Are we really heading for a cashless, leisure-rich, paperless society?

The thing about predictions based on technology is that the rarely – if ever – come to light.

Remember how technology will give us all more leisure time? I guess on one level that may be true but work and leisure are now intertwined, as many discussions on this forum have highlighted.

Just when should we stop working (including replying to emails). Do you keep going all evening, weekend? What about while on holiday? These issues have generated a lot of debate on this forum.

Now we have predictions that money – hard currency – will be a thing of the past as we buy via mobile phone scans. Again a lot of debate has taken part on this subject.

But one that caught the imagination of members was this question from Mike Walton: Do you think we will ever achieve the paperless office?

The ‘paperless office’ was a slogan first used way back in 1964. Nearly 50 years later, we are awash with paper. So will we ever see this Utopic state?

“I have been around the office equipment industry for 25 years, and people were talking about the paperless office then but it still hasn’t happened,” said Mike Walton. “I just wonder if it will take the next generation to achieve that because people still like to have a bit of paper in their hand.”

For Anthony van Geest, it may start to happen now we have the cloud. “Data is locally generated on smartphones and tablets and immediately transferred to the cloud. That’s where I think the paperless office will start,” he said.

“I started reducing my print-out significantly once I started to dump all of the documents into my iPad,” agreed Daniel Cho. “There is still some need for paper, so I am always looking for less-paper rather than paper-less.”

Oil Rhys suggested another current trend may provide the push it needs. “Gadgets like the tablet make being paperless a prestigious thing – and nothing changes habits like a marketing enhanced ego.”

Could this be it then? Will the cloud and tablets provide the impetus? Well there are other issues to consider as Mike Walton pointed out: “What is the legal situation on scanned documents? Are they now acceptable legally? What if they need to be altered or edited?”

For Ian Stark hanging on to paper copies is simply outmoded “like vinyl records, wet film cameras and slide-rules.” He added: “I’m curious to know what aspects of the office environment could not (or should not) be paper free, given an unlimited budget for suitable technology. Off the top of my head I can’t think of any, so working on the basis that all technology ultimately becomes affordable, I believe that one day the paperless office could indeed become a reality.”

So, will we ever manage to reach a paperless office, will we really ever see a cashless society? Have we simply been waiting for the cloud and mobility to make it all happen?

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