Finally, we have virtual reality coming in to totally upend things, perhaps rendering the commute obsolete altogether. There’s a reason Facebook bought Oculus for $2 billion. Facebook sees the future of social interaction as happening through VR. Microsoft has already shown demos of people in completely different places physically, interacting seamlessly almost hologram-like in a way that’s both creepy and awesome (they appropriately call it Holoportation).Perhaps there are some lingering expectations of people being in the office part-time to build camaraderie (drinking virtual beer together isn’t as fun after all), but the five-day-a-week commute will be undesirable to employees — and to employers who want a recruiting advantage and prefer more workable hours for their employees and can offer it by eliminating their commute.
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Instead of having a few densely populated pockets like we do today, people are going to disperse because technology will make it easier to do so and it’ll be much cheaper to live. Real estate prices will shift — not just in San Francisco, but in every major city. And places that hold universal appeal (e.g. beachfront/close to mountains) will draw more people as a result.
Dan Laufer reiterates the thesis of my recent eBook Last Rush Hour: The Decentralization of Knowledge Work in the Twenty First Century. The maturation and continued evolution of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) such as VR conferencing will render the daily Monday through Friday commute obsolete by removing the last perceived barrier to avoiding working daily in a centralized office setting: the need to meet face to face.
As I write in Last Rush Hour, ICT will prove as a profound and disruptive force of change for residential settlement patterns as the automobile was at the height of the Industrial Age by dispersing people out of inner cities to the suburbs.