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In a weekly column, alternately written by Lucien Engelen, Mary Fiers, Maarten Steinbuch, Carlo van de Weijer, and Tessie Hartjes, E52 tries to find out what the future will look like. All four contributors – sometimes accompanied by guest bloggers – are working on solving the problems of our time. Everything to make Tomorrow Good. This Sunday, it‘s Carlo van de Weijer’s turn. Here are all the previously published columns.

Apparently, an American is not able to live more than half an hour away from a pizza, because almost anywhere in the United States you can have a pizza delivered within half an hour. If it takes longer, the pizza is free.

I think that is a prelude to how we intend to organize our entire life in a few decades’ time. Imagine such a system for almost everything you want to order: within half an hour of ordering, your product is delivered, otherwise it will be free. Whether a car tire, electric toothbrush, cucumber or flute.

It sounds as if the human being of the future is rather spoiled, but in the eyes of our ancestors were also like this, if they would have known that around this time we can no longer live decently without running water, electricity or heating. Later, we can’t imagine that we sometimes had to wait a whole day for our ordered items. The pizza economy, in which everything is delivered within half an hour, is on its way. The essence of this lies in the fact that most of the items we order on the Internet are already much closer to us than the distribution center from which the product is supplied. In most cases when you live in an urbanized area, such an ordered toothbrush or car tire is already within a few kilometers of the ordering person. If this information would be linked properly to the need, everything can be delivered much more effectively.

It could mean the return from the local corner shop. You order an electric toothbrush on an internet site. This website has access to the inventory of all shops where such a toothbrush could be located. This probably gives you the option to pick it up yourself in the shop close to you or to arrange for the toothbrush to be delivered from there, possibly (and preferably) on foot or with a bicycle courier. In that shop, there will probably still be a real person, because social contact is something that meets a human need. That person has nothing to do with checkout, guarantees or payment because that’s all been arranged already over the internet. Such a system can further improve if the storage of these local shops is strategically arranged by the internet shop – in a way that mini-warehouses are created at logical locations. After all, this internet shop can very accurately predict how these local stores should be supplied in order to meet any future demand.

All in all, a much more friendly and efficient system with far fewer vehicle movements and more human contact, with a new role for the traditional corner shop. Tomorrow is good, thanks to technology, but that can also happen – or perhaps even better so – if tomorrow looks a little bit like yesterday.

Photo: Coop Sint Jan, the local shop of Leenderstrijp.