The Life Digital with Arnaud Gagneux

Can You Live without Paper-Based Processes?

We all know that the paperless office, an idea that’s been around for more than 30 years, doesn’t exist. Some say that it’s unlikely that it’ll ever become a reality.

Various studies have shown that we’re very much attached to paper; that we learn better and retain information longer, and that when it matters we prefer to read from a piece of paper rather than a screen.

However, it’s now becoming evident that the combination of cheap smartphones and tablets, a robust and relatively cheap mobile infrastructure and an explosion of online content has not only revolutionised traditional paper-based industries like newspapers, but may be changing the way we take in information.

Some argue that our brains have been rewired to process information without relying on paper.

In a business setting, it’s safe to think that until the rules are rewritten by new generations of digital-only managers who’ll take over during the next 30 years, hybrid processes that involve paper to some extent will persist.

But from an individual standpoint, things are very different. Digital media have replaced paper in a big way, and I wonder whether it’s possible to live without paper-based documents.

I’m going to find out. Over the holiday season, I’ll try to replace as many paper-based processes as possible, from magazines and travel documents to receipts and anything else that seems to involve pulped material.

I’ll also look at minimizing my use of cash as often as possible, using electronic forms of money instead.

It’ll be interesting to see which processes can be switched, and for how long; and which cannot, and what prevents them from becoming digital.

I’ll provide regular updates here on this site, with a final report in mid-September.

Any suggestions and comments are welcome.

If you’re wondering about the red hat, it’s a reference to this film, set in an environment where neither paper nor digital media are ideal.