Book: Thank you for Being Late

Some thoughts on Thomas Friedman’s book Thank you for Being Late

June 18, 2017 - 2 minute read -

Since winter break I’ve slowly been making my way through Thomas Friedman’s book, Thank you for Being Late. It was recommended to me by my Dad and a few other people because it discusses the increasing velocity of technology adoption and its impact on society, all in the shadow of our recent presidential election. The book resonated with me, not because I think Friedman is right about all of the implications of what he calls the “supernova,” but because it highlights the importance of adaptability and community.

Learning how to Learn

Right now I’m getting a double major in computer science and applied mathematics, and I’m pretty certain less than 10% of what I am learning is actually going to be used for what I will end up doing. In computer science we are learning from a curriculum that has been taught for decades, and the only real use it has is as a mental framework for how to program; it is a framework for problem solving that makes it easy to learn new languages and tools.

Computer Science isn’t the only major like this. Mechanical engineers learning CAD programs today are going to use very different tools like 3D printing and augmented reality in 5-10 years. Lawyers who have learned how to meticulously compile hundreds of pages of legal documents are going to be leveraging advanced AI tools to do more faster. Business majors are going to rely less on Excel and more on intelligent programs that answer questions using natural language.

College is no longer where you learn a trade or profession. The most important skill you need in order to be competitive in today’s world, a world where the only constant is change, is adaptability. With technology developing so quickly, being adaptable is more valuable than any level of education can be, and it is an increasingly important skill if you want to stay relevant in the workforce.

Community

The last two sections of Thank you for Being Late are a slow read. I read the first half of the book in a couple of days and the last half over the next two months. Towards the end, Friedman returns to life in his hometown, a suburb of the the twin cities. Although this section was such a slow read I took a lot from it. It was a good reminder that even in a world with constant change, one of the most impactful things we can do is slow down and focus on what matters most— the people around us. It is so easy to get caught up in being constantly connected and forget about the people we are closest to.