High-Tech Office Solutions on the Horizon
When Gallup released its work attitudes poll, the results really shouldn’t have surprised anyone. Seventy percent of Americans didn’t like their job. For many of us, even if we “enjoy work” we would still prefer to be doing something else. But will work always look this way? Technology is rapidly evolving: What will your job, office and career look like in 40, 50 or 100 years? The art of futurology is really just that, an art, a system of informed guesswork. But indulge me. Let’s look at some of the embryonic forces today that may become tidal waves in the future. Below is my “best guess” timeline of predicted future events that will change the nature of work forever.
2017: Electricity Is In The Air
As you wind down the afternoon chatting on your company cell phone, you hear that “beep” and see the battery is low. It’s time to plug it in. Grunting, struggling to fit that plug into an ugly power strip next to 20 other plugs, you think “there’s got to be an easier way.” And there is! Get ready to start hearing the words “inductive charging,” an electromagnetic field that can be used to charge any device remotely. IKEA plans to roll out the first few inductive charging lamps in just a few years and all manner of inductively charged devices may be soon coming to an office near you.
2022: Glass Wearables
Google’s Glass experiment had mixed results at best: A halting start to a product that is going to revolutionize the world and has added the word “glasshole” to the popular lexicon. The use of eye-based wearables has long been exalted in science fiction and for good reason: The visual interface can be synced to photo recognition software, which in turn syncs to the search engines and social media accounts. Imagine entering a networking event and knowing right away, via a little visual bubble that appears over every attendee’s head, how much money they approximately earn, what company they work for, and what position they have. Society will become more stratified but also more efficient. Cross cutting cleavages will be formed instantaneously as soon as you see someone commercially relevant to you. This will in turn increase productivity on an exponential scale and give us critical information about people, letting us skip the small talk.
2025: The Rise Of The 3-D Printer
3-D printing has made quite a buzz over the last few years: Guns, organs, food, skateboards, you name it. Almost anything can be 3-D printed. First generation 3-D printers are bulky and costly, much like the computers of the 1960s. However, within 20 years, commercial and consumer units will be readily available for a reasonable price. What does this mean for business? Well first of all, anything that can easily be made with a CAD model, will be. Say goodbye to three-fourths of the aisles at your local office supply store. You need a new stapler? Just mosey on over to the company 3-D printer and print one out. And the best thing is … you’ll never run out of coffee filters or have to wash the dirty communal coffee mug again!
2040: Integration Of Brain Computer Interfaces
A BCI is a computer that syncs directly to your brain, following cues from your mind. Right now they look like your crazy uncle’s tin foil hats and allow manipulation of machines in the most basic way. But eventually they will be barely noticeable transponders on one of your lobes, allowing control of anything you think of, from the devices in your home, to your phone, to your work station. Forget sitting down to type an email, your thoughts can easily type out the words you want to say, using a text-based classifier. Efficiency at its finest.
2045: Cryptocurrency Fully Takes Over
Cryptocurrency is poised to replace traditional currency. There are even ATMs that have Bitcoins now (albeit in Canada). Known brands such as CheapAir, Mint, Overstock.com and others accept bitcoin and even the IRS has officially recognized it (yayyy!) And if you stack cryptocurrency up against regular money, it’s not even close. Cryptocurrency is infinitely divisible, making it prime for complex transactions. Robberies and employee theft for cash businesses could be entirely prevented. Trust is endemic because each coin is unique, eliminating the need for a middle man (such as a credit card company). The list of business benefits goes on and on.
2055: Utter Automation and The Age of the Robot
The increased automation we see promises only one thing: Most jobs, as we know it, will be dead. For as long as there has been work, jobs have been created and destroyed. John Henry lost his job to a steam powered hammer and the Luddites theirs to automated looms. And when is the last time you used the services of a typist? Next on the chopping block are cab drivers (disrupted by Uber,) hotels (disrupted by Airbnb,) and down the line, pharmacists, lawyers (with the exception of trial lawyers), and any job that can be better performed by machine than man. In the short-term, it’s going to be painful. But in the long run, your great-grandkids will enjoy a world more liberated than ever before. By and large no one likes their jobs anyway and the jobs most vulnerable to automation, tend to be the ones the human mind most hates doing. In the future, people will be able to focus more on the enjoyable aspects of work: Creativity, social interaction and making money! So get ready to start saying “domo arigato” to robotic secretaries, pharmacists, attorneys, tax agents and others. I95