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The big picture

Richard Layard recommends the most illuminating of recent books on the wired society but draws more pessimistic conclusions than the author

By Richard Layard   March 1999

Lifts in singapore are monitored on-line from western Australia; students in Sri Lanka are taught on-line from Milton Keynes; and US army surgeons operate by remote control on wounded patients in the field. These are the typical images of the outer reaches of the communications revolution. But will it produce a new impersonal world of increasingly isolated individuals, or will it lead to a better and more satisfying style of life?

Frances Cairncross is optimistic. Her book makes bold predictions: first, more home-working; second, more small companies; third, less inequality between countries, and more inequality within countries; fourth, less international…

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