The law of cause and effect might be hard for Donald Trump to comprehend, but experts in areas from transport infrastructure to community development need to apply their expertise to the relationship between digital lifestyles and traditional ways of living.
Digital transformation comes at a price. We have already seen industries shrink and even disappear as digital competitors overrun them. But digital disruption goes way beyond transforming business sectors, with physical infrastructures requiring transformation as well as communities being transformed by stealth.
Ford’s CEO Jim Hackett, recently said cities will have to be rebuilt to cope with changes brought on by digital services trends. He said taxi apps like Uber, driverless cars and the increased need for delivery services as people buy online, will put huge pressure on transport infrastructures.
Urban traffic is expected to triple by 2050, and two thirds of the world’s population will live in cities, compared to 54% today, according to the United Nations.
For transport more people might chose to use services like Uber or Zip Car, which lets you hire cars by the hour through an app, to make short journeys rather than a bus. Then you have the development of driverless cars that will not only mean more traffic on the roads but potentially changes to the infrastructure to accommodate them. And don’t forget the increased digital platforms like Amazon to buy any product imaginable. All this requires delivery.
Cities were designed for a world which is disappearing gradually as behavior changes.
According to the Telegraph, Hackett told an audience at this year’s CES show that city transportation grids will mutate around what the cars need.
But he said this has already happened over the last century with the dominance of cars, claiming car ownership had eroded community life in some towns and cities. “Parking lots overtook community centres. Fast food centres crushed the family diners and restaurants. Technology has been at the expense of our shared sense of belonging.” But today the pace of change seems to get faster and faster. Things unimagionable ten years ago seem normal today.
It brings home the changes that digital lifestyles bring to the physical environment. When you are ordering a meal on your smartphone it all seems so easy. People are more likely to have the food delivered today rather than visiting a takeaway, as it is all automatic on ordering. But actually the process making and delivering food is the same and we don’t think about the effects of our choices.
I was ordering a takeaway while in a cab the other night and the driver was informing me, as they often do, that I should phone the takeaway and order it that way. This is because it means the takeaway does not pay commission and is more likely to offer you extra. It got me thinking that people lose the personal relationship with the local takeaway by using apps like Just Eat.
Local communities are already being transformed, many believe negatively, by another digital disruption. App based room and property rental services, like Airbnb, are encouraging people to rent out their homes and transforming the people that live in certain areas. The local community is being replaced by temporary residents
With people offering their properties to people for as little as a day through there are accusations that house shortages are resulting because home owners prefer this to long term rental customers. Also prices are going up for locals amid new competition for properties.
In the Netherlands there has already been action by authorities to regulate companies like Airbnb. This was a reaction to the fact that tourists that had booked accommodation heavily populated areas were causing disturbances, and prices were rising for residents due to tourist demands.
I am curious what will happen to the business quarters of the big cities as more and more people take advantage of working from home. I regularly visit offices of businesses b and I am always surprised at how many empty desks there are. When I ask them why it is always that they have flexible working and many people work from home. What will happen to all the big skyscrapers when flexible working becomes the rule rather than an extra? Capital cities will be virtual.