I go to bed with an iPad. I normally wake up early. By 5 o’clock I’m ready to start the day. The only way to linger in bed is to read the latest emails. With friends and family around the world, the empire never sleeps. Correspondents in Europe, Australia and New Zealand write to me while I snooze. It’s always tomorrow in the Antipodes.
After an email from New Zealand I must have clicked on the wrong arrow to go back a page, because I suddenly found myself in unfamiliar territory, on a page of videos about working conditions at Google’s bright offices: delicious free buffet lunches, snacks at any time, areas to put your feet up and dream, billiards, a pool and gym (think while you swim or tread the mill), opportunities to talk to anyone at all: in the rest areas, in open plan offices, at the water cooler. No introductions necessary. Dress code: come comfortable. Separate videos showed a similar ethos in their luxurious modern offices in New York, Zurich and London.
It appears that Google has no barriers or hierarchy. This is a thinking forum. You can’t be too young to have an opinion and be heard at Google. The best thinking outside the box comes from untrained minds anyway. Teenagers are particularly inventive. A degree is not necessary. Recruitment is through a series of Skype interviews at which people assess one’s attitude to life, one’s innovation, imagination, enthusiasm and creativity. I didn’t see anyone over 40. The process has little to do with employers’ traditional criteria. Indulge yourself in this glorious environment, while you come up with brilliant ideas: no pressure, then.
When you have an idea, share it with your clever colleagues with receptive minds and ample funds for research and development. Visitors are welcome too. The great, great nephew of Samuel Morse dropped into the office with an idea to replace the tiny keyboard on a miniature iPhone with two buttons: dot and dash. Learn the Morse code and you can surreptitiously type messages on your phone in the dark or with your hand in your pocket. Google leapt on this bright idea: it’s now in development and Mr. Morse will get-rich-quick. (Mental note: I am not going to bed with that one.)
They demonstrated Google’s new glasses. As you walk around, their frame will capture any scene on command with the built in camera. Where is the nearest coffee shop? Consult a satellite-navigator, or make a video, zoom and do other clever tricks too numerous to fathom. Who will use it? That’s the same question they asked when Steve Jobs demonstrated the iPad.
People chatted happily at Google while creativity flowed around them. At the thought of the constant urge to be creative and the pressure to shine, I began to feel dizzy. Will Heaven be like this? Or Hell, perhaps?
Leaving that page I was unexpectedly on YouTube with a (literally) mind-blowing choice of videos: I clicked around, brain speeding up to cope with this new information. I suddenly craved the kick-start fuel to my day, coffee, so I got up and transferred from iPad to computer, with half a pint of strong Columbian coffee soon at my elbow, astonished to find it was 10 o’clock already.
Checking email on the desk top, several friends had sent challenging messages: a jigsaw from New Zealand made from a photo of my garden, the correct pieces clicking together when moved by the mouse; a mathematical puzzler of a frame of blocks which can be moved around, apparently showing the same number, 6 rows by 9, after one has been removed. I’m still mystified by that. There were articles and poems on the Writer’s Almanac and news headlines on the BBC and Telegraph websites. Boredom is a vaguely recollected concept, years out of date.
On Facebook my Chilean friend had left a message in Spanish, and another friend sent a greeting in French. My brain was hurting. Could I really be this clever? By eleven o’clock I suddenly felt exhausted. I had been surfing the net since 5 a.m. and it was nearly time for lunch. I walked into the garden to give my brain a rest. The birds were also busy – flitting, singing, mating, nesting. Insects buzzed. The fresh air restored well-being, the patio chair welcomed. Feet up, I closed my eyes and listened, smelled the earth, and deeply breathed this soothing environment. Inside my eyelids, lines of text restlessly flickered. I had information overload. But I’d enjoyed a wild ride.
The speed of invention has accelerated. My Father, who died in 1965, once remarked that many amazing things had been invented in his life time (born 1898): the high wheel motor buggy, the Ford T, biplanes, radio, television, jet planes, moon rockets and so on. Many amazing things have been invented in this last decade.
A world beyond imagining was revealed to me in a morning. No wonder young people patronize the old. We still remember dialing telephones, black and white TV, twin tub washing machines and buying ice in bags. (In England we managed without the ice.) Our only advantage now is wisdom, if we’re lucky.
What will they marvel at fifty years from now?