Third Wave and Telecommuting

Fri 19 December 2014

I have been reading Tim Bray’s blogpost on how he started to work in Amazon, and I got ignited by the comment by len and particularly by this (he starts quoting Tim):

“First, I am to­tally sick of working remotely. I want to go and work in rooms with other people working on the same things that I am.”

And that says a lot. Whatever the web has enabled in terms of access, it has proven to be isolating where human emotions matter and exposing where business affairs matter. I can’t articulate that succinctly yet, but there are lessons to be learned worthy of articulation. A virtual glass of wine doesn’t afford the pleasure of wine. Lessons learned.

Although I generally agree with your sentiment (these are really not your Friends, except if they already are), I believe the situation with the telecommuting is more complex. I have been telecommuting for the past eight years (or so, yikes, the time fly!) and I do like it most of the time. However, it really requires special type of personality, special type of environment, special type of family, and special type of work to be able to do it well. I know plenty of people who do well working from home (with occasional stay in the coworking office) and some who just don’t. It has nothing to do with IQ or anything like that. Just for some people it works, and I have some colleagues who left Red Hat just because they cannot work from home and the nearest Red Hat office was just too far from them.

However, this trivial statement makes me think again about stuff which is much more profound in my opinion. I am a firm believer in the coming of what Alvin and Heidi Toffler called “The Third Wave”. That after the mainly agricultural and mainly industrial societies the world is changing, so that “much that once was is lost” and we don’t know exactly what is coming. One part of this change is substantial change in the way we organize our work. It really sounds weird but there were times when there were no factories, no offices, and most people were working from their homes. I am not saying that the future will be like the distant past, it never is, but the difference makes it clear to me that what is now is not the only possible world we could live in.

I believe that the standard of people leaving their home in the morning to work will be in future very very diminished. Probably some parts of the industrial world will remain around us (after all, there are still big parts of the agricultural world around us), but I think it might have the same impact (or so little impact) as the agricultural world has on the current world. If the trend of the offices dissolution will continue (and I don’t see the reason why it wouldn’t, in the end all those office buildings and commuting is terrible waste of money) we can expect really massive change in almost everything: ways we build homes (suddenly your home is not just the bedroom to survive night between two workshifts), transportation, ways we organize our communities (suddenly it does matter who is your neighbor), and of course a lot of social rules will have to change. I think we are absolutely not-prepared for this and also we are not talking about this enough. But we should.

Category: computer Tagged: politics sociology