Throughout human history, we’ve had to live where we work. As nomadic hunter-gatherers, we tracked the migration patterns of the large game animals that sustained us. After the agricultural revolution, we settled in small farming villages, working land that we lived on. After the industrial revolution, we moved into cities to work at factories and later offices.

However, because of remote work, for the first time in human history (at least for some) we will be able to choose where we live irrespective of where we work.

What will the geography of our communities look like when our jobs no longer predetermine where we live?

Will we choose to live in large urban environments?

Or will knowledge workers, untethered from the office, live on vast tracts of private land?

Or will small towns spring back to life with their own vibrant town-centers walking distance from our homes?

Undoubtedly, different people will make different decisions based on personal preference. But I’ll hazard a few guesses.

  1. The current equilibrium where we live in suburbs with driving distance (however brutal the commute) of major cities will collapse.

  2. People do like the space and privacy that the suburbs afford, so most will not choose to live in large apartment complexes in major city-centers.

  3. People like to walk to bars and restaurants, so medium-sized mixed-use development will increase.

  4. People will choose to live in beautiful areas near some forms of recreation they enjoy. The mountains for skiing, the beach for surfing, the lakes for boating.

  5. Since our nomadic time, economic opportunity has been our main motivation to pick up sticks. Without that motivation, we’ll move less and settle into longer-term communities.

  6. OR, the exact opposite will happen. Without the need to remain in one place, we’ll travel light and move from place to place regularly. (I suspect the former)

  7. As we collect into groups based on interest our communities will become weirder. Large cities have to find agreement among many different groups, pushing them toward uniformity and least-common-denominator outcomes. That’s one reason why Austin TX and London aren’t really that different (same coffee shops, same transportation services, same tech-bros). Perhaps with remote work, nudists colonies will actually succeed.