Friedman: ‘Embrace the Golden Rule’

Prize-winning columnist speaks at Union College
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman speaks at Union College on Friday.
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman speaks at Union College on Friday.

SCHENECTADY — New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman came to Union College Friday to talk innovation and creativity, but he also remembered to preach the Golden Rule.

“We use to live in a world where one country could kill us all,” said Friedman, speaking before 450 people at Union’s Memorial Chapel. “Now we live in a world where one person might be able to kill us all. We have to remember to treat others the way we want them to treat us. We have to preach the Golden Rule, and we have to embrace the Golden Rule.”

Friedman, a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner, and 1976 Union College grad John Kelly III, vice president of Cognitive Solutions and Research at IBM, were the two headliners at Friday’s third annual Feigenbaum Forum on Innovation and Creativity. They each spoke separately for about 20 minutes and then sat down for a conversation that lasted a bit more than a half hour.

Kelly talked about Watson, the computer he helped build at IBM, and about exponential curves and the Metcalfe’s Law. Friedman spoke at length about a variety of subjects, including the year 2007, which he sees as a real game-changer when it comes to technology. That year was one of firsts, according to Friedman, as he discussed innovations such as e-books, Facebook and Twitter, Amazon and Airbnb, to name a few.

It was Friedman’s second appearance in Schenectady this year, having already talked at Proctors in February.

Some of what Friedman said:

On President Donald Trump referring to his newspaper as the “failing New York Times”

“Well, we actually are thriving as a newspaper, in part because of the interest he’s generated in politics, not always for good reasons. But it turns out people really want news they can trust. We now have more digital subscribers than any newspaper in the world, over 3 million, and in last quarter alone of 2016 we added 300,000. The paper has never been stronger, never been healthier, because all over the world people are looking for news they can trust.”

On President Trump’s use of the term, “Fake news”

That makes me very sad because our country is built on two principles: truth and trust. People have to believe there is something called truth that we can all agree on in order to build things and work together, and people have to have trust in institutions, and when you have a president who is eroding both truth and trust at same time, I find that really disturbing and dangerous for our country.”

On his most recent book, “Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations”

“I’ve given people permission to be late, and they’re starting to get into it. They say, ‘Well, your welcome.’ I am giving them permission to pause, to slow down, to reflect. When you press the pause button on a computer it stops. When you press the pause button on a human being it starts. That’s when you start to think, you reflect and you re-imagine. We’re going to be needing a lot of that.”

On Mother Nature and the Market

“Mother nature for me is climate change, biodiversity loss and population growth in the developing world. Put them on a graph and they look like a hockey stick. Look at the instances of extreme weather and global temperatures from 1980. Those are hockey sticks. The market for me is globalization, and it’s not your father’s globalization. That was containers on ships and planes. Today it’s digital globalization. Everything is digitized, and then globalized.”

On the many technological advances in 2007

“What the hell happened in 2007? It started when Steve Jobs showed us a hand-held computer with more power than the Apollo space mission that doubles as a phone and a camera. It turns out that 2007 may be understood as the single greatest technological inflection point since Gutenberg invented the printing press. I’m sure that when some monk saw the printing press he probably looked at Gutenberg and said, ‘This is pretty cool. Now we don’t have to write all this out.'”

Audience reaction:

“They talked a lot about what was so obvious to everyone, but we never realized it until somebody says it. I had no idea what was happening in 2007. He really said a lot about that, and I think it was really eye-opening.” — Gamze Inanc, Union College sophomore from Turkey:

“It was nice to hear him talk about acceleration and technology, especially in 2007. I was 10 years old when it happened, and I was using all these devices without knowing too much about them. I never paid attention. Things were so primitive back then and now it’s going so fast it’s hard to wrap your head around everything. It was very interesting.” — Nam Bui, Union College junior from Vietnam

“I thought it was great the way Friedman, with his expertise, his depth and explorations into politics and economics, overlapped perfectly with Kelly’s knowledge of the incredible speed at which technology is advancing today, and what that means to us. They were both not just talking about facts, but what the implications are. I thought it was incredibly insightful.” — Kara Doyle, Union College English professor:

“I thought it was pretty interesting the way they documented all those big things, and how we’re in a very fast-paced world and everything is changing. In a blink of the eye you can go to A to Z, but they brought it back to the community. I was surprised he brought up the Golden Rule, but the way they talked it was all connected in the end. They connected everything, every thought, every aspect of us moving forward and solving our problems. I thought it was phenomenal.” — Talha JanJua, junior at Union College, editor of the Concordiensis, the student newspaper

“It definitely didn’t disappoint me, and it definitely put a new perspective on my education here at Union. He said a lot about how what we’re gonna learn here, how things we learned in our freshman year might not be true by the time we’re seniors. We can’t expect to leave here, like he said, to cruise for 30 years on the knowledge that we gained here. I thought that was a very interesting thing to say to a room of students.” — Maddie Levin, Union junior from Scarsdale

“I thought it was interesting, and a different take on technology. I  never thought that 51 percent of our lives is spent on the internet, buying houses and paying bills. It was a shock, and the fact we have to catch up with technology now because we’ve been growing up with it. It was just a different look on everything, and we’re gonna have to take that into account when were looking for jobs. I have to know what the market will be like when I graduate in two years.” — Cameron Bechtold, Union sophomore from Middleburgh:

Friedman’s career

Friedman, a Minnesota native, began his New York Times career in 1981 working as a correspondent covering the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. He won his first Pulitzer Prize for that work, and in 1988 earned another Pulitzer for international reporting while based in Jerusalem.

Following the election of Bill Clinton in 1992 he became the Times’ chief White House correspondent, and in 1995 became one the newspaper’s foreign affairs columnists. In 2002, he won his third Pulitzer for his reporting on terrorism.

His book, “The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century,” came out in 2002 and has sold over 4 million copies.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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