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RICHARD MASON: Welcome to tomorrow

by Richard Mason | June 21, 2020 at 1:45 a.m.

It's 2020, not 1920. You have already dropped your landline phone, so why haven't you reduced as much of your paper mail as you can?

We are in the digital age, and there is no turning back. Going forward means the end of everything from paper newspapers to invoices and other hard-mail items, and all but a few legal paper notices, which will probably become digital in the next year or two. That sounds a little off the wall, but 10 years ago when someone said landline telephones would be phased out, I'll bet you didn't think they would disappear so quickly.

But let's face reality, and reality is what is flooding over us in terms of digital information. We are demanding up-to-the-second data from all information services, and you can't get that from paper mail. Technology is doubling every five years, according to one study, and trying to stay current is causing even some teenagers to fall behind.

Just the thought of that makes my head spin, as I think back to when everything was a hands-on experience.

When we spent two years in Benghazi, Libya, in the mid-1960s, I remember having to wait until the weekend International Herald Tribune newspaper came out on the following Tuesday to find out if Arkansas had beaten Texas that previous Saturday. The score wasn't in the paper, but the rankings were. Just think of how much has changed since then. Today, I could watch the Hogs play on my iPad from the middle of the Sahara Desert.

Tomorrow is becoming easier to see as more and more advertisers and utility companies are switching to all digital. They call it "going paperless," but what they are saying is: Stop using paper mail to pay bills, and stop using paper money. Just do it digitally. The reasons are varied, but it boils down to saving money and doing daily tasks easier and more efficiently.

I'm certainly not leading the charge to get rid of paper mail, but am just being swept along with the changes to digital. I haven't read a hard copy of this newspaper for a long time, and as strange as that may sound to some who are reading this holding a paper newspaper, I probably won't ever read the Democrat-Gazette any other way.

Getting used to having the paper on an iPad is so easy and convenient that once you start doing it, you wouldn't even think of picking up a hard copy. But the daily newspaper is just the tip of the iceberg if we consider the overwhelming potential advantages that digital transmission of data, money, and news have over traditional paper mail.

The digital age is perfect for Americans because we want it now, and now isn't three days down the road. Doing business that once was at best overnight or longer is now almost instantaneous; even contracts with minute legal changes that used to wind their way back and forth in the mail are routinely handled in minutes via digital transmissions.

I'm an oil and gas exploration geologist, and my job is to select drilling locations. However, my job is not over until I evaluate the surveys we call logs, which we use to determine if the hole we drilled contains oil or gas. Before the digital age, it meant you would sit a well, wait for the logs to be run, then calculate whether the various porous zones in a well contain oil or gas.

Today the logs are produced on my office printer in minutes after the logging engineer finishes running them. All I have to do is glance at the presentation, and most of the time I can immediately tell if there is oil or gas in the wellbore.

That carries over to the way we receive oil and gas payments. A number of companies are sending digital money directly to our bank accounts, with a digital notice in our email that shows the deposit.

Our office is in the process of trying to go paperless in as many ways as possible. We are about to change over to emailing invoices to our downtown retail renters and encouraging suppliers and others who deal with us send us email invoices.

It's hard to change old habits, but sometimes it is so beneficial we would be stupid not to jump in. Want some good reasons? First, do you own stocks in your retirement plan? Secondly, do you have a good job with benefits? You might think what on earth could the digital age have to do with stocks and my job. Well, our booming stock market is a direct benefit of the digital age. Company workers who produce more goods by going digital increase this country's overall productivity. That translates directly into our gross national product, and your stocks go up.

The United States has seen its productivity steadily climb year by year, meaning we are producing more goods with the same amount of effort. The basic reason that Americans have such a high standard of living is directly related to our country's increase in productivity.

@@nepWe may not want to emulate everything about California, but let's face it: The average per capita

income in California is $37,124, and in Arkansas it's $16,904. Not all of that difference is because California is the leader of going digital, but a lot of it is. If California were an independent country, its gross national product would make it seventh in the world./@@nep

But the bottom line isn't just to make more money or save a tree. When you eliminate the need to mail in an Entergy bill or a mortgage payment, you free up more time for activities that are more pleasurable. You have increased your quality of life by eliminating a paper trail.

Email Richard Mason at [email protected]


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