The daily routine of the office worker has already seen a huge amount of change in recent years. The evolution of the open-plan office has increased emphasis on collaboration and social space. Simultaneously the Cloud has developed, allowing us to share information and work together more efficiently.
Even the commute is constantly evolving. Real-time bus timetable information has smoothed the cogs of the morning rush for coffee – while for those who prefer their own wheels, driverless cars were legal as of January this year on UK roads.
In the future, driverless cars may even ‘own themselves’ in a mass sharing scheme akin to that of Boris’s bikes. Bitcoin developer and ex-Google engineer Mike Hearn has envisaged a future in which you could use a mobile app to get the best deal on driverless taxis which quote their own fares, according to location and how much fuel they have, for example.
Whether realistic or idealistic, it’s certainly a forward-thinking concept that combines the human imagination with the capabilities of technology. The dystopia to this utopic vision is the (perhaps more likely) centralisation of profits from driverless cars, and future dominance of the roads by big corporate organisations.
Communications have changed even more radically than the commute. Email and instant messaging such as Microsoft’s Lync has also revolutionized the way we get in touch with our co-workers, allowing us to be contacted anytime and anywhere – as long as we have a web browser. We can see if our message has been received, and see in real-time as the recipient types an immediate response (X is typing…). The idea of a long wait for a handwritten letter is retro, and nostalgic.
In future times, some claim, even our brains could be hooked up to the internet, allowing brain-to-brain emails and telepathic online messaging to become a reality, with no need for typing and wasting valuable input time. The truly direct transmitting of information to our already overloaded thought processes could, however, tax our capacity– overtaxed with information as we already are, with many struggling to ‘switch off’.
Of course, the idea of messages being sent directly to someone’s brain also raises ethical questions – what if you were hacked, and a hacker was able to gain control of your motor system? The technology has a long way to go before anything so sophisticated could be achieved, but it remains an intriguing and also somewhat worrying idea.
A more practicable change to the way we function at work is the introduction of under-the-skin chips, as recently trialled in Sweden by BioNyfiken in their hi-tech office block Epicenter. No need for pin numbers or swipe cards – the chip can allow you to gain entry, to buy sandwiches, and even to operate the photocopier. According to Hannes Sjoblad of the Swedish Biohacking Group, the experiment is an empowering one.
“We want to be able to understand this technology before big corporates and big government come to us and say everyone should get chipped – the tax authority chip, the Google or Facebook chip,” he says. That way, we’ll be better equipped to question the way technology is implemented by employers in the future.