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Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman delivered a relevant, timely and inspirational message at the University of Central Oklahoma Nov. 10.

The speech was the final session in the Distinguished Speaker Series at UCO.

Friedman, of The New York Times, focused on how the world is exploding with information like never before and told several of his unique experiences and perspective shared from his latest book The Lexus and the Olive Tree.

Laura Butler, assistant director of student leadership programs and the Distinguished Speakers Series Committee are to be commended for their decision to invite Friedman to speak at UCO, as he is considered one of America’s leading interpreters of world affairs and the new globalization.

The goal of the Distinguished Speakers Series at UCO is to cultivate learning and inspire meaningful dialogue among many interested students, faculty, and local community leaders.

Friedman was the final speaker of the Distinguished Speakers Series, which has been held this year as part of the university’s 125th anniversary.

Other speakers during 2015 included Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter John Legend, Barbara Bush and Jenna Bush Hagar, and the Brookings Institution’s Bruce Katz.

“I have enjoyed reading all of Friedman’s books and weekly column in the New York Times,” said UCO President Don Betz. “I don’t think there is anyone in American journalism that articulates better the forces shaping the world as Friedman does.”

Friedman delivered an impressive keynote presentation describing how the advent of new electronic technology, especially the Internet, is impacting the world and all our lives.

“Today, if you want to be a dairy farm hand, I hope you’ve taken computer science, because you will never get any closer to a cow than that,” said Friedman.

He shared what he called “the last human” and told of the IBM computer Watson answering questions on the game show “Jeopardy” under 2 seconds and beating two human champions of the game.

He shared his experience riding as a passenger in a Google X self-driving car, which has been driven more than a million miles and been in 12 accidents – all rear-end accidents caused by drivers in other cars. Friedman explained how he was nervous at first sitting in the back seat of the car with an engineer on a laptop computer driving the car seated in the front seat, but soon felt safe as the computer driver of the car had better vision outside the car than the traditional driver sitting behind the wheel.

Next he shared that 3G phone service is now available at the summit of Mount Everest.

“We are now in the age of the last human,” he said. “The last human bus driver, the last human taxi driver, the last human x-ray reader.”

Freidman said he’s careful in his book to not use the term the cloud, because it is too fluffy, too soft.

“This is a supernova. It’s an explosion of energy that keeps on exploding. And what it does and what it’s doing is putting into the hands of human beings the most power and energy that’s ever been put in the hands of human beings since fire,” he said.

Friedman said next, “the implication is that it’s an amazing time to be maker of things. His warning, however, is that competition is now open to everyone on the globe.

Companies will offer projects to anyone in the world who can manufacture items quickly and more efficient.

With this understanding of globalization, Friedman is worried that high-wage, middle-skill jobs that built America’s middle class are things of the past. The jobs today now require more skills, are outsourced to workers in other countries, or to machines, or are now just obsolete, he said. The core challenge facing America is how to regain those mid-level jobs which will not only require more education to understand technology, but also include certain human social skills, he said.

The faster the world gets, the more everything that is old and slower really matters like community, good parenting, solid education, good religious leaders and good government.

“When historians or archaeologists some 50 or 60 years from now look back at the early 2000’s and are asked what was the most important thing to be happening then…I think what they will say is that was the greatest technological inflection since the Gutenberg press,” said Friedman.

Unlike Gutenbergs’s invention, which touched only those people who could read or had access to printing, Friedman said, the current inflection is happening at high speed and touching huge areas of the planet and people around the world all at once.

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