Sometimes the future is what it used to be.

Back in 2017, we had a thread discussing a series of predictions Arthur C. Clarke made in 1964 about life in the year 2000, in particular, the suggestion that what we would now call telecommuting or "work from home" would make cities obsolete. The creative class/utopian urbanists' school was even stronger five years ago than it is today, so the standard take on why Clarke got this wrong was that he underestimated the vitality and appeal of cities.

I offered an alternate theory.

But I think a third factor may well have been bigger than either of those two. The early 60s was an anxious but optimistic time. The sense was that if we didn't destroy ourselves, we were on the verge of great things. The 60s was also the last time that there was anything approaching a balance of power between workers and employers.

This was particularly true with mental work. At least in part because of the space race, companies like Texas Instruments were eager to find smart capable people. As a result, employers were extremely flexible about qualifications (a humanities PhD could actually get you a job) and they were willing to make concessions to attract and keep talented workers.

Telecommuting (as compared to off shoring, a distinction will need to get into in a later post) offers almost all of its advantages to the worker. The only benefit to the employer is the ability to land an otherwise unavailable prospect. From the perspective of 1964, (Read more...)