Suburbia in the City? Pros and Cons to Bringing Suburban Life to Urban Areas.

suburbia in the city

I recently read a New York Times opinion article about the trend to have suburbia in the city. It caught my eye specifically because it highlighted changes in San Francisco, which is where I live. I live here because I love the city, with all of its pros and cons. I don’t enjoy spending time in the suburbs, so naturally, I’m a bit skeptical about this trend.

What Does It Mean to Have Suburbia in the City?

Before I read the article, my mind immediately drifted to the store Target. I moved to San Francisco about fourteen years ago. When I did, there was no Target in the city. We had a Best Buy and a few other similar large chain stores – mostly out of the way in areas that I didn’t typically walk around. But then Target came in.

I hated it at the time. I still don’t really shop there much, although I admit I’ve been in a time or two to pick things up because it’s convenient. But increasingly I see chain stores here and there. My own street of mostly local restaurants now has a few big names you’d recognize if you’d traveled here from somewhere else.

I don’t like it. If that’s what it means to have suburbia in the city, I’ll pass. After all, if I wanted that cookie-cutter life, I’d certainly prefer to pay far less than city rents to have it. One of the key points in the article is that those people who do decide they want suburbia in the city will pay a pretty penny for it. It’s not as cheap as actually moving to the suburbs.

Bringing in the Good Parts of the Suburbs

The article does mention those chain stores. It highlights the fact that people used to flee the cities for the suburbs in order to start families. Now they don’t. So perhaps they want some of those creature comforts – those familiar foods, those familiar stores. But that’s not the thrust of it. What it seems the article wants to highlight is that there is a way of life in the suburbs that people yearn for in the city.

It specifically mentions The Landing apartment building, in which residences are clustered around yards. Ah, yards. Yes, we don’t have too many of those in the cities. Having a dog myself, I can see why there are people who long for the yards of the suburbs. Personally, I’m okay with visiting the local parks every day. But a yard does sound appealing. You can grow vegetables in The Landing’s planter boxes and rest on their hammocks. I get the appeal in that.

What People Want is Connection

What I realized in reading the article is that it’s not really about suburbia in the city at all. It’s about connection.

Historically, people may have found a strong sense of connection and community in the suburbs. All of the kids would run from house to house to play with their friends. The cul-de-sac was a safe spot for football games. Neighbors joined one another for big backyard barbecues.

To be honest, I never experienced that living in suburbs or smaller cities. I have always found those places to be isolated. People seem to stay in their own yards, in their own cars. I, personally, have found so much more connection in the city, where I walk or ride the bus, visit the park, and talk to strangers.

But I can certainly see how the city can feel disconnected for people. If you’re walking with your headphones on then you’re not connecting with people. And so, I can see the appeal of The Landing, which is really all about creating community in your own little part of the city. You get to connect with your neighbors. If you can do that while lounging in a hammock, that sounds wonderful (although I question how many days per year the weather in San Francisco is really hammock weather.)

So, I think suburbia in the city could be good or bad – depending on what it means. When it creates connection and adds a little convenience, great. When it makes a city look like every other place in the world, I draw the line.

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Do Smart Homes Save Money?

smart homes

I was thinking about adding some smart technology to my home. I had been visiting a friend who had Alexa set up to control all sorts of different things in the house. I got a kick out of saying, “Alexa, turn on …” and choosing the lights I wanted on and off, the music I wanted playing, and so forth. I’ve seen those commercials with the refrigerators and ovens that practically do everything themselves with just the sound of a voice. We’re all moving towards having some version of smart homes. However, when I looked into the costs of just a few of those things, I wasn’t so sure anymore.

Do Smart Homes Save Money?

I’ve always figured that smart homes generally cost money to set up but have the potential to save money in the long run. However, I think that type of thinking primarily comes from the type of smart technology that makes a home more energy-efficient. When it comes to all of the technology available today to make a home more convenient, it may not actually save money. In fact, setting up a smart home can probably cost a lot of money that you don’t recoup. So, I’m trying to figure it out; do smart homes save money? Or do they at least have the potential to pay for themselves?

Energy-Saving Technology Can Save Money

Doing my research confirmed what I expected. It is possible for smart homes to save money if you’re talking about smart technology that saves energy. In other words, if you update your house to reduce energy waste then over time you can save a lot of money on energy bills. I found a helpful infographic that showed how some of this technology pays for itself then saves you money over the long run.

