Who needs Washington?
A nuclear bomb set off in our nation's capital could instantly eradicate our federal government. Generations of Americans have accepted that fact and lived with the threat — maybe in part because an alternative wasn't easily imaginable.
But my imagination started whirring last week as I read about AT&T's recent partnership with Cisco Systems for managed telepresence services. On one level, it was another indication of the growing maturity of telepresence, which is getting harder to poke fun at every quarter (and believe me, I try). But it also seemed like a sort of elevated torchbearing of telepresence by two deeply trusted government contractors, hinting at what could one day be the technology's true killer app.
We're beginning to see to what extent the business world is willing to substitute video screens for a good, old-fashioned handshake and a booth at the pub. The fact that airline delays are reaching epidemic levels can no doubt only push the needle farther into the red, and early adoption may accelerate wider acceptance of telepresence as people simply get used to the idea.
But the economic incentives for businesses to buy the high-end Cisco “rooms” are nothing compared to the unique motivator for the feds: literal survival. I wonder when we as a country will be ready for a federal government that is — for reasons of national defense, if nothing else — completely decentralized geographically.
After all, the feds saw the writing on the wall decades ago when they created the Internet to be unkillable in its hydra-like decentralization.
Sure, there is an endless list of opposing forces to such a proposal: everything from the entire lobbying industry (for whom a digital session could never replace those dinners and drinks) to the local and regional economies near the capital. And there already are partial solutions in place to answer the nuclear threat. (There are bunkers for top officials, if they have enough advanced warning.)
Surely our elected representatives would benefit from becoming telecommuters. They'd be more in touch with their constituents, for starters, and they could keep working while their avatars filibustered on YouTube. Government agencies could slash costs with a telecommuting work force as well. The Pentagon would seem quaint compared to the Googolgon, and the Supreme Court would be safer as a giant square containing nine talking-head screens, like a Bizarro-World Brady Bunch.
OK, OK, I'm getting carried away. But I can't help thinking that future generations will believe the real craziness was in putting our entire government in the radius of a single weapon.
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© 2013 Penton Media Inc.
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