Witty, lucid and objective, futurist guru Mitchell examines how "smart" (ie technologically adapted) places, buildings and clothes, will change our relationships with other people and objects. Essentially, that means more working from home (which will affect housing), friendlier neighbourhoods (because we can link up more easily) and globalisation carried to bizarre ends (very-low-wage workers in Africa can watch video monitors connected to security cameras in New York).
Mitchell makes the exciting argument that we can fashion the new world in the way we want. It will be possible for the affluent elite to use technology to create privileged enclaves: Silicon Valley professionals can already commute to their campus workplaces barely noticing the crime-ridden areas; alternatively, architects and urban designers can help to create social groups that intersect and overlap.
This is an important book for politicians and would-be entrepreneurs. Mitchell predicts many changes: for example, cooks, gardeners and nannies will be earn big bucks because they provide services which cannot be automated, but the value of information-related services (lawyers and accountants) will go down. But while the computer networks of the future will change politics, work patterns and purchasing habits, Mitchell takes the position that urban planning should still focus on the cultural, scenic and climatic attractions of place. In the end Mitchell's vision is neither a utopia or a dystopia, but a convincing portrait of life in the ditigal age. --Brian Jenner