In fact, that research reminded me that I can make small investments that could make a difference. For example, I never thought about getting smart power strips. I use tons of power strips in my home already. Smart power strips monitor energy usage and turn the power off when it’s not in use. That could be really convenient. It could save energy. I like the green aspect of saving energy in addition to the fact that it helps me save money.

A smart thermostat is another really popular device in smart homes. It seems to also pay for itself in terms of quickly offering cost-effective energy savings. Of course, one could argue that simply setting your own thermostat to appropriate temperatures would achieve the same effect. So it’s not that we need the technology to save energy, necessarily, but it might be a small investment to make doing so more convenient.

Convenient Technology Doesn’t Necessarily Save Money

Some of the other technology in smart homes doesn’t seem like it pays off, though. For example, that same infographic shows details about smart refrigerators. A smart refrigerator can actually show you when items are about to go bad. Arguably, you might then use more of your food in time, and not wasting it could save you money. But it doesn’t save you that much. According to the infographic, it takes thirty years for a smart refrigerator to pay for itself. That’s before you would even start saving money thanks to it. Technology often needs frequent updates and repairs so it’s unlikely you’d keep that refrigerator much longer than thirty years (if you even make it that long).

Will I Invest In Smart Home Technology?

So, here’s what it boils down to … it doesn’t make financial sense for me to buy most types of smart technology for my home. The things that are most fun and add convenience generally cost more than they save. However, there might be a few small changes (smart power strips, smarter lighting) that could actually save me money in the long run. I don’t need them. It’s not something I’m going to get at this time. But as the technology keeps changing, I’ll keep reviewing the costs and benefits. It may make sense for me to look at smart homes again in the future.

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Should We Tax Robots?

tax robots

Should we tax robots?

The question sounds a little bit absurd. After all, a robot isn’t a person. Therefore, it doesn’t file taxes. Therefore, charging robots an income tax seems silly.

Moreover, it’s complicated. Your vacuum cleaner might be a robot. However, you obviously wouldn’t tax it, right? So where would we even draw the line?

Despite how silly it might sound, an argument can be made that we should tax robots. As more and more jobs go to robots, the country could benefit from just that move.

The Main Argument To Tax Robots

Computers are getting increasingly smarter. They are also replacing more and more jobs. As automation increases across many diverse industries, some people are starting to argue that it’s financially sensible to tax automation.

The main reason to tax robots is so that the government gets that money. Theoretically, at least, they spend it on things that we as a society need. Currently, the US government collects about $1.5 trillion dollars through income taxes. They collect another $1 trillion from payroll taxes. If the jobs go to the robots, then the amount goes down, unless we tax robots that are taking those jobs.

If people don’t find new jobs to replace the ones taken over by robots, then they will need to rely on the government even more. If we don’t tax automation, then there will be less money for the government to provide for those needs.

Robots Aren’t Necessarily Productive

There’s another reason that we should tax robots. Currently, untaxed robots may actually decrease business productivity. However, there are incentives to automation, so many businesses opt to use robots even though it might not make the most sense in terms of efficiency. If we tax robots, then the businesses have to look more carefully at why they are automating and whether or not it makes the most sense.

In other words, using robots should increase productivity in a business. However, that’s often not the case. However, since it saves the company money, a business might automate anyway.

Companies can avoid taxes and other costs if they get rid of employees. A robot costs less than a human to do the same job. However, if we tax robots, then we close the gap between those costs. If the human costs about the same as the robot but is more productive then the company will likely opt for the human.

At the moment, it’s more cost-effective for many companies to use robots. In fact, there are many different types of subsidies that encourage businesses to fire humans in order to hire robots. It benefits the business, but may not benefit society overall. Taking the robots would level the playing field, so to speak, which should be better for everyone.

Will We Tax Robots?

The truth is that we won’t necessarily charge robots taxes anytime in the near future. While it’s been done to some extent in other countries, such as South Korea, it’s a complicated process. Defining what a robot is and determining how to tax it are complex issues.

However, it would be possible to make changes to the subsidies. In other words, while we might not tax robots, we certainly don’t have to offer tax incentives for companies to have robots.

Moreover, the government could make other tax changes that even things out. For example, they might alter the way that companies are allowed to report depreciation of robots. Alternatively, they might have to finance the payroll taxes of employees whose jobs are eliminated in favor of using robots. Only time will tell how this will play out.

What do you think – should we tax robots?

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Source: New York Times