From the outset, people have been predicting that the internet would become a decentralizing force for cities. That is, technology would allow us to spread out and work from anywhere — perhaps from a small mountain town in the BC interior. While working from home (WFH) and working from anywhere (WFA) does appear to be on the rise, it hasn’t made cities irrelevant. (US Census data from 2018 estimates that only about 5.2% of Americans work entirely from home.) In fact, the “new economy” seems to have made superstar cities, such as London, seemingly even more important. It has concentrated economic activity; so much so that we’re searching for ways to spread out income and wealth more evenly.
But could it be that the technology simply wasn’t there yet? Fred Wilson posited on his blog today that right now might be video conferencing’s moment. Between not wanting to travel (coronavirus, carbon footprint, time, etc…) and advancements in the actual technology, companies such as Zoom are changing the way people and companies engage over long distances. It is happening in our offices. And come to think of it, there are probably a bunch of meetings that I could and should switch over to Zoom. I’m not yet convinced that it will become a decentralizing force for cities. But it does seem to be empowering less travel and more flexibility.