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The Death of Distance: How the Communications Revolution Will Change Our Lives

1 rating: 5.0
A book by Frances Cairncross

From the advent of electronic communications, there's been talk about how the world has been shrinking. Frances Cairncross, senior editor for theEconomist, makes her case from an economical standpoint: The growing ease and speed of communication is creating … see full wiki

Tags: Books, Cafe Libri
Author: Frances Cairncross
Publisher: Harvard Business Press
1 review about The Death of Distance: How the Communications...

Prudent Optimism

  • Mar 29, 2002
I recently read this brilliant book before reading Cairncross' more recently published The Company of the Future. I highly recommend both and suggest that they be read in the order in which they were written.

In this volume (first published in 1997), Cairncross carefully organizes her material within ten chapters following a Preface in which she observes: "The new ideas in this book are about the many ways in which the most significant technological changes of our time will affect the next century -- and your life. You will find a preview of the most important in 'The Trendspotter's Guide to New Communications' that immediately follows this preface; the rest of the book sets out to interpret and elaborate these key points." in which she identifies and then briefly discusses "Ten Rules for Survival." I have a minor quibble with the title because I think that technological changes to which Cairncross refers have not caused the death of distance; rather, they have re-defined it.

With regard to the aforementioned important developments, Cairncross identifies and then briefly discusses 30 which range from "The Death of Distance" to "Global Peace." All are valid even as some readers may believe that others should be added to the list or replace some of those included. There are several in which I have special interest, including #27, "Communities of Culture." Cairncross suggests that "electronic communications will reinforce less widespread languages and cultures. not replace them with Anglo-Saxon and Hollywood. The declining cost of creating and distributing many entertainment products and the corresponding increase in production capacity will also reinforce local cultures and help scattered peoples and families to preserve their cultural heritage." Once again, many readers who agree on the importance of such trends may disagree with the implications which Cairncross derives from them. Fair enough.

In the final chapter, "Government and the Nation State," Cairncross duly acknowledges that being able to communicate may not be enough to keep the nations of the earth at peace with one another "but it is a start." Thanks to new technologies now available or which will soon become available, people will become less susceptible to, indeed dependent on propaganda from politicians who seek to stir up conflicts. Cairncross concludes, "Bonded together by the invisible strands of global communications, humanity may find that peace and prosperity are fostered by the death of distance." She held out that possibility in 1997. Whether or not it remains a reasonable possibility is for each reader to determine. As I compose this review, violence continues to erupt in the Middle East and elsewhere; extensive poverty worldwide persists and could become even worse. Death does indeed have many faces.

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