The Hustle

The pandemic is bad news for superstar cities. Here’s why.

The sudden and widespread acceptance of remote work will lead to a number of trends that don’t bode well for elite coastal cities like San Francisco and New York.

Is remote work here to stay?

The pithy response to that question is, “Meh, we’ve had the technology for years but still worked in the office pre-COVID.”

According to The Atlantic’s Derek Thomspon, that answer has merit.

But he believes that there’s no going back and that we’ll see a permanent transition from “spatial proximity” (work where you live) to “cloud-based connectivity” (work anywhere)… and this will be no bueno for superstar cities.

The key pandemic change isn’t technological; it’s social

Citing work from economist David Autor, Thompson says that the slow adoption of remote work can be explained by the “telephone problem.”

While the telephone was patented in the 1860s, fewer than half of Americans had one 7 decades later. The behavioral changes required to put a ringing box in your house moved a lot slower than the tech itself.

The same happened with remote work. Skype was founded in 2003, but telling your co-worker, “Hey, can we just hop on a vid call instead of meeting in person ‘cause I don’t want to put on pants?” was founded only in 2020.

There’s no going back from the Zoom-i-fication of society

As a result of this new normal, Thompson makes 4 predictions:

Our take: There’s more than a remote chance that some of these predictions are right.

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