William Gibson famously remarked that the future is already here, it's just unevenly distributed. Lately I've been wondering how the distribution of the future correlates with the distribution of wealth. I think they are inversely correlated.
I came by this thought when thinking about the advances in library
automation. Only after having looked in awe at these new machines attacking the formerly paper
only, staid world of libraries the obvious occured to me: These machines that libraries are beginning to use are commonplace in factories and distribution centers around the world.
Workers in large distribution centers are used to automated, unmanned, motorized transports that automatically find their way in the warehouse.
Space efficient computerized shelving systems are in widespread use.
Even the underpaid, under 18 girl at the supermarket checkout counter is
connected to a much more sophisticated logistics machine than I am.
The libraries are applying robotics that is basically off the shelf materials handling equipment (no
pun intended). The only news here is that this machine future is beginning to show up in "the paper workplace". Until now the only future we in the offices have been exposed to has been a datarevolution - the gradual replacement of "the office PC" with the always on terminal. The office workers are the only workers left that haven't begun to adjust to a life working alongside, not just using, machines.