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  • Writer's pictureLars Christensen

Thank you for being late by Thomas L. Friedman

I finished this book in August 2023. I recommend this book 3/10.

You should read this book if you are looking at how the world of technology has developed since the 1970s. It introduced me to Moore's law and had interesting facts, like—Uber, the world's largest taxi company, doesn't own any cars, or Airbnb, the biggest hotel chain, doesn't own any real estate.

Get your copy here.

My notes and thoughts:

  • P38. So whenever Intel’s CEO, Brian Krzanich, tries to explain the impact of Moore’s law—what happens when you keep doubling the power of microchips every two years for fifty years—he uses this example: if you took Intel’s first generation microchip from 1971, and the latest chip Intel has on the market today, the sixth generation Intel Core processor, you will see that Intel’s latest chip offers 3,500 times more performance, is 90,000 times more energy efficient, and is about 60,000 times lower in cost. To put it more vividly, Intel engineers did a rough calculation of what would happen had a 1971 Volkswagen Beetle improved at the same rate as microchips did under Moore’s law. These are the numbers: Today, that Beetle would be able to go about three hundred miles per hour. It would get two million miles per gallon of gas, and would cost four cents! Intel engineers also estimated that if automobile fuel efficiency improved at the same rate as Moore’s law, you could, roughly speaking, drive a car your whole life on one tank of gasoline.

  • P99. As a result, computing became so powerful and so cheap and so effortless that it suffused itself “into every device and every aspect of our lives and our society,” said Craig Mundie. “It is making the world not just flat but fast. Fast is a natural evolution of putting all this technology together and then diffusing it everywhere. It is taking the friction out of more and more businesses and, industrial processes, and human interactions. “It is like grease,” added Mundie, “and is seeping into every nook and cranny and pore, and everything is getting very slippery and leveraged, and so you can move it with less force”—whether it is boulder, a country, a pile of data, a robot, the paging of a taxi, or the renting of a room in Timbuktu.

  • P103. A December 2015 study by McKinsey Global Institute on American Industry found a “considerable gap between the most digitized sectors and the rest of the economy over time and [found] that despite a massive rush of adoption, most sectors have barely closed that gap over the past decade…Because the less digitized sectors are some of the largest in terms of GDP contribution and employment, we [found] that the US economy as a whole is only reaching 18 percent of its digital potential… The United States will need to adapt its institutions and training pathways to help workers acquire relevant skills and navigate this period of transition and churn.”

  • P103. As Tom Goodwin, senior vice president of strategy and innovation at Havas Media, observed in a March 3, 2015, essay on “Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Something interesting is happening.

  • P108. That is best illustrated by the one question Watson answered incorrectly at the end of the first day’s competition, when the contestants were all given the same clue for “Final Jeopardy!” The category was “US Cities,” and the clue was: “Its largest airport was named for a World War II hero; it’s second largest, for a World War II battle.” The answer was Chicago (O’Hare and Midway). But Watson guessed, “What is Toronto?????” With all those question marks included. “There are many reasons why Watson was confused by this question, including its grammatical structure, the presence of a city in Illinois named Toronto, and the Toronto Blue Jays playing baseball in the American League,” said Kelly. “But the mistake illuminated an important truth about how Watson works. The system does not answer our questions because it ‘knows.’ Rather, it is designed to evaluate and weigh information from multiple sources, and then offer suggestions for consideration. And it assigns a confidence level to each response. In the case of “Final Jeopardy!,” Watson confidence level was quite low: 14 percent, Watson’s way of saying: ‘Don’t trust this answer.’ In a sense, it knew what it didn’t know.”

  • P110. The truth is that Autodesk is another of those really important companies few people know about—it builds the software that architects, auto and game designers, and film studios use to imagine and design buildings, cars, and movies on their computers. It is the Microsoft of design.

  • P118. In fact, the most interesting thing Chesky and his fellow Airbnb makers made was one of the most complex things to make at scale: trust. Airbnb’s founders understood that the world was becoming interdependent—meaning the technology was there to connect any renter to any tourist or traveling businessperson anywhere on the planet. And if someone created the trust platform to bring them together, huge value could be created for all parties. That was Airbnb’s real innovation—a platform of trust—where everyone could not only see everyone else’s identity but also rate them as good, bad, or indifferent hosts or guests. This meant everyone using the system would pretty quickly develop a relevant “reputation” visible to everyone else in the system. Take trusted identities and relevant reputations and put them together with the supernova and global fros, and suddenly, you have more than four million homes or rooms listed on Airbnb—that’s more than Hilton, Marriot, and Starwood combined. And Hilton started in 1919!

  • P128. Instead, successful companies are reinvesting processes, challenging everything related to an existing process, and rebuilding it using cutting-edge digital technology. For example, rather than creating technology tools to help back-office employees type customer complaints into their systems, leading organizations create self-serve options for customers to type in their own complaints.

  • P129. “Which of the following things would you give up for a year rather than give up personal use of your mobile phone?” Dining out? Sixty-four percent said they would give it up. Having a pet? Fifty-one percent said they would give that up. Going on vacation? Fifty percent. One day off a week? Fifty-one percent. Seeing friends in person—some forty-five percent were ready to let that go. Then they really got serious and asked: What would you give up for a year first—your mobile or sex? Thirty-eight percent of respondents said they would give up sex for a year rather than give up their mobile phone! Broken down by country, the South Koreans led the way in a willingness to trade human intercourse for voice and data intercourse.

