August 16, 2017
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Thank You for Being Late

By: Berniece Owen
July 28, 2017
By Thomas L.Friedman New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016.

Subtitled “An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Acceleration” this book continues Friedman’s exploration of our technological times.  How does the rapid change in which we conduct our daily lives affect us separately and communally in our relationships with others around the globe?  There is no question we are affected as unique individuals and as members of larger groups: the groups that are familiar and nearby; the groups that are unfamiliar and far away.

Friedman is uniquely qualified to write such a book.  He wrote two previous titles on the topic, and he has been writing for the New York Times since 1981.  He has won three Pulitzer prizes. He has travelled widely and has interviewed directly an impressive number of experts who deal with the links between computing, communication, Mother Nature, big business and human technology.  

By experts I mean scientists, social scientists, politicians, world leaders, businessmen and technicians.  If your work involves you in universal concepts linking how we live within the boundaries of planet earth using available resources – natural and human-made – you probably already know about Thomas Friedman.  

His first book on the effects of technological change was The World is Flat, published in 2005, followed by a couple of revisions and then by Hot, Flat and Crowded in 2008.  In both Friedman explores how the speed of computer change has affected our lifestyle.  He recalls that in 1965 an Intel executive named Moore correctly predicted that microchip size would shrink exponentially even as computing power doubled in speed and capacity and would continue to double every two years. Moore’s Law is still working today. How can we keep up?

He explains the title of this book (Thank You for Being Late) when he realizes that lateness to an appointment is an opportunity for the individual who was on time to catch up, to slow down and to think. 

For example, those suspended moments can trigger “what ifs” to begin an elusive column or interview.  Speed and forward movement is not everything. Then Friedman goes on to examine how life on earth as we know it cannot be sustained without attention being paid to how critical resources are being used up to support the speed with which resources are being used up!  Friedman’s metaphor:  a hurricane will blow you away no matter how hard and fast you dance, unless you are dancing in the eye.

After a truly terrifying review of the current state of oceans, rainforests, glacial ice, natural resources in general, he goes on to posit a cure:  See the Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations, the subtitle of this book. 

He takes us back to his growing-up years near Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Describing the dark underbelly of his halcyon childhood, chemical waste spread by the local “big business,” he points out that the strength of recovery lay in the community support systems that existed then. He believes they continue to exist now on a global scale.  And he points out that the new age of near instantaneous communication fosters these world wide support systems. 

Friedman has a gift for making complicated subjects interesting and understandable. If you question why global warming should be of concern and why it should be an urgent concern, read this book.  If you are a pessimist about remedies, read this book. You may need to change your mind.


Berniece M. Owen, retired librarian and product of a small town support community in South Dakota.  Now a resident of another community dancing in the eye of the hurricane—Rohnert Park, California.