Thomas Friedman: We’re in the Middle of 3 Climate Changes, Not Just 1

July 18, 2018, 8:14 PM UTC

Contrary to popular belief, New York Times columnist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Thomas Friedman believes we’re in the midst of not just one climate change, but three.

Speaking at Fortune‘s annual Brainstorm Tech conference, this year in Aspen, Colo., Friedman laid out his view on the profound changes the world is experiencing, and only one was environmental. The other two, he said, are the climate of globalization, and the climate of technology.

“We’re going from a world that was interconnected, to a world that was interdependent,” Friedman said Wednesday in conversation with Fortune President Alan Murray. “That’s a very different world.”

He added that even though countries like Greece and Italy are allies in North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union, if their “banks had gone under last night, this room would be half full. In an interdependent world, they can kill us.”

Friedman said this concept also applies to rivals of the United States. But rather than worrying about a rival’s rise, he said, the real concern is a rival’s fall.

“If China had taken six more islands in the South China Sea last night, personally — don’t tell anybody — couldn’t care less,” he said. “Had China lost six percent growth last night? This room would be empty.”

The climate of technology is also causing a major change in our society, Friedman added.

“Machines today are acquiring all the attributes of human beings: the ability to think, reason, manipulate and learn,” Friedman said. “No member of our species, the human species, has ever lived in a world where machines could think, learn, analyze and manipulate the way they are today.”

Friedman said that in the midst of climate change, species need resilience to weather the storm, but also propulsion to power through it.

“It’s not the strongest that survive, it’s not the smartest that survive, it’s the most adaptive that survive,” he explained. “We are in the middle of a giant adaptation challenge… at the individual level, at the community level, and at the corporate level.”

Friedman said most national governments are “too paralyzed by political tribalism” to adapt to the pace of change. The single family, meanwhile, is “too weak” to adapt, he said. So what can?

“I believe the right governing unit for the 21st century,” Friedman said, “is the healthy community.”

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