that produced an unusual number of writers, thinkers, and creatives, among them Joel and Ethan Coen, Al Franken and Norm Ornstein. He uncovers the factors that made his community successful, drawing lessons from its experience. Thank You for Being Late is vintage Friedman: clear-eyed on the world’s enormous problems, but optimistic about possible solutions.