Shaping our Future - From Room Scheduling Software to Cryptocurrency

Our new series of articles, entitled “Shaping our Future” starts off with a piece that will take us from the way in which the hours in a working day might make room scheduling software indispensable all the way to the physics of immortality and the possibility of eternal life as a computer simulation with a quick stop to discuss the hot topic of the year - cryptocurrency.

Why look at the future?

We’ve started our project more than 5 years ago when the office world looked a lot different from the way it looks today, with the hope that we could use software innovation in order to improve work life. But, as we take a moment to look back on our 10 years in the business, we realize that so much has changed in terms of workplace dynamics and environment, but also in the way in which we live our lives. This is why we decided to start a series of articles that will be looking at the distant and near future and try to paint a picture of the way in which the changes that are already taking place might be shaping our lives. And, what better topic to choose as a starting point for the discussion than the workplace?

 

The office of the future - less time at work

We’ve written before about the way in which office design influences employees’ wellbeing and there are a number of articles out there discussing future office trends. But there are other changes that might have a meaningful impact on our lives, on workplace dynamics and on office software - the 6 hours work day and the 4 days work week.

Sweden had been toying with the idea of a shorter work day ever since 1989, but they’ve only recently started implementing this as an experiment that ran for 23 months, from February 2015 to December 2016. The study involved workers from the nursing industry in Gothenburg that were paid the same amount of money as for an 8 hours work day, had to work only for 6 hours. The study led to mixed results. One of the reasons for the not-so-clear-cut conclusions of the study was the fact that the study group was quite small and restricted to one city, thus prone to cultural biases and geographical influences. Regardless of these issues, though, the study communicated positive results with significantly fewer sick days taken by the employees and a better general mental and physical well-being reported by the nurses.

Let’s break down the benefits of a shorter working day:

  • Improved mental well being - with less time spent at work, stress levels decrease as workers have more free time to engage in personal pursuits and rest. They also spend fewer hours per day engaged in heavy cognitive activities - decreasing their cognitive fatigue and with less decisions made in a day, also decreasing their decisional fatigue and improving workplace outcomes.
  • Improved physical well being - many of the workers involved in the Swedish study reported less neck and back pain. This means that with less time spent at work every day, chronic pain levels are reduced. With less stress, the body’s immune system can also function at its best, thus leading to a decrease in the number of sick days taken.
  • Better work outcomes - with an improved mental and physical well being, creativity peaks and fatigue does not get in the way of making the best decisions at the workplace.
  • More personal time - spending less time at work means having more time for personal projects, rest and, if present in one’s family, children. As more and more families neglect the time spent with their children because of demanding workplaces, having an extra 2 hours a day might mean a better society in the long run, as parents dedicate enough time to bringing up their offspring.

 

But that is not the only way in which our time spent at work could be decreasing. In February 2018, a number of workers in Germany demanded their right to a shorter work week, with less pay for those that choose so. Their wish has been granted and it is now possible to work only Mondays to Thursdays.

While no one is rushing to apply these measures all over the world, the idea of less time spent toiling away is becoming more and more popular and we might be seeing some time in the near future a revolution similar to the 8h work day imposed by Ford Motor Company in the 1920s that had a significant impact on their industry (even though, 8h work days had been adopted worldwide long before Ford put this measure into action). But a change in the number of hours spent at work could also mean a significant change in the dynamics of the workplace.

With an office space occupied for only half of a day, we might be seeing an increase in the coworking trend and a work life organized in shifts (more about coworking in our article -  Shared Office Spaces and Coworking Spaces). Smaller companies might find that they can cut costs if they share an office space during different time windows. All the more so if some of them are offshore companies that work with clients on different time zones. Occasionally, however, the conference room might have to be booked in a time slot pertaining to the other company. Imagine Company A had time slot A, but Company B can only meet with a super important client during time slot A. In that case, room scheduling software becomes essential for managing office space and ensuring optimum productivity with no double bookings of space, no ghost meetings and no tedious keeping track of who booked the room and when. While working in shifts for only 6 hours a day in coworking spaces might seem like a thing of the future at the moment, we think these changes could be slowly creeping up on us so don’t let them catch you off guard.

Decentralization

2018 has brought along a number of scandals, political or otherwise, historical meetings and momentous forward and backwards steps for humanity at large. Amidst all these, one hot topic has been cryptocurrency - with a sudden increase in value for Bitcoin in late 2017, and then a major drop leading to worldwide depression and panic attacks amongst cryptocurrency holders. But, even so, at no other point in time has cryptocurrency been on everyone’s lips.

It is not cryptocurrency, however, that we want to talk about, but an important component of it - decentralization. The idea that human interactions as part of a society cannot take place without a central power that ensures trust and keeps track of everything is longstanding. Nonetheless, decentralization has long been on everyone’s minds without any concrete idea on how implementation could be possible. This has all changed when the first cryptocurrency was launched back in 2009. Bitcoin solved the issue of a central bank by implementing something you must have heard of by now - the blockchain (cryptography powered technology). But, just in case you haven’t, here’s blockchain in a nutshell, without getting into too much detail about crypto.

A blockchain is a digital ledger of records. Its name comes from the fact that these records are organized in ‘blocks’ that get linked together as in a chain through a method of cryptographic validation (a decentralized encrypted peer-to-peer validation system). The transactions that are newly added cannot be tampered with or deleted without the peers knowing this, while old transactions remain in the blockchain FOREVER. This means that it is almost impossible to manipulate the data in the system to your liking.

