Does Big Technology Make Good Neighbors?

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Digital life reaches far beyond our screens into the real world. This means we need to understand how to live with the effects of technology in our backyard.

It’s not always easy. Some residents of towns close to e-commerce transaction centers, traffic, pollution and security risks from delivery trucks and trucks. Communities where water is scarce worried About the needs of internet computer centers that use water to keep equipment cool. Neighbors sometimes complain noise, sound or garbage From nearby commercial kitchens and mini warehouses for delivery services like Uber Eats.

Conflicts over shared space and limited public resources are nothing new. But we increasingly live side by side with the physical manifestations of technology services that we want and need. And as our new neighbors, I’m not sure we’re equipped to deal with them.

Not so long ago, technology’s impact on our physical world was not so obvious. Of course, any website needed computing centers, and e-commerce companies had warehouses and delivery drivers. What has changed is the rapid increase in demand for all of these and our desire for faster-than-ever tech-enabled conveniences, which is putting additional stresses on public infrastructure.

meet the demand, Amazon and other internet shopping companies we open warehouses and parcel distribution centers closer to where we live. This brings noise, traffic and pollution to more neighborhoods as a tradeoff for faster deliveries. Companies deliver burritos, drinks or bananas we need real estate and transportation close to our home and work, right up to our door. And the effects of climate change have made competition for energy and water more urgent.

No single person or company is responsible for this situation. Our collective demand for more everything online is to blame, and the public, our elected officials and our companies need to face this new reality much more directly.

one article This week by The Information (subscription required) Mentioned about the conflict over Amazon package operations in Milford, Mass., the company formed a task force last year to address community concerns about the repercussions of its delivery operations. Milford has also appointed two liaison officers to share residents’ concerns with Amazon.

I don’t know if this is a tangible collaboration or window dressing, but it feels like a good first step to acknowledge that changing where we live raises tough questions about whether new neighbors do more good than harm.

Again, such concerns are not new. People would probably prefer to have an Amazon warehouse in town rather than a dumpster or polluting factory. That doesn’t override citizens’ concerns about swaps.

Last year, I spoke with the mayor, Richard Mays. Dalles, Ore., a town that is home to multiple computer data centers. He said there is disagreement among residents about whether these operations contribute enough to taxes, job opportunities and other benefits compared to what they take in the form of stress on the roads and power grid.

Our conversation stuck with me because it got to the heart of the matter: Are these tech companies, many of whom are now in our backyards and on our streets, contributing more than they receive?

This is a wildly subjective assessment. And the downsides for newcomers, especially high-profile companies, can be harder to swallow. You may have endured the traffic from the nearby office park, but a similar level of congestion could feel worse due to the DoorDash delivery center.

Our more technology-dependent lives require greater awareness by the public and smart public policy to effectively manage ripple effects. We all have a stake in figuring out how to greet the future we want while keeping the communities we love intact.


  • White House and corporate size: President Biden announced an executive order on Friday. target industries where few companies have a lot of power, including technology, my colleagues David McCabe and Cecilia Kang report. David Leonhardt wrote in The Morning newsletter why many economists believe this. lack of competition It’s holding back the US economy and wages.

  • How you can help prevent a cyberattack in the workplace: Washington post passes through warning signs in emails or phone calls (!) where criminals may be trying to break into your company’s computer systems (!) A tip: Beware of emails that appear to come from a boss asking for account information. (Also, cyber attacks never a person’s fault but it is a collective problem.)

  • Time to cash in on these old Pokémon cards: Trading cards based on 1990s video game characters its value has skyrocketed recently“Nostalgia has been fueled by new ways to sell online and extra spare time during the pandemic,” says Bloomberg News. The listing of Pokémon cards on eBay increased 1,046 percent in the first three months of 2021.

Did you catch the moment of pure joy (bract!) 14-year-old Zaila Avangard won Scripps National Spelling Bee? He is also a talented basketball player dribbling six balls at once.


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