A recent Orange and London Transport Museum debate, which looked at the future of a digitally Connected Britain, has predicted that, rather than destroying human interaction, technology will enhance it.
The panel was chaired by BBC journalist, economist and presenter Evan Davis, who was joined by writer and broadcaster Janet Street-Porter, futurologist James Bellini, Robert Ainger from Orange and The London Mayor’s Transport Advisor Kulveer Ranger, who discussed Britain’s future in light of ongoing and proposed technology changes at a special event held at the London Transport Museum.
The panel identified that enhanced connectivity through technology such as mobile and fixed internet would give rise to ‘clusters’ of like-minded people being drawn together. Rather than the traditional business and office set up dictating how we live, where we work and who we socialise with, the future ‘digital age’ will see us drawn to others with similar skills, involved in the same industries or just interested in the same things.
Robert Ainger said: “Connectivity allows us to increase the number of people in our networks, irrelevant of geography. It’s likely that in the future, we’ll find ourselves working alongside people from outside our businesses, sharing ideas and values and enhancing our own productivity. We’ll also recognise false boundaries, and start to reach out to anyone that has the skills we need to get the job done, regardless of location. What we need to ensure is that technology supports the associated infrastructure needs of these networks.”
The panel agreed that a move away from a focus on our cities and offices as places to do business will see connected individuals choose where they want to work. As connectivity hubs that are commonplace in our larger cities such as local coffee shops and Wi-Fi hot spots, extend across the country, we could even see the regeneration of some of the UK’s towns and villages.
Futurologist James Bellini asked: “Why not WiFi enable the village hall or the local pub and provide places for people to hot desk? Connectivity doesn’t mean the end of social interaction; it’s a way of enhancing it. By eliminating the dreaded commute – on which 4.6 million hours are spent daily – people could use the time for more productive purposes.”
The lively debate also identified a number of changes to lifestyles that were likely as access to universal connectivity increased. These included the days of salubrious office HQs being numbered; a likely change in travel patterns such that we’ll travel less often but go further; and how the worker of tomorrow will bring a whole new set of skills that will not fit in the traditional office model.
The debate took place as part of both Orange’s continuing focus on Connected Britain, and the London Transport Museum’s current Suburbia exhibition programme, which celebrates our suburban lifestyle past, present and future, and the impact of transport on the development of the suburbs.