Infrastructure is a means to an end – but it is not the only means

pexels-photo-66134Infrastructure is a means to an end – but it is not the only means.

As ends change, traditional infrastructure may not even be the best means. In ‘Talking Infrastructure’ we consider technological, demographic, environmental and other change and its impact on criteria for infrastructure decision-making.

Do we really want a road – or do we want to get from A to B?  And what is so attractive about B anyway? Is it where we want to work, or shop, or play?  Technology today is changing how we do all three. The key to understanding what technology can do, and how fast it can do it, is to recognise that it must be accompanied by cultural or organisational change. For example, Geoff Hudson, speaking on the ABC radio show, Okham’s Razor, argued that technology has made it possible for effective working from home for many years now and yet few businesses use it. He puts forward a detailed and fascinating plan for overcoming disadvantages currently experienced – lack of connection, suspicion, lack of control amongst others.  ‘OK, so it is possible’ you might say, ‘but why bother?’  The answer lies in the interconnection of the new digital technology and physical infrastructure.  We build more roads every year, yet congestion gets worse, commute times get longer, house prices in the cities rise and become unaffordable for many. Now ask yourselves, as we adopt voice instruction for our computers over keyboards, can our open space offices cope? Working from home can aleviate many problems – if we can solve the cultural and organisational problems.

So our first question, designed to expand awareness, is this: 

Which technologies  – e.g. iPhones, driverless cars, 3D printing, nanotechnology, bio-technology, you name it, are likely to increase the demand for roads and which are likely to reduce it – and why?

Links welcome but provide a brief summary for each so that following the link is optional and limit them to two links or the system may think you are spam and throw you out!

2 Thoughts on “Infrastructure is a means to an end – but it is not the only means

  1. How we meet needs has been a challenge for governments for years. Remember the suburbianisation of government services e.g. ATO offices in Townsville and Mt Gravatt? Yet for the decision to be sustainable we need to foretell the future. This requires a multi disciplinary approach to planning services of which infrastructure is but one input.

  2. David Hope on August 6, 2016 at 6:37 pm said:

    I think that Geoff Hudson has made an extremely important point. Despite adopting new technologies personally we have been reluctant to change how we do things -from how we work to how we live.
    Part of this is cultural – we, the individual, can change, but we don’t believe others can, so we eschew allowing people to work from wherever they want instead of finding ways to ensure that we get the outcome we want from our employees.
    On the physical infrastructure side of the issue, the massive investment in our current infrastructure capacities and methodologies is hindering us from thinking quickly enough on how to harness new and emerging technologies. We keep looking at what we have instead of focusing on the future. We need to learn that focusing on what we have is focusing on the sunk costs we have already made and any good economist or accountant will tell you that sunk costs should play no role in current decisions.
    One other aspect that hinders the quick adoption of new and emerging technologies is the fear of the media – making a wrong decision and being exposed to criticism.

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