Despite popular projections on urban populations continuing to rise, UPS logistics expert and TED speaker Julio Gil, says urbanization is actually reaching the end of its cycle due to advances in technology.
In a few years, technology may allow us to enjoy more of the benefits of city life anywhere. These tech innovations, combined with the prospects of lower crime rates, more space, lower cost of living, and less traffic, may take the pressure off cities to accommodate overpopulation and lure more people to the countryside.
Gil sites workplace and consumer trends as well as advances in technology that are inspiring this population shift:
A study by Global Workplace Analytics found that more than 80 percent of U.S. workforce would prefer to work from home. Companies spend an average of $11,000 per year, per employee to have an office. If half of those employees worked from home 50 percent of the time, U.S. companies would save more than $500 billion and reduce greenhouse gasses by 54 million tons.
Gil says teleworkers will benefit from augmented reality and virtual reality technology, making it possible to take emails and spreadsheets anywhere and conduct meetings in cyberspace.
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According to research by comScore, more than half of purchases last year were made online. eMarketer predicts the global market for e-commerce will jump from two trillion dollars to 2.38 by the end of 2017.
Drone technology is being tested as a solution for delivering online purchases to rural residents. A truck can serve as a hub for a squadron of drones, delivering back and forth, substantially reducing the cost of delivery between each location.
Thanks to advances in social media, people are making friends and keeping in touch from the comfort of their own homes. While social media isn’t a replacement for real human contact, studies have shown smaller social groups are stronger ones. A recent survey in the U.K. by the Office for National Statistics also shows higher life satisfaction ratings for people living in rural areas.
Households that migrate to the countryside can reduce their carbon footprints by teleworking and adopting off-the-grid technologies, such as solar panels, wind turbines, and waste recycling utilities.
While Gil anticipates greater appeal for rural living in the near future, cities will not disappear. As people migrate to the countryside, those who choose to live in the city will enjoy a greater balance of resources and higher quality of life.