  • P219. Thriving in today’s workplace is all about what LinkedIn’s cofounder Reid Hoffman calls investing in “the start-up of you.” No politician in America will tell you this, but every boss will: You can’t just show up. You need a plan to succeed. Like everything else in the age of acceleration, securing and holding a job requires dynamic stability—you need to keep pedaling (or paddling) all the time. Today, argues Zach Sims, the founder of Codecademy, “you have to know more, you have to update what you know more often, and you have to do more creative things with it” than just routine tasks. “That recursive loop really defines work and learning today. And that is why self-motivation is now so much more important”—because so much of learning will now have to happen long after you have left high school, college, or your parent’s home—not in the discipline of a classroom. “An on-demand world requires on-demand learning for everyone, accessible to anyone around the world, anywhere on your phone or tablet, and this really changes the definition of learning,” added Sims, whose platform provides an easy method to learn how to write computer code. “When I talk into a subway and see someone playing Candy Crush [Saga] on their phone, [I think] there’s a wasted five minutes when they could be bettering themselves.”

  • P228. AT&T started telling some customers, heck, we’ll cut you a deal on the transmission costs if we can mine the data and use it to solve customer problems or puzzles. In the blink of an eye, your friendly phone company became an all-around business solutions company, also competing with IBM and Accenture. Precisely because Stephenson understood that for his company to thrive, it had to be the networking enabler and solutions provider to the most disruptive companies in the world, he knew he had to disrupt his own workforce in the process.

  • P232. It is a contract between the company and employees. It’s a new bargain. If you want to get an A in your performance review, now you have to do the “What and the “How.” The “How” is that you get along with people, you achieve results by effectively partnering and teaming and leading change through [and with] others, and don’t just sit in your cubicle. The “What” is that you are not only proficient in your job but that you are reselling to improve your capacity, continuing to learn, and that you are aspiring to go beyond where you are. Maybe you’re a salesperson, and you’re making yourself more valuable to the company by getting [to know] the technical side as well. You’re not just selling products but understanding how our network works. Our best employees have it down, and they know it is the What and the How.

  • P234. “I change my business card every week now,” he explained. Indeed, when I met him for lunch on March 13, 2017, he began with an apology: “I’m sorry. I don’t have this week’s card.” So he handed me his “old one” for the week of March 1, 2017. It read:

    • Martin Reeves, Director, BCG Henderson Institute, Senior Partner and Managing Director.

    • 5 Things I am thinking about (March 1, 2017

    • 1. Link between diversity and performance.

    • 2. Theories of intervention into complex adaptive systems.

    • 3. Designing supply chains for resilience.

    • 4. How to exploit math of serendipity.

    • 5. Scenarios for future of work.

  • P261. One is between bosses and employees: bosses will have to learn to hire more people on the basis of what they can probably do, not just the pedigree they can ostentatiously produce, and to provide multiple avenues for lifelong learning within the company’s framework. One is between you and yourself: if the bosses create the learning opportunities and help with the tuition, you will have to provide the grit and self-motivation to take advantage of both—to own your learning and your constant relearning. You cannot stress this last point enough: more will be on you—to figure out what to learn and to go out and learn it. The “digital divide” will soon disappear. Daily soon, virtually everyone will have a screen and an internet connection. In that world, argues futurist Marina Garbs, the big divide will be “the motivational divide”—who has the self-motivation, grit, and persistence to take advantage of all the free or cheap online tools to create, collaborate and keep learning over an entire lifetime when Mon and Dad will not be around to ask if you have finished your homework.

  • P333. There is no Lion King in nature. Humans created the concept of one species managing the entire system for the collective interest—the idea of “dominion.” That said, though, species coevolve with the place and niches best suited for them; each health ecosystem has a unique ecological balance of plants, animals, microorganisms, and the underlying processes and “plumbing” that connect them. That ever-evolving combination is what makes each ecosystem unique. And the unique set of species of plants and animals that evolved there is said to be of place, not just in it. They are at home there; they are rooted they firm they belong, because they are in balance—and that balance produces enormous resilience. In that sense they “own” that place. When every niche is being filled by a plant or animal adapted to that niche, it’s harder for any single invasive species to break in and disrupt the whole system—one alien or destructive element can’t pull the whole thing down. Still, that ecosystem and its balance have to be reproduced and defended every day; species rise and fall, and compete with one another, every second. Which is another of Mother Nature’s killer apps—she never confuses stability with stasis. She would tell us that there is nothing static about stability. In nature, a system that looks stable and seems to be in equilibrium is not static. A system that looks static and is static is a system that’s about to die. Mother Nature knows that to remain stable, you have to be open to constant change, and no plant or animal can take its position in the system for granted—just as a durable economy, says the University of Maryland’s Herman Daly, is macro-stable but micro-variable.

  • P338. That is why I also like the definition of leadership offered by a Harvard University expert on the subject, Ronald Heifetz, who says the role of a leader is “to help people face reality and to mobilize them to make change” as their environment changes to ensure the security and prosperity of their community.

  • P350. When you are an owner, you care, you pay attention, you build stewardship, and you think about the future. If you build a house for a quick flip, how strong will you build its foundation? People always tend to cut corners in a place where they won’t actually be living. And that is why I have so often over the years quoted the dictum, “In the history of the world, no one has ever washed a rented car.” Ownership focuses you on long-term thinking over short-term, and on strategy over tactics.

  • P413. A few years before he died, Morrie had a stroke and lost his speech. So, he would use a little white notepad instead. I would bring my girls with me to see how when we visited Minneapolis, and without fail, he would write on that pad that my two lovely daughters “take after your wife.” He had a way of keeping you off-balance. Anyone who put on airs around him got cut to down to size. It was from him I first learned the lesson: “Remember the people you meet going up, you may meet the same people going down”—and always, always leave a big tip for the waitress. If you leave big tips your whole life, it may add up to $5,000; you’ll be helping someone who needs it—and your service in Heaven will be amazing.

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