Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

Talking Turkey (3 of 4)

by Rob - February 9th, 2009.
Filed under: Interviews, Turkey.

The Office of the Future

As a lead-up to my trip to Istanbul, I did four quick-and-dirty by-email interviews for Turkish newspapers, wire services, and magazines. The deadlines on these were so tight that I just had to bang out my answers without having a chance to compose my thoughts or edit my responses — so don’t expect me to defend to the death anything I say in them. :)

Here’s the third of those four interviews.

1. What will the future offices look like?

The major question is whether there will be offices in the future. Telecommuting — with perfect virtual reality — may make it unnecessary for people to physically gather together in a single place. If they do, though, I think we’ll see an end of cubicles. People complain that workers are less productive today than they were decades ago, and blame that on distraction from the multitude of input sources on their desktops — but the real distraction comes from the background hubbub of the workplace, and the inability for most workers to close doors and shut all that out so they can concentrate. The cubicle for office workers will go down as one of the great business blunders of the 20th century; we’re blaming technology — the leveraging power of which has given us the ability to get more done — for reductions in productivity when the real culprit is office-space design.

2. What do you think the use of Internet in our lives and in the offices will be like in the future?

It will be totally immersive; everything will be connected to the Internet — not just things we traditionally think of as computers, or even communication devices, but all devices; they will monitor their own health and their needs for supplies, and order in repair people or supplies over the net of their own volition. Access to the Internet won’t be confined to just when you’re looking at a screen in a corner of your office: it will be everywhere, constant, and very high bandwidth; we will work inside a sea of information and instantaneous computing.

3. What do you think about the way of doing business in the future?

All the virtues of the Internet will be applied to business. Businesses must be transparent: potential customers, current customers, employees, and government regulators need to be able to see what exactly is being done. Gone will be the days of doing things without public knowledge or scrutiny. And, of course, business will be global. The notion of Turkish business or Canadian business or Japanese business will all seem equally quaint: the World Wide Web is just that, a net that envelopes all of us, and allows us — again, in good online fashion — to collaborate no matter where we might be.

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