Virtual Society: 2011
The virtual office was truly a reality in 2011. Some countries, companies, and industries embraced the move to the virtual office faster than others. Those that did not were ripe for takeovers. Shell was bought out by a Chinese energy company, which had embraced the virtual office and had not even existed 5 years earlier. Harvard began offering online degrees for all of its programmes which finally eliminated the stigma of online degree programs. Online degrees now accounted for more than 50% of all degrees worldwide.
WiMAX was coming of age and was present in most cities, taking market share from older 3G systems and WiFi. Mobile phone companies reacted by taking controlling interests in WiMAX operators, accelerating the evolution of 3G systems, or fighting WiMAX by seeking governments restrictions on it. Television, movies, and music had converged on the Internet. CDs, DVDs, movie theatres, television sets, and radio were history. Now, all this was available with the click of a mouse, or increasingly, with a voice command.
Security posed a serious threat to homes connected via wireless LANs, e-commerce, and virtual workplaces. People were now accustomed to biometric identification when making financial transactions and going to the airport, and this was spreading to other areas as well. Civil liberty groups cried foul and some people refused to adopt the new technology. Nanotechnology spurred the growth of even smaller computers. This allowed for embedded medical devices (i.e., implanted under the skin) and everything from furniture, books, and shoes to a lost set of keys had a small computer inside. Everyone had their own personal wireless LAN linking their “smart” objects together. The beginning of the end of “blue-collar” jobs was at hand as minute robots, nanites, allowed fully automated factories to be a reality. These factories had no workers whatsoever and were remotely controlled from virtual offices.
As a result of increased Internet penetration, and because of information overload, users became more selective about their sources of information. This caused a reduction in the number of Internet content providers as people no longer wanted to get their news from hundreds of different online news sources, they just wanted one or two they could trust.
Unemployment rose in developed countries because of:
1) Increases in productivity made companies more efficient and thus required fewer people to do the same amount of work. 2) The virtual office effect. Due to the adoption of the virtual office, companies were able to hire the best people in the world, wherever they resided, and at lower salaries than individuals sourced locally. A byproduct of these changes was a redistribution of income as secure jobs shifted to individuals in developing countries versus those in developed countries who were now too expensive for companies to hire.