The AI (Artificial Intelligence) future desk/chair scenario

The office or the workplace has generally been the same forever – a desk and a chair. Whether its ‘your’ desk and chair, a hot desk, an agile environment, a sit stand desk, a kitchen table at home or in a high rise in the middle of the city – we all use them everywhere.

There are many variations and styles of desks and chairs, just Google ‘office chair’ and you will find approximately 43 million results. But according to Max Tegmark, author of the recent book – Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, the future is shaping up fast to be something very different.

When listening to Max speak recently in London, I mused at how similar most offices and workplaces are, but thought what about the future? His perspective of the future could mean the workplace looks very different. AI has started by taking muscle jobs, but is fast moving to taking brain jobs. Muscle jobs didn’t effect the desk and chair. We still sit on chairs and work at desks even though millions around the world have lost their muscle jobs to AI on the factory floors and manufacturing plants.

But AI is moving extremely fast into brain jobs; many US large employers know they have huge social and economic decisions to make. Will they retire humans for more efficient machines and if they do what responsibilities do they have for the effects on the hundreds or thousands of workers, their families and communities that no longer have purpose in work?

For RAW Brothers, a creative consultancy that help provide environments for people to work, these are fascinating and thoroughly relevant developments. Why would we keep inventing and reinventing offices, desk and chairs if they may not be the right thing for the future, the very near future?

The Future of Life Institute, of which Max is a founding member has penned this as their mission – “To catalyze and support research and initiatives for safeguarding life and developing optimistic visions of the future, including positive ways for humanity to steer its own course considering new technologies and challenges.”

Alongside this they have created 23 Asilomar AI principles, suggesting that “Artificial intelligence has already provided beneficial tools that are used every day by people around the world. Its continued development, guided by the following principles, will offer amazing opportunities to help and empower people in the decades and centuries ahead”.

At number 23 the principle says “Common Good: Superintelligence should only be developed in the service of widely shared ethical ideals, and for the benefit of all humanity rather than one state or organization.”

But nowhere do we find any mention of the future of the desk/chair scenario. Millions and millions of people go to work everyday and sit on a chair at a desk. Millions of pounds is spent creating these places. Often with huge amounts of waste due to style and brand requirements. As this point you may feel I am doing RAW Brothers out of the job!

Not necessarily so. Although Max and the Future of Life Institute are probably right that the future of AI is going to radically change our world, including where and if we need more or less desk and chairs, I believe there is now, and in the future, plenty of opportunity to create creative ways to meet and work with AI.

We come to work at present and sit at a desk and meet AI, everyday we use AI, we leave our offices and go home, or on to recreation or fulfilling hobbies, until we come back to the desk and chair to meet AI for in-depth work again. In the future the roles will be reversed, AI may come to us when it needs something but it won't need a desk or chair. So what will a workplace and office look like? Is there any point in building more sky scrapers?

If we are not working so much and don’t require all those chairs found on Google then what are we building for today? I think we should think more about communities. Creating places where we live, exercise, learn, develop, enjoy recreation, engage and work as organic more symbiotic places. There needs to be a line between when we are working and when we are not. But surely, if AI keeps advancing at this speed, this question is important to consider now?

Max promotes the positive aspects of AI in the future “technology is giving life the potential to flourish like never before…” So what about the workplace you walk into tomorrow and next week? How does this affect your teams and the departments that work in your business today? What ethics and values can you build into your people right now?

Look at your values and see if they are true to the AI in your business? Most corporate values include:


How you partner and establish AI today will make the difference between good relations in the future. Do you help your teams have a trusted relationship with it, including data stored and given? Do you respect the way AI interacts with your senior teams time, daily/weekly life rhythms and cycles? Do you promote integrity on how teams can be free to be fully human, and so fully alive and full of energy, when needed for work? Or do you foster chaining people to chairs and desks?

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