The concepts bring forward by Thomas Friedman's book The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century has been labelled "lemming-like" advocate of changing global economic conditions [Lemmings Marching to the Flat World Drum Beat]. As I have commented earlier, the opposite view (spikiness) is more appealing to me and would offer better direction as to how developed countries should prepare our next generation.
From CIA - The World Factbook:
The restructuring of the economy and resulting efficiency gains have contributed to a more than tenfold increase in GDP since 1978. Measured on a purchasing power parity (PPP) basis, China in 2005 stood as the second-largest economy in the world after the US, although in per capita terms the country is still lower middle-income and 150 million Chinese fall below international poverty lines.
With huge amount of untapped cheap labour, China (India and many developing countries as well) will continue to be the world's sweat-shop and factory, producing commodities at costs unmatchable by developed countries. With the size of the economy comes the impact on the world's global economy too. So the question is "how developed countries can remain at the top of the economic food chain and maintain the current standard of living?"
David Warlick made a great point:
I maintain that it isn’t necessarily programming or even engineering, although I agree with Alfred Thompson’s comment that exposure to and understanding of the engineering and even the programming are critical. We do not need to dominate these areas, however, in order to remain prosperous or even in a position of leadership. We do need to be figuring out those contributions that we are uniquely good at. [my emphasis]
One of the direction suggested by David is our astounding capacity for play. ... We should master responsible joy, and export that. ... I believe that it is the creative arts that we should be emphasizing, every bit as much as the technical arts.
One of the comments (by Andrew Pass) posted in David's blog put it this way:
I’m not exactly sure what you mean when you write that we should export creative arts. [snip] However, if you mean that we should lead the rest of the world in the ability to develop innovative ideas, projects and technologies, I fully agree.
However, this will take a lot of work. As you know creativity is spurred by asking questions and then developing answers to these questions.
Now this is linked to education and how developed countries should prepare the next generation if we want to maintain our standard of living. Andrew continued to questions the practice of current education system asking if teachers have been encouraging our students to ask questions.
As anyone with a creative inclinatin will tell you, asking question is only the first step. Innovation is not just asking the right question. Innovation is about finding a solution. But innovation is not success or economic sustainability. A solution which solves a real problem at a better price is a potentially successful economic proposition. Developed countries should enable our next generation to be great solution providers solving pressing real world problems at acceptable price point. The implementation may be left to the sweat-shop, as demonstrated successfully by many brands such as Nike.
Failure is the mother of success (is it?). Developed countries should also cultivate a spirit of entrepreneurship and an environment for our next generation to take risks (in creating new solutions) and be rewarded. Penalty of failure should be low and limited. Opportunities should be ample and easily accessible. Education should encourage diverse angle of attack to the problem.
Education should encourage vigour in dealing with hard science subjects, compassionate views on social and human subjects....
ok, I am too carried away. I'll continue my journey of learning ...