THE BLOG

The Long Now: Challenges and Benefits of the Virtual Office

05/09/2013 06:02 pm ET | Updated Jul 09, 2013

I live in multiple time zones.

My colleagues are spread across the globe, and I'm on the phone or on Skype or on text or on email with one or another of them constantly. I'm always in an eternal present while they're doubtless feeling the same thing. When it's morning my time, a colleague in New York is having lunch and he at the same time is listening to a to a French classical radio station, broadcast live, thanks to an iPhone app. So at noon his time it's 6 p.m. in Paris, and hearing an interview taking place during the evening is a bit odd but, he says, weirdly comforting, as if he can be in two places at once.

But unlike Schrödinger's cat, which -- to give a very basic reference to Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger's thought experiment -- is "alive" only until the box is opened -- this state of quantum entanglement ensures that I'm still alive even if someone is looking at me: I'm not frozen in time as one thing or another.

Similarly, my colleagues and I are in different parts of the country, even the world. And still going strong wherever they are. We are spread out in four North American time zones and a few farther-reaching international ones. And we're all in contact with each other, upending the restraints of geographical distance.

Digital tools upend time. We can exist in a continuous present, and work-hours exist when we create them. We record television shows and watch them later -- though I resist watching anything during the day, even on weekends, since it doesn't feel right to plop in front of a recording when the day is still beckoning. But I know that digital recording is there whenever I want it.

We summon time to meet us, then.

But are we profiting from it?

That's the thing: we're besieged by a constant present and it can be, admittedly, hard to concentrate on a task at hand when something is always pulling us forward. But I have to say that the sense of well-being I get when I know that a colleague is working a few hours ahead of me, or even somewhere over the International Date Line, somehow keeps me in the moment when I'm working, knowing that I'll get there eventually.

It's a funny way of looking at staying in the present: taking part in a virtual future. But it works for me.

And when I go to bed at night, I luckily haven't yet mastered the art of already having a refreshing sleep just as my head hits the pillow. Some things are still sacred.

And the past is still the past, which might not be true in certain interpretations of quantum mechanics but I still try to learn from whatever the past is, as I did in putting together my book "Pendulum", which explores how society changes every 40 years or so, and keeps coming back to similar, if slightly different, ways of looking at the world.

I can only exist in the present, even if I have the sensation of different "presents" all around me. Life is funny that way.