Any sort of business call nowadays starts with “So, how has working from home been?” The inevitable response is something between acceptance and mild indignation. For some, working from home is a blessing in disguise. There are those amongst us that prefer the quiet of their own abode, the dynamism it allows. Luckily the humans of the year 2020 have quietly been prepared for this by past luminaries who just wanted things to be a little bit easier.
The preparations will continue, getting us ready for the day that all work could be done without moving an inch. It’s often parodied, and more often than that it – the sentiment of work smarter not harder – is reviled. In the day of our forefathers, the house was relegated to merely being the place you stumble into as the sun smoulders under the horizon. Even as late as the 1990s the suggestion of working from home would be met with a sceptical “How?”.
For many of us, the crux of remote work revolves around the personal computer. Today, your desktop or laptop is the ENIAC machine (the world’s first computer which weighed 10 tonnes and ran on a titanic 10 bytes)’s wildest dream. The first laptop, the Osborne 1 was released in 1981, and before that the first portable computer – meaning the first computer that wasn’t bolted into the floor – the IBM 5100, was released in 1975. Looking at pictures of these machines should remind us of how much we take things like high-resolution screens and RGB full-colour for granted.
The IBM 5100’s screen is as large as a Nintendo DS’. Imagine trying to sort out all your spreadsheets before the end of the day. Imagine the wait as the computer slogs through your data with the full might of its 64kb of RAM. The phones we carry in our pockets currently have around 8-million times more RAM. The discrepancy is astronomical.
As humans naturally worked to make their lives easier day-by-day, they probably only had the slightest idea of how many lives their innovations in convenience will have saved by the time COVID-19 runs its course. If the novel coronavirus had struck the planet with the same magnitude in the early ’90s, the rate of deaths would have been bubonic as governments hold fast against the collapse of their societies by avoiding calls for lockdown and quarantine. Now in developed countries, industries and organizations can expect the same work done at home. Back then, entire economies would have irreparably sunk if millions had been forced inside.
Even entertainment from the ’90s and early 2000s show us the difference. Friends has an episode where a multi-billionaire hosts a meeting in his living room via satellite. Today, kindergarten classes are given over the internet on the daily. Communication with people all over the world is free and instant with chat and video-call platforms like Discord and Skype. Could you imagine how useful that would have been during WW2?
Of course, we all kind of get used to it. I try to remind myself shocked by some new tech that was previously thought impossible at least once a day. Otherwise, the consistent mass of new, useful things would stream past me like an afternoon breeze. Human endeavourship is almost limitless at this point. “Coronavirus tests are taking too long! Fret not, next week we’ll have a machine that can perform the tests in 5 minutes, also it’s portable and lightweight!”
It seems the problems we face in our daily lives that seem so insurmountable are days away from a quick fix if the right people put their right minds into it. The big problems will take a few months. The really big ones? Maybe a year or two.
The rate of solutions is the fastest it’s ever been, and a balm for your next working-from-home problem is a 1-minute Google search away. Host meetings online, organize your employees – had to cancel an event? Host a webinar. Don’t have your own website? Well, then you need to get with the times.
Finally, it is the Internet that will eventually go down as one of the greatest achievements in human history. It is already the home of the largest and most complete collection of information ever, an infinite library – as if something out of a fantasy novel. It’s all there at your fingertips for instant access. The Internet is the single nexus, the core of modern human convenience, and it will only grow from within the digital world into the physical as the Internet-of-Things becomes more prevalent. No longer is man bound to walk about this Earth with questions: “How does the virus spread?” “How do I wash my hands properly?”
More than 20%, 1 in 5 people, of the entire global population is currently under lockdown to protect themselves and their local populations from the coronavirus, that’s a few billion people – here’s hoping most of them have internet access – or at least a good book.
By Luis Monzon
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