Thomas Friedman on How to Thrive A.C. — After Coronavirus

The globalization expert talks with Convening Leaders participants on what to expect and how to adapt to the coming explosion of innovation.

Author: Barbara Palmer       

Thomas Friedman

The New York Times foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman will open Convening Leaders 2021 with his keynote presentation Wednesday.


FIND THE KEYNOTE: Big Trends Shaping the World Today: Economics, Technology and Geopolitics


When Thomas Friedman, The New York Times foreign affairs columnist, began writing his best-selling book about globalization, The World is Flat, in 2004, “Facebook didn’t exist, Twitter was still a sound, the cloud was still in the sky, and an application was what you put in to go to college,” the author said in a talk that will be broadcast during PCMA Convening Leaders 2021.

Friedman is a Main Stage speaker, and his presentation, “Big Trends Shaping the World Today: Economics, Technology, and Geopolitics,” will launch three days of content Wednesday, Jan. 13, at 3 p.m. SGT (Singapore). 8 a.m. CET (Berlin), and 2 a.m. EST (New York), with an analysis of how the combined effects of exponential growth of technology and our ever-increasing global connectivity will affect us A.C. — After Coronavirus. A conversation between Friedman and moderator Holly Ransom will follow.

When it comes to the workplace and economies, “I think the biggest thing we are going to see is an explosion of creative destruction,” Friedman said. “It is going to be incredibly exciting, but incredibly destabilizing. More and more people have access to the cheap tools of innovation, access to high-powered computing through the cloud, and money is almost free — interest rates are less than 1 percent. … You are going to see an explosion of innovation that will be creative destruction on steroids.”

One of the biggest trends, Friedman said, is one that’s already underway, but will accelerate: The half-life of our skills will shrink — “the usefulness of what you know today will become obsolete faster and faster,” he said.

The pace of change is “blowing apart our system of education-to-work that existed during the Industrial Revolution,” he said. “Under that system, education was something that happened in a school before the age of 21; work happened in an office or factory from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and jobs and work were considered the same thing. All of those binaries are just being blown apart by digitation and the acceleration of the pace of change.”

Convene spoke with Friedman previously about strategies on how to adapt to the changing world.

Barbara Palmer is deputy editor at Convene.