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GLADWELL: One of the most striking things in observing the evolution of American society is the rise of travel. If I had to name a single thing that has transformed our life, I would say the rise of JetBlue and Southwest Airlines. They have allowed us all to construct new geographical identities for ourselves. Many working people today travel who never could have in the past, for meetings and conferences and all kinds of things, and this is creating another identity for them.
DYSON: And once you travel, you come back and use other technologies to stay in touch. It used to be if you traveled somewhere for an interesting week, you come home and nothing has changed. Now you can stay in touch with the people you meet. I think cheap telephone service has made a huge difference in how people think. When I went to college as a kid, it was long distance, so I never called home. Now I'm on the phone to London before breakfast.
GLADWELL: I just went on JetBlue's website, looking at JFK to Oakland, and it's $149. At that price, is there a class cutoff, an income cutoff? Sure, but it's really low, about where the class cutoff is for an Xbox. So we're talking about a fairly radical transformation of American society.
BROOKS: I know people who fly to see a football game, but I don't see why this is transformational.
GLADWELL: It is because it allows us to construct new realities and identities for ourselves that break out of our old sense of place.
DERY: I'm fascinated by this idea that JetBlue could be transformative. Weren't we supposed to be celebrating the death of geography right about now? According to the last wave of techno-hype, in the newtopian '90s, we were supposed to be swirling clouds of data bits, teleporting from one point to another through fiber-optic cables.
GLADWELL: Some interesting things come out of all of this travel. I would expect an acceleration of the declining importance of nationality. The rise of transnationalism is already an important recent trend. There are pockets in Queens [N.Y.] that maintain active ties with home in Mexico. If you extrapolate, I don't think foreign policy or any kind of politics can be practiced the way it is now in a country where enormous numbers of people genuinely have dual identities and reinforce them by flying back and forth to their adoptive countries for nothing.
DYSON: I'd like to argue strenuously with that. It may be happening in the U.S., but it's not happening in China, which is extremely nationalist. In Russia, I don't know any Russians who feel anything other than Russian. A brand does not replace a nationality.
GLADWELL: We're not talking about the end of those identities. We're talking about the multiplication of identities so that in addition to the strong national identities, you start to construct new ones. FedEx now has direct flights from interior Chinese cities to cities in North America. So start playing that forward. You're allowing a class of people in China to layer on a new identity to their existing identity of Chinese businessmen as member of some kind of international business élite.
IS THE AMERICAN LANDSCAPE READY FOR CHANGE?