Anyone with a bit of interest in English industrial history will know of the Cadbury family and how it effectively established the town of Bourneville
Could we be going there again, I wonder? The reason the question emerges has a number of facets, not least being the speculation surfacing at IBM’s Almaden Research Labs in California
For what it is worth, Strong reckons ODIS offers a way not of predicting the future, but at least defining future sign post events that will point to possible futures. One such future being speculated is the said reversal of urbanisation. One obvious `sign post event’ is the development of the Internet and all that has followed. It is now possible for a growing number of people to do productive work totally remote from their `place’ of work. Location and value no longer demand proximity.
So they can live anywhere, but what about those people who still need proximity to a fixed location to do their job? Well, lots of us like the idea of un-urbaning ourselves – I have done it myself with much gratification. But not everyone can afford such luxuries, and as more aim at it, so the costs will go up, so pure economics might well keep an increasingly frustrated and disillusioned majority urbanised against their better judgement.
Then there is that other factor – the `Big House’ syndrome. One of the first companies in the IT world to adopt this approach in Egland was SAS Institute, which bought a huge and ancient `pile’ at Medmenham, outside Marlow. Others have followed suit and many of our grand houses are now occupied by Mammon’s labourers. In a way, nothing much has changed there: serving Mammon was the reason most of the houses got built in the first place.
And the grand families occupying those big houses often grew villages around them so that estate workers were on-site, so to speak. Many still own those villages lock, stock and undertaker. So why shouldn’t the big companies ponder the same possibilities again? They are the ones with sufficient resources to buy the land required and make the level of investment demanded. They and their staff also have a common need. The company village could be reborn.
Lastly the technology is already largely available, and it would make particular sense to utilise the capabilities that utility computing architectures could provide. There is a synergy there between technology, social need and brute economics that could make such an idea very appealing.
Then again, of course, it could be absolutely awful. Much would depend upon the attitude of the boss and the board of directors – and we can all think of a few we’d rather wasn’t our `landlord’, I suspect.