Why we'll never be paperless

Subject: Why we'll never be paperless
From: "William J. Hartzer" <William -dot- Hartzer -at- EMC2-TAO -dot- FISC -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 26 Jan 1995 12:00:00 EST

This article originally appeared in the October, 1994 "Mailier's Review" and I
am posting it here because I thought it is appropriate.
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Four Reasons We'll Never Be Paperless
by Dr. Keith T. Davidson, Ph.D.
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Corporate cost cutters have long targeted paperwork as the villain behind the
productivity problems in their organizations. They cite statistics such as:
executives spend as much as three hours every week looking for missing
information; the average document is copied 19 times; 200 million pieces of
paper are filed away each day.

Of those champions of the paperless office, there's good news and there's bad
news about the next 10 years; paper's scope of dominance will shrink, but its
size will grow.

By the year 2004, the pile of information on your desk will be 30 percent
paper and 70 percent electronic, compared to 90 percent paper today. But
because the volume of information required by your information-dependent
organizations is doubling once every three to four years, the amount of
paperwork will keep growing.

There are four very solid reasons why paperwork will continue to be a part of
your life and why you won't soon be occupying a paperless society.

First, paper is permanent. No other method of information storage and
retrieval is as permanent as paper. Not those hard and floppy disks. Not
CD-ROM. Not micro-film.

Over the years, we've developed a cultural bias toward paper. We're
comfortable with paper because of its dependability. Ask anyone who has hours
of creative work on the computer screen when the lights flicker. Anytime you
can lose hours of work because of a cranky air conditioner, you'll want a more
permanent backup.

Second, paper has a presence in our legal system. It's been built into our
common law. It's why you need an original instead of a copy. In a contract
dispute for anything more the $500, you need a signed agreement if you want
the judge to rule in your favor. The need to have it in writing is the law of
the land.

Third, paper is built into our traditions and is part of our society's
institutions. Most of our daily newspapers, including U.S.A Today and the
Wall Street Journal, ar the size they are for a reason - an historic reason.
For hundreds of years, we've had the broad sheet size of newspaper becuase the
English crown taxed newspapers by the sheet. Newspaper publishers from the
15th and 16th centuries printed their papers on the largest sheet the presses
would accommodate. Publishers today continue the tradition.

Fourth, paper is the ideal human interface. Through centuries of use, we've
evolved human information management systems all based around the use of
paper. It's the way we learn, we teach, we communicate.

Have you ever wondered what is the single most important information
processing invention of the last 30 years? Is it the personal computer?
Fiber optic networks? CD-ROM? Microwave telecommunications? My candidate
for the information processing invention of the decade is the Post-it note.
And the reason? It's the epitome of the effective human information interface.
Expect to see "less-paper" growth, but not paperless growth.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Keith T. Davidson is the executive director of Xplor International. Questions
or comments may be directed to him at Xplor headquarters, 24238 Hawthorne
Blvd., Torrance, CA 90505-6505; phone 310-373-3633 or 800-ON-XPLOR; fax
310-375-4240.


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