Business/networking travel's value in CO2

Conversations about tech events like CES bring just one big question to my mind. People say in-person events are better, but how much better are they in units of carbon emitted by air travel?

This is probably a similar discussion to how much better is a hamburger compared to the salad that is supposedly much healthier for you. What I mean is, people are going to always think “that’s for someone else, why should I miss out right now?”

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It’s easy to perceive trade shows as aggrandized exposition and idle amusement, but what the public sees is really the tip of the iceberg. Meetings and brainstorming that would be really difficult to arrange under normal or remote conditions happen at events like these away from the public.

If one of these meetings leads to a research agreement between competing companies into clean burning jet fuel, how would that factor in to units of carbon?

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That’s a very interesting point.

It’s hard though, for me at least, to imagine that in-person meetings really are necessary for that kind of thing. Being on the autism spectrum definitely influences my viewpoint that if people just tried harder and got a bit more creative, they could replicate all the benefits of in-person interaction in remote forms.

Serendipity, like running into someone you used to work with in an unplanned way or wandering into a conversation with several other people, is something that’s missing from Zoom-style meetings. VR might be one way of fixing that, provided you could get enough people to wear a headset. There is the problem of many people having motion sickness with VR, but maybe a limited-animation interface for flat screens could provide accessibility in those cases.

The thing is, as long as we have “going back to normal”–even if only partially–as an option to look forward to, there’s just not enough impetus to 1) work on closing the trickier experiential gaps between remote meetups and in-person meetups, and 2) further our mental and emotional adaptation on the individual level to not being in person. I think this awkward middle-ground we’ve gotten to is about as far as we’ll go for the time being, because regardless of risk, cost, or consequences, it’s easier to retreat into the familiar ways of doing these things.

I’m of the mindset that it’s not possible to synthesize and transmit the full gamut of mannerisms and unspoken communication that is critical in human interaction. Not any time soon, at least. It’s not a case of “trying harder,” it’s that we’re missing a considerable amount of data which we don’t even know how to collect.

For most situations, telecommunication is fine. I work remotely attending conference calls all day, and I spend many nights with friends over Discord. It’s been great for most situations. But digitized video frames just don’t cut it when evaluating if a salesperson is being truthful about the product they’re showcasing, or experiencing the smiles of my friends over a pitcher of beer.

There are things being communicated that go beyond the light and soundwaves that our CMOS sensors and mics can capture.


I feel like that viewpoint is a luxury held only by people who are allistic (i.e. not autistic). Yet, I’m sure there are some autistic people who agree with it, who find socializing within digital communications media one-dimensional and confusing.

Of course, I can’t confirm or deny my opinion on it either. You’re right that we don’t even know how to collect all the relevant data to figure it out.

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