Back to the Future!

16 Sep 2015  |  Tech

The classic cult Back to the Future films, specifically Back to the Future II where Marty McFly travels to 2015, made some pretty accurate predictions about office life today. The focus on technological development was spot on.

Firstly, the film foresaw the ability to make payments using a mobile device, something that is ubiquitous in 2015. In the film, a man walking around seeking donations to save an old clock tower asked Marty, played by Michael J Fox, to donate through a mobile device using a fingerprint censor. Spot On! Think – Apple Pay and Apple Watch. Bravo, Back to the Future II!

Another prediction is video calls through television. In fictional 2015, Marty is fired by his boss, through something that is very similar to Skype – a stunningly accurate technology prediction. More than 74 million people today use Skype with the average conversation being 27 minutes long and just over a third of small businesses use Skype as their primary communications tool. Meanwhile FaceTime, the proprietary service for Apple devices, and Google Hangouts are also increasing in popularity.

And Back to the Future is not alone in making predictions about the future workplace. In the 1982 film Bladerunner, the robots expire after four years, the idea being that new robots needed to be produced. Today our mobile devices last half that time, meaning we continue to invest huge sums in these mini robotic devices which rule our lives. The classic science fiction film, Forbidden Planet, released in 1956, predicted that in the future humans would have small handheld devices that they would carry everywhere. Need I say more? The 2002 movie, Minority Report, made lots of wild prophecies but the most accurate was follow-me internet ads. In the mall scene, the advertisements are personalised to Tom Cruise’s character. Today, online adverts are based around our internet searches and browsing history.

So what can we predict about office life in 25 years’ time? Technological developments will make the workplace virtually mobile for knowledge workers. Workplaces will shrink as a result and become a collaborative, social hub. Activity-based working will prevail – people will choose the space which best suits their type of work, whether that be working from home, in a library, a coffee shop, or in a quiet cubicle, hotdesk, meeting room in the office hub. The 9-5 office day will become a far more fluid concept; the ‘rush hour’ will improve as travel is spread more evenly throughout the day. Holograms will replace people who cannot be there in person. The boundaries between work and play will have almost completely dissolved and people will be measured more on output than input – but hopefully no-one will be sacked by Skype!

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