2037: The debut of the rolling office cubicle

In the 1960s, the creators of the television cartoon series The Jetsons envisioned in the 21st century, we’d be jetting daily to the office, whooshing through the stratosphere in personal aircraft between residential and office buildings in a mere few minutes.

Another vision of the future 37 years into the century is decidedly different. There are no personal flying vehicles to speed the commute. Instead, people are still commuting by car to offices distant from their homes just as they did in the latter half of the 20th century when automobiles, highways and cheap fuel made it possible to live far from one’s place of employment, giving rise to the suburban and exurban boom.

In 2037, the suburbs are still booming and moving farther away from centralized metro commuter offices than at the start of the new century. But the commute vehicles are automated and self-driving. They have essentially become personal, employee financed rolling office cubicles — an extension of the cubicle of the centralized, commute in office building where knowledge workers spend two or more hours each workday getting to and from more distant work and home locations. But are they truly necessary? Especially as information and communications technology available now and likely to advance rapidly in the near term makes it possible to perform knowledge work from anywhere as predicted by science fiction writer and futurist Arthur C. Clarke soon after The Jetsons first television season aired?

The self driving vehicle as rolling conference room

4. The Car as Conference Room

Once cars become fully autonomous, they won’t need to take the form they have for more than a century. One concept design is the Mercedes-Benz F 015, which transforms the vehicle into a “digital living space.” Inside, seats swivel to face one another, and a series of displays permit passengers to entertain themselves or work. In other words, cars could double as conference rooms—and employers may begin to demand that people use their commutes productively.

Source: Driverless Cars, Flying Cars, and the Future of Transportation – The Atlantic

Commutes with have been getting so long and congested in major metro areas that the idea of vehicles doubling as as rolling conference rooms was bound to come up. And they may not be far off, according to this item appearing in the current issue of The Altantic.

This is a classic — and ridiculous — example of overlaying advances in digital technology onto a pre-digital, Industrial Age economy where commuting to a centralized office was necessary because that’s where the tools were for knowledge work. Apparently someone hasn’t been read into the future. Information and communications technology is obsoleting the commute itself. But if you love meetings and commuting, this may be for you.