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Futurologists fall into two camps: the insanely optimistic or the suicidally depressing. Professor John Adams, of University College London, subscribes to the latter, Dystopic school of forecasting. In a report commissioned by the OECD (Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development), he conjures up a "nightmare vision of a polarised, car-dependent Britain, locked into ever sprawling crime-ridden suburbs". These are, admittedly, not Adams' words but a Guardian summary of his report Teleworking. That's right, teleworking. Prof Adams' thesis runs like this: 1. Teleworkers are so busy getting on with their colleagues online that they have less time for getting on with their next door neighbours. This will harm social cohesion. "If we spend more time interacting with people at a distance we must spend less time with those closer to home, and if we have more contact with more people we must devote less time and attention to each one," Adams says. 2. Teleworking will unshackle workers from their daily commute, enabling them to move deeper into the suburbs, areas where public transport is unfeasible. The typical worker of the future will actually spend more time travelling and will travel further distances than the worker of today. By 2025, the average worker will travel 56 miles per day, twice as far as today, and eleven times further than in 1950. 3. With the middle classes and rich fleeing to the suburbs, disparities between poor and rich will become greater. 4. Less social cohesion means more crime. 5. Car dominated streets means communities become less and less child-friendly. Children have to be accompanied to school 6. The upshot of all this is the wilting of community spirit. "It means," Prof Adams told The Guardian, "that few of us can attach names to our next-door neighbours; it means the streets are too dangerous to allow children out any more because the volume of traffic makes them more dangerous and because they are more and more filled with strangers." In other words, Britain will see the way of life as currently experienced in the great cities exported to the suburbs and what little there is left of the countryside. So guys, get off the phone and get on the train. You could be saving Civilisation as we know it. ®

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