Why disasters are less disastrous today

The worst of the storm is over, and for most it was quite exciting rather than life threatening. Obviously for the few people who died it was a tragedy, but these small tragedies happen all the time with road accidents in particular. And for those without power, it is very inconveniencing.

What has struck me is that nobody is writing about the cost to the country in terms of lost employment – so many people who couldn’t get to work, etc. etc. This has been the usual refrain with such storms in the past. I think the reason is that so many people now have the technology to work at home, and the umbilical to the office is stretching more and more.

But of course not everybody can work from home. School teachers for instance have to go in, and one reason that there is less outcry this time is that so much of the country is on half term, which means there are no stories about closed schools, and the concomitant impact on parents’ working arrangements.
But there are still a lot of people whose jobs require physical presence. It is interesting to think in how many cases that is essential. Carers, nurses and waiters are irreplaceable. Shop staff can of course be replaced in internet shopping, but you still need people in warehouses, and to make deliveries. And what about other tasks which we think are essentially face to face? You may need to visit your doctor to have your temperature taken or that lump on your leg examined, but could you then discuss the test results on Skype?

A lot of universities already use distance learning. Are we heading towards a society where only the carer, the nanny, the cleaner, the gardener and the road mender will actually have to work in the physical world? It might seem scary but it would reduce pressure on our transport system. Perhaps we won’t need HS2 after all.



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