Thomas Friedman says the world has entered an age of acceleration. Yet in spite of the many radical shifts he has witnessed, the author and New York Times columnist describes himself as an optimist. In the spirit of “The Great Re-set,” the theme of this year’s Resnick Aspen Action Forum, Friedman encouraged the audience to ignore the dizzying pace of the world. “Pause, slow down, and reflect,” he said. Only then can one marvel at the forces shaping our world from behind the scenes.
By taking the time to pause, Friedman found the inspiration behind his latest book. It came from a somewhat unusual source—the parking attendant at his local Metro station. The man was a political activist from Ethiopia who had immigrated to the US after being exiled from his homeland. After reading the man’s blog, Friedman had a realization. “Anyone today can participate in the global conversation,” he said.
As a columnist, Friedman has increasingly found himself preoccupied by theories on how the world works. He outlined the three largest forces, as he sees them: the Market, Mother Nature, and Moore’s Law. The last force, Moore’s Law, is an observation on the rapid growth of technology. This exponential power has put computers in our pockets, glasses, and cars all within the last few decades. Although technological innovation is accelerating at a faster rate than humans can adapt, Friedman said that the future will require a human element.
“All the really important things in life are all the things you cannot download,” Friedman said. Community cannot be downloaded. Friedman credits his own success to the small town in Minnesota in which he grew up. Learning to live in this diverse community taught him how to be inclusive and empathetic. The Aspen Global Leadership Fellows is a community unlike any other. By gathering at the Action Forum, the Fellows were able to share their experiences and learn from one another. They could also pause, slow down, and reflect on their own journeys. It is our hope that the time they spent at the Action Forum will allow them to apply their renewed sense of energy, creativity, and joy to this age of acceleration.