ILD 831 Week 1 Blog Post – Ray R

As I read the summary of Friedman’s work, The World is Flat, I was really drawn to his list of ten forces that flattened the world. I was able to not only visit the Berlin Wall several times before its collapse, but was also able to twice travel through East Germany in order to get to West Berlin. I went on a trip with my dad during my high school years and while riding the subway we accidentally crossed into East Berlin, not knowing that we were supposed to get out at the previous subway stop. As we crossed into East Berlin, it was as if we had gone from watching a movie in full color to watching a movie in black and white, then back to color again as we continued around back to West Berlin. Friedman mentioned that the collapse of The Wall allowed people from the other side of the wall to join the economic mainstream.  The thought of this has always stuck in my mind that they were then allowed to experience life in full color as opposed to only being in a black and white movie.

I agree with Freidman that the ten factors were instrumental in flattening our world, but also am glad he mentioned that they could not have flattened the world on their own. He credits the spread of these factors with the creation of complementary software and the internet, as well as political factors to spur on globalization. It amazes me that we are so global that we trade with countries halfway around the world. Whether it is talking with Japan over trade deals over rice and cars, or having China as our 2nd largest goods trading partner and 3rd largest good export market, it is amazing and outstanding that we are able to produce and send products around the world, as well as receive products. As of the end of 2014, exports and imports amounted to just short of $4 trillion. As of August 2015, total trade for this year was up to $2.5 trillion, which means we are on track for similar results as in 2014.

I do agree with Florida’s assessment that the world is spiky. I don’t believe this refutes Friedman’s hypothesis, however. The world is still flattening, but we do have huge pockets of peaks, hills, and valleys, as described by Florida. Going back to the trade articles referenced earlier, the majority of the $4 trillion and $2.5 trillion trade numbers involve trade with 15 countries. This shows that although we trade globally, we are focused on specific areas more than others.

It amazes me that so many people live in urban areas. In my military travels I have travelled a lot to Russia. Although Russia definitely has some large cities, the country is a huge expanse covering 11 time zones. The population is widely spread throughout the country. One thing Florida mentioned is that people in spiky places are often more connected to one another even from half a world away than they are in their back yards. I agree with that, as many of us use social media, play games, and otherwise communicate with people that may be in a different state, country, or half-way around the world, yet we may not go outside of our houses very often to get to know our neighbors. I remember a coworker of mine about 12 years ago who was addicted to online gaming. His girlfriend was also addicted. He told me frequent stories of when neither one of them wanted to take time away from playing games during the evening, so they would argue over who had to take the time to make dinner. He told me they usually just ordered pizza or some other food from a restaurant that delivered. I imagine they argued over who had to take time away from their game to go to the front door to pay.

Web-based tools and media are impacting my workplace so much that we can’t function without them.  Many of our documents and tools live on the Web, and if we can’t reach them, we can’t perform much of our work.  It amazes me that we have become so dependent on these tools.  We still did a similar job before these tools existed, but if they are interrupted nowadays, productivity comes to a halt.  Most people in the Air Force are so used to receiving emails and participating in online discussions on Facebook or other social media to stay up-to-date.  If those services were halted, people would be extremely uncomfortable and I believe morale would plummet.

After watching Nick Bostrom’s TED talk on artificial intelligence (AI), I’m not sure if I should be excited for the possibilities, or scared. It is very interesting to me what he brought up. He mentioned that a huge stepping stone is to develop algorithms similar to what an infant has, in order to learn things. Putting it in that perspective makes it seem more realistic to create something that can think like a human.  I believe that his warnings and controls tie in with Friedman and Florida’s writings because they are all aspects of how the Internet, the Web, and technology continue to progress.  Two things that really made me sit back and think were:

1) Where is the off switch of the Internet? He offered this in response to a question as to why we couldn’t just switch off an AI entity if it got out of control. From this point forward, I will think of his response in relation to this.

2) Machine intelligence is the last thing we need to invent. Once machines get more intelligent than the human brain, they will become better at inventing than we are. That is a scary thought, but completely logical. This statement alone makes me think that artificial intelligence will change the landscape of humanity as we know it.

