Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Tech Column: Gone Paperless, Uh-oh

by Bill Adler

Research Report on the Cleveland Park Listserv, February 30, 2213

I was hoping to deliver a complete report on this service called the Cleveland Park Listserv. But there are few records about this vast and seemingly omniscient connected portal that was part of the landscape known as the Internet (before cerebral communications chips replaced the crude, slow, and often unavailable Internet.)

I had planned to write a complete and colorful report about the Cleveland Park Listserv's role in American journalism, but it appears that the organization's leader, Bill Adler, went "paperless" in 2013. The records of his achievements were kept in a place called "the cloud," which was a collection of computers run by companies that included Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, Dropbox, Evernote, Justin Bieber Advanced Technology Corporation, and AOL. None of these companies has existed for over 125 years. When the longest surviving company, AOL, abruptly went bankrupt in 2088, all the data that was stored on its computers disappeared.

Sadly, the only few remaining documents about the Cleveland Park Listserv come from printed copies of communications from 2035, when the listserv reached 1.2 million people, 90 percent of the population of the District of Columbia. These papers were found during an archaeological dig in 2190, when parts of the Cleveland Park Library, a building that housed books and other papers, was unearthed. (At the time, nobody knew how advanced the storing of information on paper truly was.)

Bill Adler was a proponent of the Paperless Movement, a trend that started in about 2010, and which reached its apex in 2045, when the sum of the world's knowledge was put into computers. In 2045, most books, magazines, newspapers, and college theses were converted into a burnable energy source for those living in the Arctic and Antarctic, the two place in the world that needed heat.

The Paperless Movement was all about digitizing not just documents, but photos and videos, too. As a result, we don't even know what Bill Adler looked like.  We can only guess, from other reports, that he must have stood over two meters and had the physique of an Olympic swimmer.

The Paperless Movement was proposed as an efficient way of storing information; it was supposed to save time. It did that. It wasn't a bad thing, because going paperless gave people more time in their lives, and made their homes and offices into clutter-free spaces. But nobody foresaw the long-term consequences of the Paperless Movement.

Surprisingly, the Paperless Movement survived the Great Solar Flare of 2027, when roughly one third of the world's computers were destroyed by the global electrical surge that accompanied the flare.

I should add one footnote to this sadly sparse report on the Cleveland Park Listserv. When I wrote that no digital documents remain, that wasn't entirely accurate. We found a hard drive (another kind of storage medium). The drive itself works, but unfortunately, the documents on that drive were in a format called "Microsoft Word," and the photos were in something called JPG. Two hundred years later, nobody knows how to read these forms, rendering them useless.


Bill Adler is the co-publisher of the Cleveland Park Listserv, www.cleveland-park.com. He is the author of "Boys and Their Toys: Understanding Men by Understanding Their Relationship with Gadgets," http://amzn.to/rspOft. He tweets at @billadler.

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