I always enjoy Charles Arthur’s columns in the Guardian. In this one, he returns to a topic that has been temporarily forgotten in these current economic times: the inevitable rise in the price of oil. What will happen, he asks, when oil picks itself up off the floor and continues its upwards price trend, so that it costs, say, five times more than it does now?
Arthur argues that we’ll all travel less, and start to focus on whether a journey – to work, or for pleasure – is really necessary. In many ways, this imagined future sounds quite a nice place. Instead of lots of car, bus, train, and plane journeys, we’ll be doing more things using incredibly fast fibre optic network connections. The network will become our society – to an even greater extent than it does today. Perhaps we’ll all become less self-conscious about appearing on camera. I’ve never used my iSight camera for a web chat, but in the future I might get over myself.
What, in turn, does that mean for our society? Apart from fewer cars on the roads (though possibly with more people sharing rides in them), it means more time working at or near to home, if your work involves things that can be done digitally. For all those jobs that need to be near to physical things – that is, where you make things like cars or food or whatever – you’ll have to be based nearer the place you work.