Will 3 tech trends change where we live?


I suspect that some time this decade we will see 3 tech trends converge which might make a big difference in the utility of remote real estate, land that currently remains undeveloped because it is so remote.

The first is already here, the internet. Many people can now use the internet to work from anywhere, and both long-range wireless broadband and satellite let you get the internet anywhere. That can give you data, video and phone service as well as the conduit for work.

It also gives you shopping, thanks to the commitment of the shipping companies to deliver to any address, even remote ones. Now you don't need much locally -- just your groceries and urgent needs. Everywhere now has a giant bookstore and a giant everything-else store if you can get UPS.

The second trend is cheaper remote power. Possibly solar, but perhaps sooner the fuel cell, to give quiet, clean and cheap electricity anywhere you can get propane delivered. We're not there yet but some products are already on the market. If not there are other improving forms of off-grid power.

The next is the return of cheaper general aviation, allowing people to own planes so they can live far from cities and get to them quickly. This is the only trend to see a recent reversal, as 9/11 has put general burdens on aviation. Today the money you save on the cost of a home, comparing a remote location to a big city, can easily buy that plane.

Some things are still harder, including schooling and of course an active social life. But for a component of society that wanted to live remotely but could not make it workable, this may be about to change. Suddenly that remote hilltop with the fabulous view that was undeveloped because it was off-grid and too remote for the good life may get a house on it. We may see a lot of this.


Any job that can be done from home via an internet connection can be done by a suitably qualified Indian or Chinese (or Mexican or Brazilian). Even if offshoring is unlikely, the perceived risk will likely slow any telecommuting trend.

Fuel cells most likely won't be cheap enough for this application for at least a decade. But solar panels are cost-competitive right now as long as you total the costs over their entire 25 year lifespan. (At least this is true for Northern California levels of sunshine, CA rebates, and PG&E's electricity prices.)

What would really boost the remote real estate trend, sadly, is a huge terrorist attack or series of attacks in major cities. Let's hope that never happens.

Cultural (including sporting) events may be the sticking point for city-proximity for many. And costs for various forms of energy may restrict distance travel. (That is, until we can apply solar and wind generation to transportation.)

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