Is Technology Going to Save Our Small Towns Or Concentrate More People in the City?
Two different views of how technology is changing how and where we live. Edward Alden writes in the Atlantic Cities about how the internet and new manufacturing technologies might bring people back to the small towns so badly hit by the loss of manufacturing and the mechanization of agriculture.
The same technological innovation that killed some small towns may, in theory, offer some hope for their revival. The commercial possibilities of the internet and modern communications mean that many jobs, particularly in business services, can be done remotely. In all likelihood, companies have only begun to experiment with the cost savings that could come from allowing more employees to work from home or at cheaper satellite offices. New, small-scale manufacturing technologies using 3-D printing could also begin to decentralize manufacturing.
On the other hand, technology is also making it cheaper to start a business and urban centers are becoming more attractive to businesses; the latest example is Pinterest, which relocated to downtown San Francisco. Venture capitalist Mark Suster writes in the Urbanophile, quoting another VC:
Technology innovation doesn’t occur in a vacuum. It happens in a dialog with society....I think that’s one of the reasons that many of the most interesting Bay Area startups are choosing to locate themselves in the city. And it is one of the reasons that NYC is developing a vibrant technology community. Society is at its most dense in rich urban environments where society and technology can inspire each other on a daily basis.”
Perhaps it is not an either-or; Perhaps, to paraphrase George W. Bush, these technologies will make the pie higher for both cities and our small towns.