We have heard it since the early 1970s – the Internet will make us paperless! Well, I don't know about you, but my office is not close to being paper-free. One of the reasons for the plethora of paper is that it is just too darn easy to share information today.
Let me give you an example.
When I first started working in an office environment, the Internet and email was not really used to share information. If I had something that others needed to know, it got typed up and I had to walk to the copier and copy it on colored paper. (Different colors stood for different types of information.)
Before I made copies, I took time to think through who really needed the information. I would only make the copies that I really needed. Why? Because after I made the copies, I had to hand address onto inner-office envelopes.
Contrast that to today.
We get something in our in-boxes and decide to send it on. We hit forward and if we want, we could copy our entire address book! Ultimately that means that more information is given to more people at a faster pace.
So, how does that lead to more paper?
Most of us do not like to read information on the screen if it is of any length. We print it! Then the cycle continues over again and again.
Jonathan Spira of the Basex company has this commentary to share on the paperless office.
BASEX:COMMENTARY-OF-THE-WEEK BY JONATHAN B. SPIRA
THE MYTH OF THE PAPERLESS OFFICE
Pundits have been proclaiming the imminent arrival of the paperless office since the 1970s. So far, they've been wrong. If anything, we print more today than we did back then.
Yet some still believe in this; those who engage in looking for the paperless office may be engaging in a Sisyphean task.
The New York Times ran a story on February 10 by Hannah Fairfield entitled “Pushing Paper Out the Door.” It speaks of paper-reducing technologies in homes and offices, citing families who scan their bills and opt for on-line statements. To Fairfield I say “not so fast.”
Indeed Fairfield quotes Brewster Kahle, the founder of the Internet Archive: “Paper is no longer the master copy; the digital version is. Paper has been dealt a complete deathblow. When was the last time you saw a telephone book?”
To respond directly to Kahle, last week. My friend and fellow analyst Amy Wohl famously commented, around 1978, that she thought that the paperless office was “about as useful as the paperless toilet.”
But the article had a bigger problem. While it provided an excellent look on the move to digitization, it completely ignored the elephant in the room, namely a compatibility conundrum that has been with us since the first computer was turned on over 60 years ago.
Books, pamphlets, and broadsides printed hundreds of years ago are accessible without any special equipment. For that matter, the Rosetta Stone (dating from 196 B.C.E.), was also readable upon its discovery in 1799.
Contrast this with millions of files on 8″ or even 5 1/4″ floppy diskettes, various obsolete tape cartridges, and NASA's earliest photographs of the earth – all mostly inaccessible with today's technology.
One might presume that the technology revolution of the late twentieth century had increased our ability to preserve our history and cultural artifacts. In actuality, we have failed.
Moving all of our papers to digital form without a plan to ensure accessibility not only 5 years from now but 50 years and 100 years and beyond is not making information MORE accessible but risking that it will become LESS accessible.
Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex. He can be reached at [email protected]
What do you think?
Can we go paperless?
What have you done? Share your thoughts below by making a comment in the blog comment section.
To your success!