Tech legend Marc Andreessen says the rise of remote work might be more important than the internet: 'A permanent civilizational shift'

remote work
Remote work has changed everything. Roy Rochlin/Getty Images
  • Remote work is "a permanent civilizational shift," Marc Andreessen wrote in a recent blog post.

  • It's "a consequence of the internet that's maybe even more important than the internet," he wrote.

  • Remote work has freed up opportunities for knowledge workers, which could lead to shared prosperity.

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Technology has saved the world.

So said tech entrepreneur and venture capitalist Marc Andreessen in a recent blog post, in which he said he believed remote work was "a permanent civilizational shift." Its impact could be even greater than that of the internet itself, he added.

"It is perhaps the most important thing that's happened in my lifetime, a consequence of the internet that's maybe even more important than the internet," he wrote. "Permanently divorcing physical location from economic opportunity gives us a real shot at radically expanding the number of good jobs in the world while also dramatically improving quality of life for millions, or billions, of people."

He continued: "We may, at long last, shatter the geographic lottery, opening up opportunity to countless people who weren't lucky enough to be born in the right place. And people are leaping at the opportunities this shift is already creating, moving both homes and jobs at furious rates."

Already, remote work has freed up many more possibilities for knowledge workers, unshackling them from the office desk and freeing them to move to more affordable areas during the pandemic. It spurred what seemed to be a mass migration from superstar cities like San Francisco and New York to more mid-tier cities like Austin and Miami, as these workers fanned out around the country.

While recent US Census data shows that the pandemic didn't really change population growth, the rise of remote work helped accelerate existing migration patterns of those moving from the cities to the suburbs. Such movement fueled a housing crisis marked by a historic shortage, as everyone suddenly became an aspiring homebuyer. But the upside of the migration is that it could help create a new era of more broadly shared prosperity.

Read more: 3 ways the US economy is uniquely positioned for a great new era in the 2020s

Andreessen is alone in highlighting the significance of this shift. "I have long said that we will see the rise of the rest, given the incredible expensiveness and affordability of existing superstar cities," Richard Florida, urban studies theorist and economics professor at the University of Toronto, previously told Insider. "But it's not going to be the rise of everywhere. It's going to be the rise of a dozen or two dozen places."

These places will consequently attract new talent, Florida said, changing economic development, but he doesn't see bigger cities going away, predicting a resurgence upon widespread vaccination, even if remote work is likely here to stay. He did predict that post-pandemic cities will be reshaped and revived by a newfound focus on interpersonal interaction that facilitates creativity and spontaneity.

"Even as offices decline, the community or the neighborhood or the city itself will take on more of the functions of an office," he said. "People will gravitate to places where they can meet and interact with others outside of the home and outside of the office."

The impact of remote work has already trickled into other facets of life outside of geography. Consider the restaurant industry, which has already been reshaped by remote work.

Many restaurants had to adopt technology for the at-home worker to keep afloat during the pandemic, and many now expect more than half of their total revenue to come from online ordering. In dining rooms, some higher-end restaurants have ditched jacket requirements as part of the pandemic's sartorial shift to more casual wear.

Many global companies are prepping for a hybrid work model post-pandemic, implicitly agreeing with Andreessen. If remote work is here to stay, at least in some form, it will just continue to reshape society, with major implications for the economy and everything else.

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