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Digital life extends beyond our screens into the real world. That means we have to figure out how to live with the effects of technology in our backyards.
It’s not always easy. Some residents of towns near e-commerce processing hubs complain about traffic, pollution and safety risks from delivery vans and vans. Communities where water is scarce are worried about the need for internet computing centers that use water to keep equipment cool. Neighbors are sometimes concerned about noise or garbage from nearby commercial kitchens and small warehouses for delivery services like Uber Eats.
Conflicts over shared space and limited public resources are nothing new. But we increasingly live alongside the physical manifestations of the technological services we want and need. And I’m not sure we’re equipped to deal with them as our new neighbours.
Not so long ago, the impact of technology on our physical world was not so obvious. Certainly, any website needs a computing center and e-commerce companies have warehouses and delivery drivers. What has changed is the rapid increase in demand for all of these and our desire for tech-enabled gadgets faster than ever, leading to increased strains on the body. public infrastructure.
To meet demand, Amazon and other internet shopping companies have opened warehouses and package distribution centers closer to where we live. That brings noise, traffic and pollution into more neighborhoods as a trade-off for faster deliveries. Likewise, companies that deliver burritos, beer or bananas to our homes also need to have real estate and transportation close to our homes and places of work. And the effects of climate change have made competition for energy and water all the more urgent.
No individual or company is entirely at fault in this situation. Our collective need for more of everything online is to blame, and the public, our elected officials, and companies need to confront this new reality more directly.
An article this week by The Information (registration required) about conflicts in Amazon’s packaging operations in Milford, Mass., mentions that the company established a task force last year to address community concerns about the consequences of its operations their delivery. Milford also appointed two liaison officers to share residents’ concerns with Amazon.
I don’t know if it’s a substantive partnership or a window dressing, but it feels like a good first step to acknowledging that changing our homes comes with questions. conundrums about whether the new neighbors are doing more good than harm.
Again, concerns of this kind are not new. People probably would rather have an Amazon warehouse in town than a landfill or a polluting factory. That doesn’t take away people’s worries about trade-offs.
Last year, I spoke with Richard Mays, the mayor of The Dalles, Ore., a town with many computer data centers. He says there is disagreement among residents about whether such activities contribute enough in taxes, job opportunities and other benefits compared to what they receive in the form of road stress. facilities and the power grid.
Our conversation was with me because it got to the heart of the matter: Will these tech companies, many of them now in our backyards and on our streets, contribute more than the what are they doing?
That is an extremely subjective assessment. And restrictions from newcomers, especially established companies, can be harder to swallow. You may already have trouble with traffic from the nearby office park, but the same level of congestion could be even worse if it were due to the DoorDash delivery hub.
Our more technology-dependent lives call for public awareness and smart public policy to effectively manage ripple effects. We all have a role to play in figuring out how to welcome the future we want while keeping the communities we love intact.
Before we go…
The White House versus corporate growth: President Biden outlined an executive order on Friday that targets industries where some companies have a lot of power, including in the technology sector, my colleagues David McCabe and Cecilia Kang said. know. David Leonhardt wrote in The Morning on why many economists say a lack of competition is holding back the US economy and wages.
How you can help prevent a cyberattack at work: The Washington Post reviews warning signs in emails or phone calls (!) that criminals may be trying to break into your company’s computer systems. One tip: Be careful with emails that appear to be from your boss asking for account credentials. (Also note that cyberattacks are never the fault of one person but a common problem.)
It’s time to cash in on those old Pokémon cards: Trading cards based on 1990s video game characters have skyrocketed in value recently, “fueled by nostalgia, new ways to sell online, and a surplus of time. free time during the pandemic,” Bloomberg News reported. Pokémon tag listings on eBay grew 1,046 percent in the first three months of 2021.
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