30 November 2016

Darwin’s Mistake


The late Alexander Cockburn, reflecting on the work of decorated New York Times foreign affairs columnist and neoliberal warmonger extraordinaire Thomas Friedman, once observed: “Friedman’s is an industrial, implacable noise, like having a generator running under the next table in a restaurant. The only sensible thing to do is leave.”
But while generators at least serve a rather obvious function, the same can’t usually be said of Friedman, who has just spewed out his latest unnecessarily humongous book Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations.
In the nearly eight hundred pages that comprise my electronic version of the manuscript, there is approximately one glimmer of hope: the point at which Friedman remarks that this is “maybe my last book.”
The title Thank You for Being Late is a reference to Friedman’s realization that when his Washington, DC breakfast companions are a few minutes tardy, he can use the time not only to people-watch and eavesdrop on neighboring conversations but also to have ideas. Who knew?
The gist of the book — a product, apparently, of Friedman’s conscious decision to occasionally slow down and think in the age of accelerations — is that the world is becoming a very different place thanks to technology, globalization, and climate change, and that we must adapt to the new reality in order to succeed.
As for why anyone would require seven hundred–plus e-book pages to make this point, it’s safe to assume that one cannot accrue $75,000 speaking fees if one’s book is only one sentence long.
To his credit, for many of these pages Friedman manages to avoid generator-under-the-next-table mode in favor of the far more tolerable generator-in-the-next-room mode. Whole paragraphs are devoted to innocuous, non-aneurysm-inducing subjects such as cow-milking robots, the number of lemur species on the island of Madagascar, the definition of “telex” according to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, and the dimensions of Bigbelly garbage receptacles with built-in solar panels.
Things get more annoying as Friedman produces typically grating lines like “Attention, Kmart shoppers” and “This ain’t no cloud, folks!” — the latter being the reason we must henceforth refer to “the cloud” in cloud computing as “the supernova.” READ MORE AT JACOBIN.