The three-time Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times columnist was in town on Monday with his new book Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations. I haven't gotten a chance to read the book, but he had some interesting things to say, and I took notes.
On the title of his book, referencing the unexpected free time he's happy to enjoy whenever someone else is late. "When you press the pause button on a computer, it stops. When you press the pause button on a human being, they start. They begin to reflect..."
On the year 2007. "The single greatest inflection point in technology since Guttenberg's printing press." That was the year Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone, it was the year Facebook and Twitter went global, it was the first full year Google owned YouTube, it was the year three guys in San Francisco rented out their apartment on their way to founding AirBNB... and many other things he mentioned that I couldn't write down fast enough. "And we all missed it because of 2008."
On thinking outside the box. "I don't think outside the box. I also don't think inside the box. I think without a box."
On his writing process. "I take 11 months to write the book to find out what it's about. And then I take a month to rewrite it once I know what it's about." And then he starts showing it to other people.
His metaphor for journalism. "I'm in the heating business or the lighting business." The "heat" is opinion/column writing, which is meant to provoke a reaction. The "light" is the newsgathering/informing.
On journalism itself. "Good journalism in America has never been better, and bad journalism has never been worse."
On the two-party system in the U.S., which he believes has been strained beyond usefulness and is going to lead to the disintegration of the two major parties. "And I personally won't miss them."
On the speed and scope of new technology. "We have never been more Godlike as a species."
On the reaction that he's "naive" when he says young people need to be taught to practice the Golden Rule on social media. "Naïveté is the new realism."
On how you scale the Golden Rule in the age of the internet. "Strong families and healthy communities."
On the backlash against globalism as indicated by angry voters voting for Brexit, Trump, etc. "I'm also angry at the people who are angry."
The most prevalent disease in the U.S., according to a doctor friend of Friedman's: "The most prevalent disease in the country is isolation." And yet we are more "connected" than ever.
Did you know Town Hall takes video of some of their talks and posts them on their website? Town Hall is awesome. You can watch Thomas Friedman's entire appearance (though not the remarks he made at a reception downstairs before the event, some of which are quoted above) below.