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I have always been a person looking to the future rather than to the past. Traveling between the new world and the old world, I noticed that Europe is truly in old in that context. Europeans usually confer with their past, with tradition, before they allow new things to take place of old ones. If something is old, many times it is automatically worth protecting, no matter how obsolete it is. New worlders (especially Americans) have another take on this, replacing something old with something new that can do the same but much more. Both people do look back at tradition and romantisize about, but with the difference that Americans focus on the last 200 years, while Europe does that with the last 1000.
Europeans themselfes of course consider themselfes to be totally up to date and in sync with the future. But push comes to shove, the tradition, the "way things have always been" wins over the new "unproofen" thing. This is also why most new trends and technologic achievements get developed in the new world. That is why an inventor in Europe faces endless critisism about "how unnatural" his new invention is and that "things have already gone too far away from nature", while his fellow in the USA is applauded for getting ideas that nobody else had before.
I always had the feeling when reducing it to a phrase, Europeans would say "you should not. How dare you?" while Americans would say "Why not?"

I think a lot like a new worlder and aspire to invent and have ideas that nobody else had before. I know that bulding mental walls and always saying "cannot" and "must not" stops more useful and smart ideas than any real world limit.
It may be because I am a technologist and technology is just getting real good now.

Although some of these days, I think that we are still in stoneage with certain things.
Cars still run on the old internal combustion thing and wireless internet access is a total strage word, especially when you travel on the road.
I find it very annoying to be disconnected from my information sources and I imagine sometimes telling my nephews (If I ever have them) about how internet access was expensive and hard to get and how you tended to be bumped down to dial-up, which was such a pain.
There was of course internet access though cellphone, but at prices that are so much rip off that practically nobody uses them exempt maybe business people, where price does not matter so much.

Textmessages, SMS how we call them in Europe, are a great thing in my view, but if you imagine how much they cost (think they are inexpensive, huh?), the word rip off also comes to mind. A 160 byte SMS costs about 5 cents and that is just about 32 cents for 1kb of data, but already a megabyte would cost you roughly 320.5 $.
Datarates are not that expensive of course, but still too much. Charging for SMSs is due to the silly small amount of data just plain extortion.

So, telling my nephews about this strange world where you were totally out of contact to the internet again and again, while traveling and being at hotels that did not cost tons will seem so silly and antiquated as when we see these funky people with their oldtimers, wearing funny hats and cranking the car in order to start it.

And although I know that I am that oldtimer, living in silly old times, there is not much to do to change it. In technological development, for me, time seems to creep and it will probably be another 10 years till everybody will have inexpensive internet access and with inexpensive I don't mean a thing that costs more than 500 $ per year.

I always say that the status quo is alway the biggest enemy of progress, that and tradition. Well, the status quo is the current nephew of tradition.
Both of them work hard, so things don't change.

The Kids nowadays

Just recently I have seen a toy in a store window, called the "learntop", which is for kids to learn all kinds of subjects. It is basically the first laptop a child will have and I realized something that might very likely come to pass in the future:

Me being form the 1973 generation, I grew up with simple toys, most of them non electronic yet. I got my first Commodore 64 around 1983, which was a totally simple machine. 5 Years later, computers made the big push into the enterprises, which in turn frightened a lot of employees, especially older ones. Suddenly, you had to understand how to work a computer or be obsolete. And it was of course also felt that a computer would control and dominate a human being.

The fear of machine domination over us has been dramatized over the years in countless movies and to some degree it is reality already:
In Switzerland, there is a always growing net of speed control devices that shoot pictures of car drivers that drive faster than the speed limit. While I applaud the effect this has on the craziest outlaws that just don't care about laws at all, it is in effect (especially by being very precises and not very lenient on the error side) a mechanism that controls us humans and punishes for being inperfect. Letting the speed slip by mere 5 km/h will bring instant punishment by the system. A human being has to abide it or get punished, there is no human person to talk to anymore, the law is absolute, does not care if it is 4 am in the morning and the street is deserted or if it is an emergency and life and death situation.

A definitive postive sideeffect of it is that deaths caused by automobile accidents have been receiding in Switzerland for the last decades, probably also thanks to this mechanisms.

Now if somebody says to me when talking about robotics that robots will never take a place in human society, they lack vision.
A kid today grows up with computers and devices everywhere. A technically interested child will soon learn about TCP/IP, the internet and how it all works. It does not see bad effects of the digital age and does not know about the strange oldfashioned analog world that seemed to have such a spell over the oldtimers before.
These people will have little hestitation to invite the newbuilt robots and automatons into their families, to serve or surveil, to protect or aid.
They will pause less than the "older" genereration, which will immediately ask: "how can this be dangerous? Shouldn't we slow down the pace a little?"

It is a benefit, because the old dogs always slowed things down and without the young ones, brash and quick to jump into new stuff, there would be total standstill in development of new ideas and technologies.

