For two decades now, Friedman has been writing what Gawker once called his “only column,” i.e. technology is advancing at speeds beyond humanity’s ability to adapt. Friedman’s extraordinary career has essentially been one long exercise in finding new ways to express and re-express that one phrase (see here).
In Thank You for Being Late, Friedman finally expressed the idea in visual form, in a pair of graphs. The first plots against X and Y axes of indeterminate value where “we are” in history versus where “human adaptability” is headed:
The second explains that the solution to our problem is to just move the adaptability line up to meet the “We are here” data point:
As noted earlier this week, Friedman’s “solution” graph appeared to involve time travel, but this was the least of its problems. As Matt Novak at Gizmodo wrote:
“The graph shows technology (which is never defined) and its rate of change (which is never defined) and human adaptability (which is never defined). It’s the kind of thing you might see scrawled in feces in Ted Kaczynski’s prison cell but it’s now been conveniently committed to paper and given a much wider audience.”
Without further ado, here are the winners, and below those, a selection of some other notable entrants in a long list. I wish I had enough room for all of them. Thanks to everyone for participating:
Winner #1: John Clevenger, @johnclevenger, Champaign, IL
— John Clevenger (@johnclevenger) November 25, 2016
Clevenger’s excellent graph is self-explanatory. Some others followed him with the same idea, but he was first and also nailed the aesthetic:
Winner #2: Patrick Snider, @OttawaFencer, Ottawa, Ontario
— PS (@OttawaFencer) November 25, 2016
Snider’s “Future as all variables” graph was as simple and elegant in its design as a sundial and was a leader among the pure nonsense entrants:
Winner #3: Gordon Comstock, @keeptheasp, London, Ontario
— Gordon Comstock (@keeptheasp) November 29, 2016
Another Canadian! And you can tell Gordon is Canadian because he apologized for it after sending me his address. “PS, I won’t be offended if my Canadianness disqualifies me,” he wrote.
Gordon is a controversial choice, because his graph definitely makes sense, but honestly I just couldn’t not give the guy a shirt because a) the idea is funny and b) it must have taken forever. His concept is a “best Friedman book title anagrams,” which included the correct conclusion that the best of all was “Untitled Gas Station Dude,” the better form of Longitudes and Attitudes:
Winner #4: Molly Hinshaw, @mollyhinshaw, Bay Village, Ohio
— Molly Hinshaw (@mollyhinshaw) December 1, 2016
Ohioan Hinshaw graphed space versus time versus “Whether Foucault’s pendulum is swinging north or south,” with a gyroscopic “space-time anomaly” and “toast” as data points:
Some of the best of the rest:
@fififerenghi, “Speed of Rolling Donut vs. Number of Attempts at Airborn Copulation With Donut (United States)”
— fifi ferenghi (@fififerenghi) December 2, 2016
@TheSkeptic21, “The World According to @tomfriedman Books”
— The Skeptic (@TheSkeptic21) November 29, 2016
— Mitchell Baker (@leafbeetle) December 1, 2016
@bosco_hoggins “Use of the term ‘Innovation’ vs. Understanding of Technology as determined by Self Regard”
— Bosco Hoggins (@bosco_hoggins) November 30, 2016
Note: I love the fact that “Brother-in-law after watching The Social Network” is higher on the graph than “TED talk.” Inspired.
@jalaska13, “Number of Middle Eastern Dictators Toppled Per Month, before and after Google kills its Google Friend Connect product”
— Jalaska13 (@Jalaska13) November 30, 2016
@zackpierce821, “Hot dogs are a sandwich vs. hot dogs are not a sandwich”
— Zack Pierce (@zackpierce821) November 29, 2016
@mclwilson, “Donald Trump’s Opinion on Topic X”
— Myles Wilson (@mclwilson) November 29, 2016
This controversial entrant was considered too accurate by some.
@vulturechow, “Quality of Thomas Friedman’s Book vs. Likelihood that my father will give me the book for Hannukah”
— Elizabeth Lieb (@VultureChow) November 29, 2016
This was one of my favorites and a near-winner.
@frisbeepilot, “# of Downs: NFL, CFL, and Hugh”
— F Pilot (@frisbeepilot) November 29, 2016
@lev688323, “Down vs. Probability of an NFL announcer saying, ‘They’re gonna want to go for a first down here”
— Lev Gewirtzman (@lev688323) November 28, 2016
These two football-related graphs came in at nearly the same time and are somehow funnier together.
@seanale, “A little bit from column A, and A little bit from column B”
— -SA (@seanale) November 28, 2016
@mrcmail, “Credibility vs. Facial Hair”
— grouchobarks (@mrcmail) November 28, 2016
@andywitney, “Main Street vs. Wall Street, Always/Sometimes/Never”
— Andy Witney (@AndyWitney) November 28, 2016
@fritzlodge, “Should America do X?”
— Fritz Lodge (@FritzLodge) November 29, 2016
@jack_cade1450, “Friedman Tumescence vs. Proximity to Corporate Titan”
— Liam M (@Jack_Cade1450) November 25, 2016
@alfredrosenburg, “The Friedman Favorability Graph”
— Alfred Roseburg (@AlfredRoseburg) November 28, 2016
Another set of graphs that are funnier together. Not sure how I feel about realizing I wasn’t too old to laugh at either.
@hathead82, “A Person’s Insight vs. Extent to Which They Are A Cab Driver”
— Tim Maher (@hathead82) November 25, 2016
@mattismyname, “Cats vs Cats”
— Matt (@mattismyname) November 30, 2016
And finally, the aesthetically pleasing dismount:
@fitelson, “Amount of Relish, per ounce, vs. Degree of Nonsense, now and then, relished by the wisest men, vs. Frequency of Relish”
— Branden Fitelson (@fitelson) November 30, 2016
By my old friend Eric Salzman, who didn’t submit a graph, but this video of the old Monty Python “Spectrum – Talking About Things” skit, which is a blast from the past and perfectly in the spirit of the contest.