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March - April 1998

Commentary by Richard P. Johnson                           


More Drivers on the Soft Roads

of Our Information Highway


THE FUTURE  -  Picture yourself in this future telecommuting scenario. You're a telecommuting coal miner. You're sitting in the comfort of your own home with a remote control module, going through the motions of mining coal in a virtual environment. Miles away, deep in the bowels of the earth, your robot is exploring, taking samples, drilling and setting explosives, all at your remote command. You are safe from cave-ins, explosions, gas poisoning and black lung disease. You're also safe from commuting traffic accidents. You collect the paycheck; your robot takes all the chances. You're the new breed of telecommuter.


In our telecommuting future, factories not only turn out cars, planes, motorcycles and bicycles, but they also turn out the teleportation equipment needed to enhance worker safety in hazardous occupations. In fact, an entirely new industry has evolved to support the new telecommuters. These new telecommuting folks are in law enforcement, coal mining, toxic and nuclear waste cleanup, mine sweeping, military jobs and even space outpost construction.


Actually, most working families in this future own a package of teleportation equipment in addition to their automobiles. It's a Remotely-Operated Robotic Device / Base Control Module (RORD-BCM) which allows people to perform their particular type of work from the safety and security of their own homes.


So what exactly is this RORD-BCM teleportation equipment? The RORD part is like a robot that you station at your jobsite to do the work that you would normally do there yourself. Unlike the conventional robot which is run by a computer, you function as the brains of the robot. The RORD does your work onsite while you stay at home and run it by remote control. With your BCM you can control the motion, action and productivity of your RORD.


Some of our future teleworkers use a BCM that requires actually going through the motions of doing the work in a virtual reality environment. The output of their activity in the BCM is then transmitted over the information highway to their counterpart RORD, where identical actions take place. Audio, video and other sensory information are transmitted back to the BCM, so the worker has constant feedback on the RORD's activities. (Nifty! Sign me up for mine-sweeping!  - ed.)


This future may not be as far away as it seems. There have, after all, been recent successful telerobotics efforts conducted on Mars. It's only a matter of time before teleportation technology becomes a reality in the work-a-day world.


THE PRESENT  -  The Telecommuting Safety & Health Institute (TSHI) has a vital present-day mission: to advocate telecommuting as a means to save lives, reduce injuries and improve health, thereby enhancing the quality of life for workers and the general public everywhere. By promoting telecommuting and by getting government agencies to promote telecommuting, we can make a better world today and in the future.


We want to get workers off the hard roads of real pavement (where every minute of every day people have their bodies terribly mutilated and die) and onto the soft roads of the information highway.  We'd love to see the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration run the headline, "More Telecommuters Wanted!"


In addition to our current letter-writing campaign informing government leaders that telecommuting can save lives, we at TSHI are generating a list of new telecommuter candidates. People in each of these fields have a great deal of important work to do and a large percentage of it could be done without going to and from a central office location every day. Without further ado, here's a sampling from our list.


Nurses.  Home health care nurses can do much of their work from home. Telecommuting tasks include: monitoring patients with telephone calls, record keeping, filling out patient reports, assessing patient care plans, consulting with physicians and coworkers, figuring out meds, accessing and reading up on the latest nursing information via the Internet and professional journals. Even floor nurses may someday be telecommuting one or more days per week as management attitudes and technology advance. Eliminating unnecessary commuting from the already high-stress job of nursing can be good medicine for the health of the nurses and improve the quality of care of their patients.


Doctors.  Telemedicine has already offered improved diagnosis and treatment through advanced technology. Today's doctors can begin paying house calls via advanced telecommunications, monitoring equipment and the good ole phone. Their ailing patients won't always have to risk life and limb commuting to and from medical facilities.


Teachers.  TeleLearning via the Internet has much to offer in the way of more effective teaching and more effective learning. Its safety aspects range from reducing commute trips to providing a learning environment free from the violence and drugs of today's schools.


Others.  Other people who could easily telecommute today include legislators, legislative staff, allowing our political representatives to be home and closer to their constituency. Even people working in space exploration and development could telecommute, thereby reducing risks to safety and health, while opening up the activity to many qualified individuals who could not presently travel in space.

We will be presenting information on the TSHI website in coming months that elaborates on who should be telecommuting today, how they can accomplish it, and what safety and health benefits they will reap in the process.

I invite you to visit us anytime. Just take the soft road and be a driver on our information highway.

Richard P. Johnson
Telecommuting Safety & Health Benefits Institute

Copyright © 1998 - Richard P. Johnson 

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