I predict that there will a new kind of thinking, much closer to digital and computer like that these new generation will be able to do. It will come from being confronted with computer form baby age 24/7.
New programming styles will emerge and solve problems like AI, voice recongition completely that have eluded us so far.

Drowning in paper

Altough I work with computers, I also consider myself an information expert. Meaning, that I am also interested in the thing information, following the thesis that a good doctor should be healthy and teacher of business administration should be wealthy and sucessfull in his field. How else can you expect a person to teach you if he is not master of his trade?

The usefullness and importance of information seems to grow every year exponentially and I can't stop to marvel and educate myself in all kinds of subjects. Years ago I ventured into investing and am determined to not just invest money (the terms simple definition), but to also learn the mechanics of finance and the skill to judge and evaluate companies for their feasibility for investing money in them.

There has never been a time in human history where information was so plentifully available for the curious and adept to learn. Just browse around in Wikipedia and you will marvel at the wealth that is amassed there. And the greatest discovery: it is all free and ripe for the taking, very much like your standard public library.
For some misconceived sense of value, people often conclude that what is free is also worth nothing. So is for these people a precious supercomputer that beats any system on the market, is self powering, self-repairing and selfprogramming, that is given to them free of charge and effort. Their own brain.

What a precious gift we all have received...

Over the last 10 years, I have looked for the perfect system to manage my information and have built it step by step.

I believe that if one wants to be exceptionally talented and skilled in ones job, he/she has to live it, also in private space. And as a computer scientist and information expert, I recognize the true nature and integrity of information.
That is, when it is stored in an information system.

Through the worlds ignorance of this fact, I am currently drowning in paper.
Information printed on paper has the following drawbacks:

  1. Bulky, taking up a lot of space.
  2. Cannot be updated.
  3. Expensive to transmit, since paper is heavy in bulk.
  4. No search function, when looking for a quote in a book or trying to find a piece of information in a large heap of paper, it is almost impossible.
  5. Cannot be categorized in a sensible manner. Binders are a pathetic way to organize information and if one would like to categorize information chronologically and alphabetically, one needs to make paper copies and store the same info in 2 binders.
  6. Backup: As the rule goes, any important information must be protected against loss and therefore backuped. Paper has to be duplicated by hand, which is a horrendous effort.

The beaurocracies of the past have employed armies of secretaries and aides to handle this kind of infromation processing. Most of this is now done by computer systems much more efficiently.

Information has, in its printed out form on paper, just one advantage:

It can be read without getting an headache. Todays displays unfortunately are still very primitive, not even approaching the resolution and clarity of a 1200 dpi printed font on paper.
Instead of reflecting light like any other normal object, they shine light direcltly into the eye.

The paperless office has been talked about for years and years and I still have not seen it yet. Except in my own one, where I keep paper only to scribble on and play ideas around, which are then transfered into the system or discarded into the trash.

At home, I am unfortunately still drowning in paper, since the rest of the world seems still addicted to paper and e-invoices seems like a totally futuristic concept to them.

Till the future portrayed below will take effect, I am sure many many years will pass. Tradition in anything is a hard thing to overcome, since it is such a cosy concept to so many.

No paper in future?

Imagine this:

There are no newspaper anymore. These annoying waste bin fillers produced much too much work in printing and distribution. Ever tried to read a newspaper on a windy day?
foldable, half rigid, half flexible foils might take their place, working with OLED technology and storing any kinds of magazines or newspapers on it. Simply paying at a kiosk or newsagent, they are loaded on the device wirelessly.
The news are automatically sorted and arranged by my own reading preference. Since I never read the sports page, it is hidden all the way in the back and not even displayed voluntarily, unless there is news connected to some technologic breakthrough connected to sports.

There is a search function of course. There is no copy protection, since the price is so low that nobody would bother to copy it, much like nobody would conceive to take the trouble to copy a newspaper from a colleague instead of buying it him/herself.

Paper is still used, but only in ceremonial functions, to print out diplomas or certificates that are traditionally stored on paper.

I can of course transfer a magazine page on any display that I wish, on my OLED that is overlaid transparently over my car windscreen (only while non driving of course, since it fades with driving) or my home screen.

OLEDs will be able to be extremely thin, much thiner than any other LCD screen today (which has a minimal thickness and needs a glass plate for support). You will see displays in places currently impossible:
The whole wall could be a display, part of it used for pictures that look like the are hanging there.

OLEDs glow by themselfes and are very energy efficient. You can imagine what kind of nice ambient light this would make possible, paralell light like the sun provides would enter many house, by just coating the ceiling with an inexpensive layer of OLED film and then switching all or some of the pixels to white to provide lighting.


Now as I have just recently checked the availability of scanners that have a automatic feed and was astonished of how expensive these devices are, I must be a pioneer of things yet to come in the future. It seems to me that not many people do try to manage information so pure and are still trapped in the spell of paper.
The scanner costs almost 300$, while a normal scanner is less than 100$ and that is probably because it is not widely used.


this document was created on:
25. Oct. 2006
and last updated on:
25. Jan. 2007