Friday, January 06, 2006

Kurt Vonnegut: Human beings will be happier only when they find ways to inhabit primitive communities again

This is from Dave Pollard's essay on predictions for the future of society and real threats.

I love technology for work and entertainment but that does not mean that we need to live in vast cities connected by even vaster urban sprawls. I am in San Diego this week visiting family and friends and while San Diego is a nice place (especially now - recent rains have largely cleared the sky of air pollution) it just seems wrong with so many people crowded into a relatively small area. I lived on the beach in California for about 15 years but my wife and I decided to move to a more remote area (Sedona Arizona) so I admit my own life style preferences and prejudices.

I think that the technologies supporting remote interaction will make it easier for people to spread out into less habitated areas. A year ago, we got set up with my parents to use video conferencing to replace telephone calls. Seeing people while you talk with them is a large improvement. Shared working environments, largely through better web applications, things like Microsoft Sharepoint, etc. all make it easier for people to spread out and avoid over crowding.

There is another motivation for away from urban sprawls: like it or not the American worker must compete with foreign workers based on quality of work and cost per work unit. Living in less expensive areas, yet being connected via the internet, telephones, and emerging groupware technologies can reduce our cost to do quality work and make the U.S. more competitive. While there are productivity costs involved with a distributed work force there are also real benefits from reducing time spent in meetings to a useful minimum and greater efficiency due to scheduling work during times of peak productivity. I am pleased to also see more companies move their headquarters to rural areas in order to be more cost effective. Telecommuting also saves on commute time and reduces our energy and environmental impact footprints.

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