OPINION: What to Expect of Working in the New Millennium

Dr. Gustavo Mesch looks into his crystal ball, grounded in observation of present-day society. A Senior Lecturer in the Dept. of Sociology and Anthropology, he studies, among others, the sociology of cities and the impact of immigration on the urban space.

The next century/millennium will bring with it significant change in our style of living as well as in our work and consumer habits.

In contrast to the 20th century, where there was strict separation from one’s place of work and one’s place of residence, the 21st century will bring a blurring of these domains. Traffic jams constitute a very large loss in employers’ expense columns, and therefore large work centers will be set up in peripheral areas intended for residences. In order to save both money and land, a number of companies will jointly rent a work center, and sales personnel, customer service workers, and program developers from various companies will share an office.

The ability to communicate in real time from various locations around the globe will return many workers to their homes. Hired workers will work out of their own homes while maintaining constant contact with their superiors, whether by telephone, fax, and/or computer. The self-employed, those who provide services, will transfer their offices to their homes and keep in touch with clients electronically.

The computer will occupy a commanding position in one’s home in the 21st century. The doors to one’s office-home, stove ovens in one’s kitchen, washing machines, televisions, and more will all be connected to the computer and communicate among themselves. We shall then be able to have control over opening the door to our homes, doing our laundry, watching a favorite TV series, and much more, by means of the computer.

Residential neighborhoods will be wired into the computer communication network, and so we shall be able to exchange messages, chat with our neighbors, and communicate with our local government officials through the computer. The day is also not far off when a neighborhood meeting will be convened virtually—that is, without people leaving the comfort of their homes—to discuss the issue of a new school or new road or amendments to the zoning ordinances.

Whereas most construction today is adapted to families with small children, the increase in lifespan that can be expected and the older average age of couple’s marrying will necessitate designing residences and neighborhood that are more appropriate for singles and for senior citizens, such as smaller dwelling units. It also means increasing the number of neighborhood services and facilities that can service these age groups.

Private homes, however, will not lose their prestige in the 21st century. After all, we shall continue to be aware of the environment and will very much wish to preserve our privacy. Because land resources are limited, new settlements will be established on the sea—artificial islands that will connect to the mainland by both bridges and electronics.

The status of shopping malls is at risk. The future will see virtual malls on the Internet, where we can wander about, window shop, and make purchases—again, all without leaving the kitchen or livingroom. The malls of glass and cement will need to make great efforts to get us to take the trouble to enter them physically. Electronic shopping from our living room will jeopardize the “convenience” of driving through traffic jams to the mall. In order to survive, many shopping malls will be forced to change their objectives, from buying centers to activity centers, places offering us courses and enrichment circles, physical activities, as well as a variety of cultural and social events. Commuting to the shopping mall will become convenient only if we can place every single member of the family in a different activity and, at the same time, do our shopping.