Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Peak Oil, Web 2.0, and Economic Efficiency



Today Glenn Reynolds posted an article over at Tech Central Station on methods of conserving energy in the twenty-first century. This post contained a lot of good thoughts that I wanted to add to and elaborated on.

The article focuses on how recent advances with the internet means that a lot of work and shopping can be done from home which would save on the consumption of gas by commuters. This is an excellent point, but what I find really fascinating is the radical impact that such changes would make on the U.S. (and Global) economy as a whole if such practices were to be adopted on a wide scale.

The way labor, service, and commerce is done in America is rapidly becoming archaic and inefficient. As the World Wide Web evolves from a simple communication platform into something more like the central nervous system of the global economy the more necessary innovation, in terms of how labor is most efficiently used by companies, becomes. Of course if the markets are left alone this problem will take care of itself. Those companies which are the most progressive in terms being able to decentralize the corporate structure to allow for a labor force that is the smallest and most efficient will end up as economic powerhouses while those companies that fail to read the writing on the wall and continue to use outdated means of organizing the effectiveness of their labor force will go the way of the dinosaur – and good riddance.

The end result of all this will be that a lot less energy need be expended on the production of wealth in terms of both human labor and fuel consumption. This phenomenon coupled with exponential increases in automation of production and service means that in the very near future full time jobs will become very rare. This, however, is a good thing because as the average number of hours worked a week falls so to will the average cost of goods and services. What this means in final summary is that we will need to work less yet still be able to create greater and greater amounts of wealth, and what’s more, with all of our free time and wealth we will be able to engage in activities which are good for society over all (i.e. build wealth) for no more incentive than the pleasure of actualizing the potential of our various talents. And all of this is the epitome of efficiency and progress.

8 Comments:

Great post. I agree with your vision and every day see more evidence things will move this way. However, until we fix the societal design problem (i.e., the present phenomenon that rewards seat-warming at the office) this will be harder to accomplish. Glad to see the federal government take the lead, and expect to see more corporations wearing "green" and encouraging telecommuting.

By Blogger prosperette, at 5/10/05 16:46  

I read somewhere that people are herded onto roads and into cubicles because business don't have good ways of measuring productivity. If someone is at the office 8 hours at least management knows they're not at the bar.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6/10/05 00:46  

I like to work at home, but I find it too distracting: Kids, Wife, pets, etc.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6/10/05 08:23  

I don't see the work week shortening, I just see corporations increasing productivity and profits. we've become much more efficient in the last century. but instead of shorten the work week we've just continued to make more and more stuff at a faster rate. I don't see why the trend would change.

By Blogger Mattress, at 6/10/05 12:12  

I think the singularity principle is a bit too optimistic. Peak oil, post-peak natural gas, and the coming energy crisis will greatly impeded technological progress for several reasons. Plastics are petroleum based. More importantly, every calorie of food is grown with the help of fertilizer created with 10 calories of petroleum energy. Commodities such as food, energy, and other natural products are already increasing in price because of energy costs from production and transportation. The work days will not get shorter. Unless profitable fusion technology is developed sooner than currently predicted (35 years), we will experience a great increase in the difficulty of life over the next several decades, with world wars fought for control of the remaining oil reserves. It seems the singularity is overly optimistic unless it is predicted to occur in 2100 or so.

By Anonymous Hallucinojon, at 13/10/05 01:52  

I like the idea of telecommuting, but some industries just aren't geared for it. Building design needs people in a group setting working together, otherwise design dilemmas do not get solved properly, leading to poorly designed buildings. Even offset hours leads to the untimely progress of design. Building construction, obviously, needs people on site.

Besides this industry, I do see great potential in telecommuting.

By Blogger j&c, at 8/11/05 19:14  

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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