As Matt Burr and Becca Endicott prudently observe in a March 17 Wall Street Journal editorial "Coronavirus Will Permanently Change How We Work," chaotic times have a way of reordering reality and, in the process, opening doors to new opportunities and mind-sets.
Burr and Endicott cite mutual worker-employee benefits provided through telecommuting via internet connectivity to achieve protective social distancing. They predict that after the current viral safety threat eases, many former office workers will realize they have little interest in going back to the way things were.
Nor, they argue, will there really be any need to return, because the traditional office is already fading into obsolescence. "The age of the office as we know it is probably over, and the bell can’t be un-rung."
The coronavirus pandemic only sped up the timeline.
I discuss comprehensive aspects and implications of this AI and internet-connectivity-enabled phenomenon in my book "Reinventing Ourselves: How Technology is Rapidly and Radically Transforming Humanity" (2018). Overall, following all the bad news we’ve been hearing, I regard resulting new individual freedoms to determine where and how we work, live and learn to be very positive.
Consider very recent telework opportunities and necessities for example, benefits that I am exercising from my home at this very moment.
The same cheap cameras and high-speed internet access that enable us to Skype with loved ones and friends, affords video conferencing capabilities to small offices, and organizations with no offices at all. They can host meetings from locations anywhere with dispersed audiences in real-time; discuss and resolve time-critical matters; share, exchange, create and approve documents; record and redistribute proceedings, and accomplish all of this without incurring travel and lodging time and expenses.
Telecommuting to work through communication links rather than through physical presence now enables a new breed of entrepreneurs and employers to conduct business in sweatpants and shorts from geographically-dispersed offices, personal homes, and even vacation retreats.
Organizations ranging from larger corporations to small start-ups can now enjoy benefits of remote tele-employment: to recruit and retain the best people no matter where they live; and to buy a unit of service and labor at lower salary and overhead prices to minimize personnel facility requirements.
This benefits employees and temporary consultants as well. Since the 9-to-5, 40-hour work week is no longer a necessary norm, workers can adjust their schedules around personal lives and special needs.
This growing telecommuting trend represents a substantial departure from a traditional urban model where employment is predominately concentrated in a population center such as a major city’s central business district. As a result, senior officers and employees alike are no longer required to locate near a teeming metropolis.
Home buyers and renters can now escape having to pay exorbitant housing prices to live in densely-packed cities and near-by high-priced suburbs, or need to endure daily hours on congested traffic lanes which can be spent in more satisfying and productive pursuits.
Instead, employers and workers can locate in places most conducive to family preferences: near the best quality schools, near loved ones including aging parents, and near individually valued activity centers and landscape attractions.
Home-connected businesses afford working parents and students flexibility to arrange schedules around priorities. Living close to children’s schools and avoiding long work commutes enables more time to spend with them and less money to spend on day care costs.
Suburban and rural areas will provide evermore abundant and moderate cost human labor resources for businesses and institutions that prioritize personal attention and care. This will include health and home care needs of increasingly older populations benefiting from medical technology advancements.
As a result, smaller regionally-distributed medical clinics can apply huge online databases and remote AI telemedicine applications to broader rural populations.
Online teaching and training programs will also enable home-based business parents and others to advance learning goals, such as attainment of additional knowledge-based skills, qualifying technical certifications, and first or advanced college degrees.
Present university building closures and voluntary social distancing from coronavirus dangers has resulted in a need for me, along with other faculty, to conduct ongoing classes and student interactions via Skype and email. Recognizing that there is no perfect substitute for direct face-to-face proximity, it nonetheless works quite well.
Countless students returning home from emptying campuses to substitute online alternatives will logically cause many parents to wonder why they are shelling out precious household savings to send their young people to enormously costly brick and mortar institutions in the first place.
Students have good reasons to wonder also, as more and more universities can be expected to offer diverse open application online degree-eligible courses that are qualitatively very competitive. Why not pick the best ones from a broad field of options?
Yes, the U.S. COVID-19 epidemic is turbocharging radical changes that are both alarming and inevitable.
In any case — and both for better and worse — there's no turning back the clock on myriad ways that information technology advancements and applications are impacting not only our lifestyles, but our fundamental perceptions regarding the types of lifestyles we deem most desirable as well.
Larry Bell is an endowed professor of space architecture at the University of Houston where he founded the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA) and the graduate program in space architecture. He is the author of several books, including "Cyberwarfare: Targeting America, Our Infrastructure, and Our Future" (2020), "The Weaponization of AI and the Internet: How Global Networks of Infotech Overlords are Expanding Their Control Over Our Lives" (2019), "Reinventing Ourselves: How Technology is Rapidly and Radically Transforming Humanity" (2019), "Thinking Whole: Rejecting Half-Witted Left & Right Brain Limitations" (2018), "Reflections on Oceans and Puddles: One Hundred Reasons to be Enthusiastic, Grateful and Hopeful" (2017), "Cosmic Musings: Contemplating Life Beyond Self" (2016), "Scared Witless: Prophets and Profits of Climate Doom" (2015) and "Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax" (2011). He is currently working on a new book with Buzz Aldrin, "Beyond Footprints and Flagpoles." To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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