The Post-Information Age13

Place Without Space

In the same ways that hypertext removes the limitations of the printed page, the post-information age will remove the limitations of geography. Digital living will include less and less dependence upon being in a specific place at a specific time, and the transmission of place itself will start to become possible.

If I really could look out the electronic window of my living room in Boston and see the Alps, hear the cowbells, and smell the (digital) manure in summer, in a way I am very much in Switzerland. If instead of going to work by driving my atoms into town, I log into my office and do my work electronically, exactly where is my workplace?

In the future, we will have the telecommunications and virtual reality technologies for a doctor in Houston to perform a delicate operation on a patient in Alaska. In the nearer term, however, a brain surgeon will need to be in the same operating theater at the same time as the brain; many activities, like those of so-called knowledge workers, are not as dependent on time and place and will be decoupled from geography much sooner.

Today, writers and money managers find it practicable and far more appealing to be in the Caribbean or South Pacific while preparing their manuscripts or managing their funds. However, in some countries, like Japan, it will take longer to move away from space and time dependence, because the native culture fights the trend. (For example: one of the main reasons that Japan does not move to daylight savings time in the summer is because going home "after dark" is considered necessary, and workers try not to arrive after or go home before their bosses.)

In the post-information age, since you may live and work at one or many locations, the concept of an "address" now takes on new meaning.

When you have an account with America Online, CompuServe, or Prodigy, you know your own e-mail address, but you do not know where it physically exists. In the case of America Online, your Internet address is your ID followed by anywhere in the world. Not only do you not know where is, whosoever sends a message to that address has no idea of where either it or you might be. The address becomes much more like a Social Security number than a street coordinate. It is a virtual address.

In my case, I happen to know where my address,, is physically located. It is a ten-year-old HP Unix machine in a closet near my office. But when people send me messages they are sending them to me, not to that closet. They might infer I am in Boston (which is usually not the case). In fact, I am usually in a different time zone, so not only space but time is shifted as well.

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Updated on May 14, 1996