Everyone is looking for the silver lining for this pandemic trauma. Store closings would end our materialism, but we are buy more than ever Now we can't go out. Extraordinary times brought us together as a nation, then we stopped clapping and started arguing over local bans.
The most persistently proclaimed silver lining is that we have learned that technology will enable remote working in the future. Zoom, Teams, and the rest will appear to be spreading good work across the country without the need for offices or densely populated cities. Parking the fact that less dense life is a climate change catastropheWhat does history tell us about the impact of major improvements in communications technology? ONE Recent study examined the case of cell phones, examining 15 million calls and texts daily. The question is whether mobile communications will replace face-to-face meetings and allow us to build networks in places where we don't live or work.
However, the authors find the opposite: our cell phone use is strongly influenced by physical distance. Almost 50% of cell phone connections are made within a radius of 5 km. Their argument: better communication technology does not overcome the difficulties of building relationships over distance. People will do more remote work after the crisis, but if we want a more geographically equitable country, we'd better stop assuming that it will happen automatically. Zoom isn't the messiah, it's just a naughty app.
• Torsten Bell is the managing director of the Resolution Foundation. Read more under ResolutionFoundation.org