Paperless In Gatesland
Bill Gates has been talking again about the future of information technology. He's predicting a virtually paperless society.
Remember the paperless office? Whatever happened to that?
I was an early adopter of electronic personal organisers. I found them very useful for my work. I could have also entered my shopping list into one and carried it round the supermarket. But I didn't. Because for low level tasks like a shopping list a pen and paper is unbeatable. It needs no batteries........oh, I'm not going to insult you by explaining why. It's so bleeding obvious.
This morning I was reading some print-outs from my web design manual when I was in the toilet. Printing them on paper gave them this portability. It's true that I could have taken a laptop in with me, if I possessed one. It's also true that in the future envisioned by Bill Gates a micro-computer in the toilet roll holder could project the pages onto the toilet door. But why bother when we have something as brilliant and cheap as text on paper?
As you'd expect, Bill Gates predicts the end of newpapers as we know them. He loves the idea of personalised content. I hate the idea of personalised content.
I already personalise my content by buying The Guardian rather than the Daily Mail or The Sun.
My paper gives me a lot of content that I don't normally read. But sometimes a headline in the business or sports sections will catch my eye and I will read them. Personalised content would probably mean that I would be getting only those subject areas that I mostly read and that particularly interest me. It's the equivalent of the switch in television and radio from 'broadcasting' to 'narrowcasting' and the proliferation of hundreds of channels that cater for a specific interest or demographic.
The technological changes that make these specialisations possible are contributing to two regrettable developments: at the personal level: tunnel vision; at the social level: social fragmentation.