Briefcase, tie or Chanel suit and Montblanc fountain pen smoking hot from business signatures. If someone should give a stereotypical definition of a “businessman/businesswoman”, our memory would fly instantly to Richard Gere in Pretty Woman or to the tenacious Fallon Carrington of Dynasty. And somehow, even not considering the charme of famous actors playing the role of powerful CEOs, that kind of allure around business travel can still make its way into our fantasy. From the invention of mobile phones on, who can honestly say they’ve never pictured themselves in Miranda Priestly’s office, where a year’s work evolves around the perfect business trip to Paris?
Well, maybe reality is a little different and we all know that very well, although we like a little daydreaming. However, there is something movies can frame well enough: the tools of an era and the usage we make of them. Today, we might giggle at the old PDAs and Blackberrys from the early 2000s, let alone the legendary mobile phones of the 90s, huge chunks of plastic as heavy as a brick. Yet, our modern mobile phones, super-slim, super-tech and super-everything, fulfil the exact same task those oldies used to do: establish a connection with other human beings even if we find ourselves in another physical space.
Each need blossoms as a social need first and then we adapt the same schemes to jobs, to school and to the most unlikely environments. Think about the incredible growth of video call platforms during the Covid-19 pandemic: the need to belong to a social hub was in danger and technology came to rescue immediately, copying and pasting the same process to work meetings, school lessons and yoga classes.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise when we see a certain connection between business travel and the desire to stay in touch with others. Any traveller lives in an ultra-connected bubble: I can access work emails from my phone, I can write an instant message to a colleague, I can take a picture and post it on the company profile and if that’s not enough, what’s the problem? I can slide out the laptop from my computer bag and work on a presentation for the sales department I have to pitch in next week. And boy, how we get mad when the internet connection doesn’t work and the train wi-fi comes and goes.
Many ask if this lifestyle will be the social downfall of work life, however, we should first ask ourselves if there is, and in case which is, the technology we would be willing to cut off for the sake of philosophy. Who knows how many of us would go back to the times when in order to purchase a plane ticket one had to go to the airport without having not even the slightest idea of its cost at least from a free downloadable app on the phone. Or simply to go back to queueing at the post office or at the bank, for hours, without being able to do anything else in the meantime, not even the daily Wordle on the Times.
Technological progress is our enemy inasmuch as we want it to be. It would be absurd to think about our daily life without the possibility of switching on the light if it’s dark or lighting up the stove if we are hungry, and yet our grandfathers didn’t have access to such comforts. In the same way, a few decades from now, people will expect technological availability and its comforts, and those travelling for business, with their USB-integrated suitcase and Airpods in their ears, with a QR code ticket and e-passport, will have the same kind of charm Edward Lewis had in 1990.