walter russell mead peter berger lilia shevtsova adam garfinkle andrew a. michta
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The Information Revolution Is Only Just Beginning

Christmas sales were up this year by a healthy 3.5 percent, but the real news behind these numbers is online commerce, which went up an even healthier 16.5 percent year-over-year:

“One clear bright spot is that many consumers who were stuck indoors turned to online shopping to check items off their list,” said Sarah Quinlan, senior vice president of market insights for MasterCard Advisors in a statement.

Online retailer Amazon.com, based in Seattle, said in a release Thursday more than half of its customers shopped using a mobile device this holiday season. The company said it sold 36.8 million items — an average of 426 items per second — on Cyber Monday, the Monday following Thanksgiving.

We are likely to see continued migration of more and more activities online. Americans don’t have time to circle the freeways from mall to mall, and are increasingly growing comfortable with shopping online. This is likely to have long-term consequences—for shopping malls, real estate, and jobs.

It’s all part of a larger pattern. The internet is getting more and more user friendly when it comes to a whole range of activities. From Skype to MOOCs to health care, these factors—convenience, time efficiency, ever-increasing broadband and wireless speeds, better websites and greater consumer familiarity with and comfort on the web—will lead more of life’s business to be transacted online.

And these are early times. By the time we have Google cars (or Uber) for deliveries, and 3D printing and other new technologies go mainstream, we’ll see a revolution in the way people live as profound (and much more environmentally benign) as the changes made by the advent of the car. There will be huge economic disruptions, and great fortunes will be made and lost.

The information revolution is just gearing up; bigger changes are coming than anything we’ve yet seen.

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  • lukelea

    “The information revolution is just gearing up; bigger changes are coming than anything we’ve yet seen.”

    Famous words. Let’s see how they look in twenty years. My bet: the biggest changes we’ve already seen. And they have been truly big.

  • Jim__L

    City life is likely to become a matter of choice, rather than a chore for those of us who have to live here for the sake of employment.

    I predict that as desalinization becomes cost-effective, the entire Pacific Coast — from Seattle to San Diego, or even from Vancouver to Mexico and points south — will become more populated, for the sake of weather and scenery. Aesthetic reasons will be dominant as economic reasons. Look to Sydney and Melbourne for models of how urban life will develop.

    And, look to “Inland Empires” to see how suburban life will develop. Riverside County, bedroom communities like Morgan Hill and Gilroy — McMansions, actual living space, for families. They will be within driving distance (automated or not) of whatever “amenities” people want, for the occasions that they want them (and have the time and money for them). Even larger properties will be available farther inland, for those who want their half-acre or more.

    Since moving house and generational connections really are a big deal, this will take decades to work out fully. The information revolution’s severing the connection between place-of-residence and place-of-employment will make this a reality, though. Fascinating times.

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