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Myriad changes already under way

THE war of the moment – against terrorism – will engender immense change across our political, economic, social, and cultural lives. Some of these changes, such as the demand for higher security at airports, require little thought to understand.

Other consequences of this major shock to our world are far more subtle and will evolve without apparent direct ref-erence to the events of September 11. In our globalised world of CNN and emails, we are irretrievably linked, psychologically and emotion-ally, to New York or any other city as if it were just up the road from Perth.

Looking into the future of work, we can pan out several likely developments that either reverse current trends or will fast track otherwise stumbling, fumbling near-shifts that are occurring right now.

One of the subtle biggies will be a modified attitude towards concentrated activities and working in tall buildings. Previously, the higher the office floor number, the nearer to God and all things good. Anecdotal evidence is now showing that many Americans, and Sydney-siders in their financial district, are reluctant to work in skyscrapers, citing the reason for sick leave as “feeling unsafe in a tall building.”

Anxious employees can impede job effectiveness and efficiency at a time when they are most required.

It may eventuate that the policy of downsizing personnel will shift to downsizing architecture, with a trend to-wards shorter buildings – and major safety-first promotional campaigns when marketing the taller ones.

The trend to decentralise the concentration of powerful busi-ness and service institutions to the suburbs such as Subiaco or West Perth, or to second cities such as Joondalup or regional cities such as Bunbury and Geraldton, will probably re-ceive increased impetus with or without conscious awareness that anxiety is feeding the need to do so.

A more specific outcome of September 11 is the likely huge increase in distance or remote communication and information management, to minimise the need for international business travel.

Video conferencing has been hailed as the way to go since the mid 1960s, yet we still prefer face to face, email, or even phone conversations rather than those dreary, clumsy, frustrating video linkups.

We want to see more than the single camera talking head. We want to see the room and make eye contact with anyone present. This will require massive software/ processing power and massive amounts of money to first develop and then purchase it.

If the IT R&D lads see a burgeoning demand for sophisticated video or virtual conferencing possibilities, they will rapidly make it happen as part of the 80 per cent of technology estimated to exist in 20 years that has not yet been invented. Nothing drives innovation faster than consumer demand.

Recently the world’s first 3G mobile phone incorporating videophoning, the Foma, was launched in Tokyo.

Although Vodaphone and other big telecoms are hesitant about its quality, Foma is still moving us that little bit closer to satisfactory distant communi-cation.

Now, if we could innovate technology to eliminate the need for wars, that would be a quality outcome, quality progress.

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