You might now think that this is truly a thing of the future and that no one could possibly be seriously trying to switch to a blockchain based technology any time soon. But you’d be wrong, since many banks nowadays make use of the blockchain, even though they are technically still centralized systems. This is known as a permissioned blockchain, which kind of defeats the whole purpose of a blockchain - decentralization. Nonetheless, banks have already spotted the potential of this technology.

 But there are other uses for the blockchain, such as digital voting for which the ledger ensures accuracy and protection against tampering. The vote is anonymous and no one can modify the result, due to the same consensus mechanism. And with voting possible on click, maybe voting turnouts will improve globally, as many countries struggle with this issue.

 The blockchain could also improve the privacy of digital storage. At the moment, if you want to store files online you use services such as the Cloud, OneDrive, Dropbox or the Google Drive. But the trust you lend these platforms is twofold - first, that they won’t spy on your data and second, that they will ensure no one else hacks the platform and gets access to your personal files. If data is stored in a distributed decentralized manner, amongst several computers whilst being highly encrypted, no one but you can have access to it. This means that we can also save up money on storage and energy costs, as people can rent out their personal computer storage capacity for this purpose.

 But you don’t have to make use of the blockchain technology to move closer to decentralization. Meeting room booking software such as YArooms gets you closer to a decentralized office space in which less time is wasted with conference room booking transactions while tampering with other people’s bookings becomes much more difficult due to the permissions system ingrained in the software.

 However, if you’re dead set on blockchain technology and want to implement this on a big scale,  here’s one more example: Estonia has been using blockchain technology since 2012 to protect national data, offer e-services and smart devices in both the public and private sector. This spans the entire length of public services offered, from paying your taxes electronically, to having access to your health care records digitally. Read more about the KSI blockchain technology invented in Estonia and dream that one day we could all be living in a society in which dealings with the public sector are as easy as this. And what if we could live forever in a decentralized afterlife which was only possible due to a more and more computerized society that relied on room scheduling software and cryptocurrency? If that sounds like it doesn’t make much sense, keep on reading for a technology-infused version of the afterlife that might just convince you.

 

Eternal life

 Back in 1995, physicist and cosmologist Frank J. Tipler wrote a book entitled ‘The Physics of Immortality’ discussing his Omega Point Theory which he claims is a testable physical theory accounting for an “omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent God who will one day in the far future resurrect every single one of us to live forever in an abode which is in all essentials the Judeo-Christian Heaven” (p.1 of his book). While Tipler labels himself as an atheist, he nonetheless puts forward this book as an interesting theory that could be backed up by evidence in the future - in other words, a fanciful speculation that might come true. While the end-point of his theory - namely the existence of the Judeo-Christian God is not the object of this article, the rest of his theory is, as it represents an intriguing theory about a future afterlife. Let’s take a look at how we might be living for ever and ever as computer simulations. And don’t even think of the Matrix, since we won’t be needing any living bodies for this.

 Let’s see what the Omega Point Theory entails, since it might be a tad bit mind-bending.

First, we assume that at one point in the distant future, due to the way in which the known physical laws of our universe are made up, our universe will reach a point of maximum expansion. What this means is that there are "edges" to the spacetime and when these are reached the universe collapses - it will first begin to contract and it will eventually collapse. In a very broad sense you could think of this moment as the end of the world. (Even though this is not exactly what it is, but we are trying to keep things simple).

Second,  a condition must be fulfilled - namely that life will exist everywhere in the universe soon after the point of maximum expansion is reached.

Third, life will manage somehow to continue to exist for a short time after the collapse of the universe (after the point of maximum expansion is reached and the universe starts contracting).

Fourth, we assume that by this point in time life consists of intelligent machines that have built incredibly powerful quantum computers on which people and entire universes can be emulated. These emulations have already been put in place before the Omega Point is reached and continue to exist up to this point in time. For this to have happened, our society would have had to become more and more technologized and reliant on the virtual world - from automated public and private transportation, to cryptocurrency, office automation software and intelligent household robots to name a few.

Fifth, at the moment in which the Omega Point is reached all of the information from earlier stages of the universe is still available for processing. As the universe starts collapsing, the speed of information processing increases infinitely and evolves into the Omega Point. The Omega Point is transcendent, does not exist in the space-time manifold and, since it includes all the information available in the universe up to that point it is also omniscient and omnipresent (it is omnipresent because it includes all the points that have existed in space-time). The omnipotent part comes as a result of conceiving all the life forms existent in the universe since the beginning of time as converging to the point of maximum expansion, thus having the Omega Point act as a force on the universe even before its collapse.

 It is easy to see now that one can make a jump from the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent Omega Point to the Judeo-Christian God. Whether or not this jump is justifiable is a discussion for some other time and place. What Tipler’s theory tells is in not so many words and concepts is that as our computing power increases, it will be possible to reach infinity and have our entire universe emulated on a computer. When the universe reaches its limits and collapses into itself, human immortality will be possible due to an eternal existence as a computer emulation that runs infinitely in that millisecond right before the end of the world. Isn’t that a cool thought?

 If you want to know more about Tipler’s ideas, you can read about them here and here.

 Now that we’ve had a glimpse into the future with the three things that might completely change our lives in the coming years, stay tuned for more articles discussing how future inventions and policies might be changing our life at the workplace. Next on “Shaping our Future” - conference rooms and conference room scheduling.

Adriana, Comms. Officer

Written on Thursday, 31 May 2018





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