If you haven't yet heard of Thomas Friedman's book, The World is Flat, the join us in the light and come our from your cave (MIT Video). Now I don't necesarily agree or disagree with everything that Friedman writes (I like his column and I really like The Lexus and the Olive Tree) - the thing that does give me pause however, is the rapid and almost universal acceptance of Friedman's ideas. There is another camp. Actually two other camps.
Before I had even read Friedman's book, I had read another book - The Rise of the Creative Class by Richard Florida (associated Web site) (there was also an article in the Atlantic Monthly available here in PDF). Florida, with a background in regional economic development argues against Friedman's assertion that the world is so connected now that location has lost meaning in terms of being able to compete. He backs it up with a heavy does of stats and demographic studies but his general assertion is that this Creative Class (think an evolved middle-class professional class) actively seeks out and moves to areas that are high in the "Three T's" (talent, tolerance and technology). This assertion flies right against Friedman's that "if you want to innovate, you don't need to emigrate." So now we have these two competing views..enter John Hagel.
John Hagel is a well-known author and collaborator with John Seely Brown of Xerox (he was Chief Scientist and Director of PARC) fame. On his blog, Edge Perspectives, Hagel has a post that argues that there is something missing from both these two analyses. The piece that is missing is that neither of Friedman nor Florida focus sufficiently on the idea of a dynamic and rapid pace of change. According to Hagel, Friedman does miss the fact that cities are increasingly housing more and more of the world's population (50% of the world is now in urban centers) but while Florida appreciates this, he fails to note that Friedman does have a valid point that connectivity is an important vector. What neither points to is say how that connectivity is allowing for more rapid aggregations to come together and or how rapidly that connectivity can change some of Florida's non-spiky areas into very spiky areas.
So why is this important and why am I putting it out there? First, I hate to see anyone run unopposed - I think that critical examnation is key to finding the truth. I also think that Hagel has a dead-on point (see my recent post re Jay Cross's upcoming book) that we are continuing to fail to appreciate the acceleration of acceleration - the fact that things are changing fast at faster and faster rates (something amplified by Ray Kurweil) and that has caused problems for the learning problem in the past. So there..take what you will but I think the discussion is important.
Spiky World Debate on edu.blogs.com