If you're lucky, your boss will look like this. If you're unlucky, you will. Photo: Shutterstock

Thursday 3rd December 2015

Future perfect

Five nailed-on ways in which tech will improve the workplace

It’s hard to believe that a century ago the most complicated thing in your house was probably a lightbulb. Now, the phone in your pocket easily outperforms hundred million dollar supercomputers from thirty years ago.

And technology just keeps on changing. It doesn’t seem long ago that Blu-Ray was a big deal. Today, you’re a dinosaur if you aren’t streaming your content to your TV.

We sympathise if you sometimes reminisce or fantasise about simpler times where phones stayed in one place and a fast pace of life meant taking the horse-drawn omnibus to work.

Fortunately, not all future trends are there to make you feel obsolete and stupid. There are good reasons to be optimistic.

Many future technologies, far from over-complicating matters, will make the world of work easier by taking the hassle out of many things.

Forget Needing To Remember

Never forget a face or a name. Smartglasses can record everybody you meet, and where and when you met them.

Rather than surreptitiously resorting to your smartphone to Google a name, we may even be able to access details about people we’ve never met — their names, their jobs, perhaps even their relationship status — just by looking at them.

Information will be attainable almost instantaneously, rendering the need to remember far less necessary.

We’re expecting that they make keyless cars the standard before then.

Algorithms Make Work Incredibly Efficient

Voice recognition and smarter computers will allow us to make spoken commands that will bypass our need to do research, among other things, manually.

Already, technology allows us to make very basic requests of our phones: “Remind me of X” or “Text Jane Y”.

Soon though, computers will be able to process more complex tasks without being handheld through the whole process: “Show me the five largest petrochemical companies and their annual net profits over the last ten years, on a line chart.”

All those cool Hollywood movie smart tables and holograms will become reality too. Spellchecker will finally work properly (probobly), and foreign language translation be a total breeze. (Your phone may even be able to translate fluently in real-time through headphones.) This could knock down even more barriers to globalisation.

Rudimentary machine intelligence will be able to find discrepancies in your writing or figures, even prevent you from sending emails to the wrong person.

In a workplace with advanced AI as your colleague, the amount a single person can get done will probably expand beyond our current comprehension.

Such AI could digest annual reports in the tiniest fractions of a second to give you the pertinent information you seek, and not only work on your command but offer insight and suggest alternatives.

Essentially, the kind of coworkers you already wish you had.

One day, you’ll look like this. Photo: Shutterstock

Computers Will Become Safety Nets

Things will become far, far safer. Not only in terms of industrial accidents, but all over.

Car accidents will become very rare, as cameras and automated systems will prevent collisions before drivers can even think to put their foot on the brakes.

Not only will your morning commute become safer, technology will have your back in other ways. It will be able to track your health, fitness levels, and what you eat, and gently push you in a good direction.

And here’s hoping: they may even do most of your chores for you, leaving you with tons of free time.

Your most unconscious biases will be adjusted for. When hiring, for example, a 5% preference for similar culture names could be monitored and noted.

Cloud Will Let You Work Wherever

The death of the office is predicted, but unlikely.

The desire to work collaboratively and make decisions face-to-face won’t disappear in the face of greater technology. However, we will be freed from our desks more frequently, and working culture will likely become far more casual and untethered.

All your data will be accessible to you, so you won’t need to worry about leaving the files on one computer or bringing a Swiss Army knife of pen-drives with you.

7G internet coverage will be across most countries, although it will still inexplicably disappear in certain corners of your house.

You Get To Live Like A Roman Emperor

Excessive sitting down is already known to be bad for your health in the long term, but the prognosis is still good for extensive lounging on chaises longues.

Little wheeled robots may also hand-feed you grapes, so that’s one of your five a day too. In the UK, your kettle will know before you do that you feel like a cup of tea by monitoring your brain activity.

Some of you may be unsettled that your kettle will know your deepest darkest desires, but it’s the future and there’s nothing you can do about it, so you’ll probably just have to suck it up.

In all seriousness, predictive capabilities and machine learning will mean that appliances in the ‘internet of things’ will be very able at planning in a way that fallible humans are not.

So not only will we be provided with an efficient agenda to work towards, but everything from tea to toilet breaks can be predicted to a fine degree of accuracy.

This means the office environment will adapt to your every whim, often before you know it. Light too bright? Automatic blinds. Too warm? Automatic aircon.

So, all the perks of a maniacal tyrant, without resorting to actual palm leaf wielding slaves.

About the author

Jerome Langford

Jerome is a graduate in Philosophy from St Andrews, who alternately spends time writing about HR and staring wistfully out of windows, thinking about life’s bigger questions: Why are we here? How much lunch is too much lunch? What do you mean exactly by ‘final warning’?