Both readings and the video are relevant in my workplace.  I see this when I look at the technology used in aircraft, for example, many years ago.  In newer aircraft, functions are so automated and more accurate due to technology.  I would caution the military, however, to continue to include the human factor in future aircraft design.  I cannot and would not want to picture the day where we allow a nuclear bomber to travel across the world with only artificial intelligence at the controls.  I look forward to experiencing where technology brings us during my lifetime. During high school when I was using a 300 baud modem to host a computer bulletin board system, we’ve come a long way to having a DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem achieving up to 43 Mbps per channel.  It is hard to imagine how much further we will be later in my lifetime.


5 thoughts on “ILD 831 Week 1 Blog Post – Ray R

  1. Interesting post, Ray. Good points about the connections between Friedman, Florida, Bostrom, and your USAF work. For me, leadership is part of the answer, which I hope we unpack over the coming weeks.


  2. Hi Ray,
    I enjoyed reading your post. Specifically, I thought about your comments regarding web tools. What do you think it would be like to go back to pre-internet times? Do you remember? It is hard to think about what it was like to function at work before web tools began to drive how we do business. Your nuclear bomb example really got me thinking. Do we want something non-human and artificial at the controls of a device so powerful and potentially deadly? Call me old fashioned, but I would feel much better knowing that a human is at the helm, in terms of controlling such a profound tool of mass destruction.



  3. Ray,
    I really liked your post, I thought you did a great job bringing up other factors like overall trade in the U. S. In addition, I also liked your personal experiences of the time you spent in Berlin, i bet that was a real “eye opener” between, east and west Berlin. I also agree with you about Florida’s article on the world being spiky, I think our world is not on equal playing ground, however, because of the technological advances world wide I think the gap is narrowing. Yet, i do believe the U. S. still has some advantages, so it may be more likely to say the world is becoming more equal versus being or becoming “flat.” another interesting point you share is the example of your friends that became addicted to gaming online. What an interesting topic and one that I see becoming more relevant in school-aged kids, who are becoming more isolated and over-dependent upon their electronics. I think we will increasingly have these kids grow up with social deficits, that may handicap them when it comes to working with others in the future.

    In addition, the Ted Talk, I could not get over the image of the atomic bomb. Yes, there is unlimited possibilities……However, the implications or intentions of many are not for the good of “everyone.” I think you make this clear with the part on working with aircraft’s. Yet, t is also a concern of allowing these weapons to get in the wrong hands of a Rogue nation, which is always a concern. Great job, I enjoyed reading your post.

    Chris Brown


  4. Ray,
    First of all, I really like your real life experience of seeing both East and West Berlin, and the comparing it a colored television and black and white, i totally understand what you are referring to, great job! I also like the fact that you pointed out who we trade with and the significance of that still landing the United States at the top of the world as far as trade goes and that this is not slowing down, yet picking up with those countries we trade with from one end of the globe to other. Therefore, as you pointed out from Florida’s article that the world is not truly flattened and that it is spiked at best with the U. S. still being the world leader in trade and technology.

    Lastly, I like your synopsis of Nick Bostrom’s Ted Talk, I have to admit though I could not get the image of the atomic bomb explosion out of my head when I watched the video. I could not help but think, “Yes, there are many possibilities.” Yet, he seemed truly optimistic that with super-intelligence man would only use it for the “good” of mankind. IN the hands of a terrorist organization or a rogue nation, this could be a disaster. However, like Bostrom pointed out the possibilities are unlimited. He seemed optimistic, yet I did think there was an underlying tone of uncertainty.

    Great job!

    Chris Brown


  5. Ray,

    Very interesting post! With unmanned drones already doing a large amount of the U.S. military’s bombing, it seems perfectly plausible for this technology to move into nuclear bombers (but presumably with humans at the controls). I completely agree with you that humans need some level of oversight. To use a fictional example, just think of HAL from “2001: A Space Odyssey.” HAL was smarter than the humans but was designed to serve humans nonetheless. As we all know, that nearly unlimited trust in technology didn’t turn out so well for some of those on board.



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