August 7, 2023
…talking of Orwell, I recently whiled away an idle hour checking which of the more deranged pronouncements from the period of peak workplace hysteria in late 2020 have been memory holed. There was some weird, wild stuff, often coupled with a feverish response to anybody urging caution. At one point somebody (I know who but won’t say) suggested I should be banned from LinkedIn for pushing back on the idea that any firm that didn’t go fully remote would be out of business within five years.
Now it’s true that there are still one or two people dying on this hill, the Hiroo Onodas of an unnecessary battle, firing shots from their caves but never wandering too far from them. Of course, if they look hard enough, they can still see real foes, those people also engaged in that stupid proxy war of home v office, a choice that doesn’t need to be made and never did. But for the most part they are happy to take pot shots at straw men.
Also, down the memory hole you’ll find a pile of stuff about the metaverse, soon to be joined by a load of pronouncements about AI. Now, I’m not saying it won’t change things. As with the impact of lockdown on work and workplaces, it will change a lot of things, some of them in massive ways. My own profession is likely to be one of the first to change. So, it’s important we ponder what may happen. But it is still far too early for certainty.
ChatGPT may already be showing serious signs of degradation according to recent academic research, although some people dispute the findings. Dezeen also ran a feature recently which showed the mixed but fascinating results from AI’s attempts at architecture.
It’s a banality to point out how thick and fast change comes. The temptation to come to equally quickfire conclusions about what it will mean may be irresistible, but it should always be tempered by our track record of ill-advised certainty, because there’s always someone, somewhere with a big nose, who knows and who trips you up and laughs when you fall.
Mark is the publisher of Workplace Insight, IN magazine, Works magazine and is the European Director of Work&Place journal. He has worked in the office design and management sector for over thirty years as a journalist, marketing professional, editor and consultant.