How likely is a future without paper?

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Artisanal makers will preserve paper for later generations.


Being an old guy, I would miss the reading and writing paper but there is other paper I would miss more.


If it means being able to exterminate all the printers, I’m in. Worst peripheral ever.


My business is pretty nearly paperless, but I still like actual books. This may be due to advanced old age, but I know a few tykes who have kindles and never use them.


The paperless office is right down the hall from the paperless bathroom.


Don’t worry, you’ll get three seashells.

Can I have some? :stuck_out_tongue:


My youngest daughter calls her phone her ‘phone book’ without a hint of irony because what we used to call ‘phone books’ are largely dead.

I’ve got to admit, having a hundred novels on mine IS super convenient, and I really should embrace that more despite my love of the smell of dead-tree books.


Luddite Toddlers? What’cha going to do with them?


That really did sound pretty bad.


Or awesome. @Shaddack 's an interesting guy, I wouldn’t write off something so right it’s wrong or so wrong it’s right just yet!

Edit: Fixed sentence with the wrong amount of writes.


Just avoid the printers targeted at home users. The ones sold in box stores and practically given away to sell toner. Go with the printers sold to large companies on maintenance contracts. Not only are they more reliable, but you’ll make up the extra cost by not having to buy toner as often. (The toner cartridges cost the same, but are good for several times more pages.)

Five billion years from now after the sun will goes nova and reduces the Earth to a cinder, you’ll find HP LaserJet 4s from the 1990s in the wreckage. They’ll still work, and you’ll still be able to get toner.


Digital media is great for convenience and low cost. Physical media is disaster resistant. If we want to truly preserve our information, we need stable, solid media that can be intuitively read and stored for the long term.

For storage in the hundreds of years, film reels and books made of archival papers stored properly can transmit our knowledge to the future. Any and all digital media, and even non-obvious media (records for sound recording) will probably not be readable by cultures that don’t have informational continuity with our civilization.

For storage in the thousands of years, something more survivable is needed. I’m imagining gold alloy (or non tanarshing, non rusting tough metal) plates, bound into books. With the first books being a primer defining the language of the remaining books. Kind of like how in Contact the aliens included simple math examples to unlock the rest of the plans. The remainder would be encylopedic information and copies of written works. Etchings of images could also be included, as well as music notation, but I don’t see an archival way to store video or audio for thousands of years, allowing for cultures that don’t have informational continuity to access them.


This could work, at least for audio.


As a home user I am partial to my secondhand HP Laserjet 1200. Built back in the era when they didn’t know how to make them cheap so they had to make them good.

The storage density of conventional human-readable stuff is abysmal. I’d go for something like a microfiche, which can be read by a simple optical device.

We can also use reels, or scrolls; books aren’t the only format available.

Electron beam etching into iridium alloy foil could do a good job. There are also some quite good looking experiments with storing such data in glass.

Use some format readable by simple machines. Use the human-readable text to describe how to build the machines.


Sure, optical media can degrade over time, but so does the best paper. I’m pretty sure that even CD-R compatible media can be made to be non-degradable for a millennium.

As I understand it, all those old manuscripts survive because they’re printed on parchment and vellum - animal skins. Once people switched to paper things go dark for a few centuries, because the paper doesn’t last as long.

And still, what we have are the few parchments that survived centuries of fires, floods, revolutions, religious and political purges and whatnot. I have more faith in digital media, because it’s so much easier to make copies of thousands of documents at a time.

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Make a cluster of them. Each one might not be very smart on its own, but given the power of parallel processing, 20-30 of them should be roughly Nobel laureate level.


Could you make that work for the Senate too? Please?


I had to stop buying dead tree books. I don’t have enough space to hold all the ones I currently have. I’ve lightly pruned some of my collection but the project to get rid of any physical editions I can bear to part with is slow going. Particularly since I get to the pile thinking “I can get rid of most of this” only to find “no, no I really can’t.”

When I either get infinite money to replace things with digital editions—or a book scanner that works and doesn’t require constant tending—I’ll finally have space for my other projects. :laughing:

In the mean time, my new books are digital only.

I’m running shy on time so I can’t make a full response to the printer topic but I will say that consumer grade printers have been bad since Dot Matrix went the way of the dodo.

They used to last longer but my family while I was growing up had a string of HPs dying at a year of moderate use instead of six months. HP LJ 4s and 2100s will last forever with care and maintenance. But printers on the consumer end were never much good.