People pushing sustainability don't tend to be the same types who love our digital-crazed iWorld. And that's a problem because it means they don't push one of the great advantages of dense, energy-efficient cities: urban life integrates far better with mobile devices than does its car-logged suburban cousin.
Take the "distracted driving" debate. Last week, Gizmodo's Joel Johnson asked a sensible question, "Why Isn't There a Better Way to Text While Driving?" His conclusion is that there is just no way to pilot a 2,000 pound vehicle while tapping out a message with your fingers. "I can't envision an optimal solution short of bespoke systems that integrate text messages into heads-up displays, for instance--solutions that cause as many problems as they solve," he wrote.
But I'd question the whole car commute + mobile device paradigm. As you sit on the subway or on the bus or walk, you can tweet, read your RSS feeds, catch up on email, knock out a few pages of a book, or whatever else you might like to do. You can't do that in a car, and I agree with Johnson that there isn't going to be an easy technological fix.
This might seem like a trite bonus of city life. But I think it's more than that. Car time is wasted time, but commuting time doesn't have to be. Look at well-heeled Silicon Valley companies. They offer their employees cushy, WiFi-enabled buses for commuting. That first hour of the day, Apple and Google employees are banging out emails and getting ready for the day, not sitting in traffic carrying out a set of repetitive, low-level, and occasionally dangerous tasks to maneuver their exoskeletons southward.