(FILES) May 29, 2013 file photo shows people sit around laptop computers at a cafe in Beijing. Millions of Internet users have learned the hard way, no password is safe when hackers can, and do, pilfer them en masse from banks, email services, retailers or social media websites that fail to fully protect their servers, as AFP reported June 24, 2013. AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones / FILESEd Jones/AFP/Getty Images
Is the office becoming obsolete?
01:56 - Source: CNN

Editor’s Note: Andrew Keen is a British-American entrepreneur, professional skeptic and the author of “The Cult of the Amateur” and “Digital Vertigo.” This article was compiled at FutureCast, a conference in Palo Alto, California, featuring a conversation about the future of work between Keen and technology entrepreneur and writer Vivek Wadhwa.

Story highlights

If you spend your working day in an office change may be coming

Smart technology and the division of labor erodes the need for traditional offices

Urbanization will also increase mobile working trend, Andrew Keen says

Palo Alto, California CNN  — 

We spend the majority of our lives at work. Indeed, most of us still spend hours a week commuting to a physical office where we are paid to beaver away in Dilbert-like cubicles. Some of us love it. Some of us hate it.

But what is the future of work in our digital age of always-on connectivity? Can the old office survive or will we all soon work from home and rarely even meet our fellow workers?

Here are five reasons we believe that the 20th century office is history.

1. We now carry our smart devices everywhere we go. By 2020, Ericsson research predicts there will be 50 billion connected devices in the world. And many of these networked devices – like self-driving cars or Google Glasses – will be so smart to create what the futurist Kevin Ashton calls an “Internet of Things.

Andrew Keen: Time to leave the office

But what about a smart office?

The problem with the physically fixed office is that it is, by definition, dumb. The traditional downtown office isn’t flexible, adaptable or, above all, mobile. It’s increasingly an archaic leftover of industrial society in today’s hyper-connected, infinitely mobile world.

In today’s networked age, we no longer need to travel to work. Instead, work travels with us wherever we go.

Read: Five reasons not to ban social media in the office

Anything that can be done in the office can be just as easily done on our smartphones, tablets and laptops. That local coffee house or the wi-fi enabled plane or the smart car or, above all, the connected home, are now at least as productive and collaborative a working environment as any traditional office.

This fundamental change in the nature of work is brilliantly captured in an illuminating new book by Scott Berkun entitled: “The Year Without Pants: WordPress.com and the Future of Work”. Berkun spends a year working at the blogging software company WordPress in which everybody works remotely and there are no schedules, few meetings and even fewer rules. As more and more work from home, Berkun concludes, none of us will need to wear pants in the future.

The very nature of work is radically changing too. As more and more of us are self-employed in what Daniel Pink calls “The Free Agent Nation”, work can no longer be marginalized in a nine-to-five office. And work – as the Richard Florida argues in “The Rise of the Creative Class” – is increasingly dependent on creativity rather than obeying the orders of a boss within a hierarchical organization.

For better or worse, work in today’s digital society is ubiquitous. As the distinguished economist Tyler Cowen notes in his controversial book, “Average Is Over” , society is increasingly diverging into a small elite of highly skilled networked workers and a massive underclass of average people whose skills have less and less value.

The old office is for average people, average ideas and average companies. If you want to excel, escape your cubicle and take your work wherever you go.

2. But what about the division of labor, I hear you saying. Surely we’ll still need offices to gather people of different skills who can