We seem on track to spend far more preventing pandemic health harm than we will suffer from it, which seems too much spending given the apparent low elasticity of harm w.r.t. prevention. But an upside is that some of this prevention effort is being invested in remote work, which is helping to develop and innovate such capacities. Which matters because remote work (a.k.a. telecommuting) is my guess for the most important neglected trend over the next 30 years. (At least of trends we can foresee now.)
One small example of agglomeration via remote work is graphic design. Last century, if your company needed say a logo designed, you’d hire a graphic designer in the same city, meet them in person, etc. In the 1980s they might not even do the computer work themselves, but sketch it out on paper and pay a separate ‘artworker’ to implement it with Adobe Illustrator for them! Graphic designers would do all kinds of work; logos were a small part of it.
These days there are numerous online companies that serve customers globally and specialise just in logo design, at a tiny fraction of the previous price.
Do you have supporting evidence for the "most" part of this assertion @ericashley:disqus ? I'm curious about this one. I frequently see people claim that "people would prefer to in cities" or "people would prefer not to live in cities", and either one can seem to be obviously the opinion of the majority depending who you ask. (I'm also curious about demographic breakdown of preferences on this if you have any information on that.)
Speaking of ems, I wonder if it will make ems easier for people to imagine, and thus make them think ems are more likely. People will have had the experience of having a coworker that they have videoconferenced with, but never met in person. Then they can imagine an em as a coworker that they never can meet in person.
Yes the road ahead is long.
Paul Graham has tweeted about some limitations that currently still exist:
general (in his experience in the context of startups):https://twitter.com/paulg/s...
current tech doesn't provide sufficient high bandwidth:https://twitter.com/paulg/s...
communication security (which you didn't mention, but is kind of orthogonal; was one of the areas with higher change):https://twitter.com/paulg/s...
My 2cts is that I am sorely missing shared visual space that gets close to a big whiteboard. Something that multiple people can work and *and see what others point to or even intend to do*.
Most Americans would prefer to live in a small town. Many people live in cities because they have too, not because they want too.
Remote work will also dramatically reduce sexual harassment claims, office politics, and long lunches -- which will also boost productivity and lower costs while at the same time reducing human harms. In short, the balance of benefits and costs of agglomeration will shift. The idea that it produces a "race to the bottom" is fear-mongering. Labor is low percentage component in most products and in many services. Firms don't shift to overseas workers to shave a few dollars per hour; they do it to avoid restrictive work rules (the widget stacker won't do the job the widget mover etc) and to be closer to suppliers.
This took me back to another world wide crisis.
"We seem on track to spend far more preventing pandemic health Y2K harm than we will suffer from it..."
"But all work isn't about efficiency. The human work of creativity and collaboration still values space." If the goal is creativity, then getting more of that IS efficiency.
This really just puts remote workers on a race-to-the-bottom path, much as we've seen with how Americans shipped their own manufacturing jobs overseas by hoarding Chinese goods from Walmart. The jobs you describe here will become more compartmentalized, routinized, based on efficiency, and essentially commoditized -- making them ripe for outsourcing if not also replacement by AI.
But all work isn't about efficiency. The human work of creativity and collaboration still values space. And in a world of greater polarization, binary thinking, and shut minds in the face of overwhelming information streams, the only real way we can achieve progress on environmental and social issues will be to draw out empathy. Remote work is currently horrible at that.
In other words, remote work jobs are destined to become the commoditized gig-economy labor we see today. Anything depending on the most human of our human skills to advance will require greater forms of physical connection and are likely to be valued more highly due to their specialization and high-human-touch requirements.
Yes, to the extent that making a task remote makes it easier to make nearby tasks remote.
So, remote work is a... colonization wave?
I think that one reason we prefer cities is that wages are higher there. But that in turn is because the available workforce for those jobs must live in the city, and their supply is smaller than the city's demand, which pushes up wages. If global remote workers could swipe the jobs of city plumbers, that would create a race to the bottom for sure. Plumbers would just disappear from cities like call center workers already did. With finite populations races to the bottom do eventually end, once places where life is cheap improve and grow more expensive.
(In em worlds there are no analogous population constraints: you can "birth" and "kill" workers as they are needed in any given nanosecond. This is why I think race-to-the-bottom problems are qualitatively different for ems. You get to the actual bottom of the bottom, where the wage of every running em allows for a quality of life which is only infinitesimally preferable to suicide.)
Thanks for the reply. Only somewhat agree on the first part. One could argue that "being in the same room" or being able, in theory, to physically engage with the other person constitutes a big part of the social aspect of the interaction (likely due to primal instincts relating to potential physical conflict). We see this challenge already in the way people are far more likely to interact in a hostile way online (of course, in large part, supported by incentives). Physical proximity could still play a big role even if avatars are life like.So I agree that the interaction will be less satisfying - as it will be less social.Overcoming this obstacle will be one of the biggest challenges imo.