Bill Gates on how the metaverse will change the workplace, meetings, and all office interactions

One of my favourite authors, Vaclav Smil, has this riff he uses in several books. He tells you about a young woman who wakes up and drinks a mug of instant coffee before taking a subway to work. When she gets to the office, she takes an elevator to the tenth floor and stops to grab a Coca-Cola from the vending machine on the way to her desk. The plot twist is that the situation he’s describing takes place in the 1880s, not the modern era.

When I first heard his riff years ago, I was struck by how familiar the scene Smil described was. But when I read it again during the pandemic, it felt for the first time as if he was describing the past (although not the part about drinking a Coke in the middle of the workday!).

Of all the areas that are forever changed by the pandemic, I suspect that office work will see the most dramatic shift.

The pandemic disrupted work in virtually every industry, but office workers were in the best position to take advantage of digital tools. The situation Smil describes – where you commute somewhere every day and work from a desk in an office – sounds increasingly like a relic of the past, even though it was the norm for more than a…


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