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Editor’s Note: The Iconoclast suggests that Tom Friedman’s The World is Flat should be mandatory reading for all of us, as it tells us how our 21st Century world might look. (One suspects, however, that Friedman’s flat world is sort of wrinkled–China and Bangalor do not make a whole world. For some, his view is a very pretty picture, but for many it will appear quite grim. In this first of a multi-part series, our resident image-smasher takes a look at a flat world of claims and insurance in the coming decades.

One of the Iconoclast’s columns back in February of 1981 was entitled, The 21st Century Adjuster. Many of those predictions have become commonplace; on others, he missed the mark. We have a paperless, computer-driven system. We have automatic communication, and electronic bank deposits. Vehicle appraisals, while not exactly without human involvement, are largely automated. But the prediction about medical science eliminating pain has not yet come to pass, nor has the concept of “trial by computer” he suggested, where both sides submit digitized briefs to the court’s computer data bank and the computer renders the verdict. We’re close, however–negotiation by computer is now commonplace, almost old hat. Technology makes skills “transferable,” and that’s what can make the world flat.

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