BestPlaceToBe ExtremeCustomization SkyTranEqualsElevator

(needs rewriting to integrate these)

From SkyTranEqualsElevator

Email and chat and videoconferencing go only so far. We are primates, not robots, and there is something about physical presence that no amount of virtual interaction can duplicate. When all the employees living within a 100-mile radius can physically come together with less inconvenience than commuting to work today, there will be much less need to settle for pale virtual substitutes.

However, note that physical presence is not a possibility for employees 1000 miles or half a world away, whom virtual collaboration puts on a much more equal footing. (My software consultant friends who enthused in the early nineties about logging in to their clients' computers from the back woods of New Hampshire or Oregon were much less happy about programmers at a fraction of their pay scale logging in from Bangalore, India.) Business is likely to become much more integrated on the scale of 50 or 100 kilometers, and as a result somewhat less likely to diffuse around the planet.

From ExtremeCustomization:

Second, distance will be resurrected as a barrier to imports. Labor may be dramatically cheaper elsewhere in the world, but without heroic progress in long-distance travel, labor in Kampuchea cannot deliver a same-day customized product in New York; so wherever that becomes the norm, they cannot compete. This fact will restore to workers in rich countries, physically close to the customers, some of the comfortable home-court advantage that globalization stole from them in the past few decades.

The limit of this phenomenon is the time and cost of transportation from distant locations versus the wage differential AND other effects that may make a product produced far away cheaper or better than what can be made locally. ExtremeCustomization in hours may well become the norm for a variety of products purchased by affluent consumers. However, many people may be willing to wait a few days to get the same highly-customized product at a significantly lower price from a similarly-integrated production network in a city where costs are lower. SuperChina

Also, the very phenomenon of local integration described here has a flip side: there will be global or regional centers of excellence for specialized products that no producer in your city can match. If the world's best designers and artisans for a physical (not virtual) product cluster in one or a few cities globally, you will need to interact virtually with them and then wait for the physical product to arrive.

Finally, advanced technology will some day turn the world into a true global village, where rapid transit over thousands of miles will also take just a few minutes or hours. Hypersonic "space planes" have been on the drawing boards for years, though soaring energy costs are likely to constrain such travel significantly today.

A much more energy-efficient alternative will be Gerard K. O'Neill's maglev "floater" trains moving at thousands of MPH in evacuated tunnels (buried underground and suspended deep enough in the oceans to be unaffected by storms). In his book _2081, A Hopeful View of the Human Future_ he calculated that eventually passengers could travel to the other side of the Earth in just 39 minutes (accelerate at 1G until centrifugal force of the Earth's curvature reached 1G *upwards* -- the trains would need to rotate in the tunnel to make this acceptable -- then decelerating at 1G to stop at the destination). Ah, the audacity of physicists!