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My first-class home and office mail is slowly drying up, and that’s because dead-tree mail is an out-of-date method of communicating. If your dead-tree (paper) mail is not being reduced, you’re living in the past.

A lot of us have already dropped our land-line phones, and our utilities, car payments, and other expenses are being handled without a paper trail. Welcome to the digital age, and I can guarantee there is no turning back. Going forward means a steady reduction in the use of paper. In the near future, all but a few legal notices will be digital. I know that sounds off the wall, but five years ago when someone said telephone land lines would be phased out, nobody thought they would disappear so quickly.

We have a 35-bed executive inn in El Dorado, Union Square Guest Quarters, and over the past six months we’ve removed all the land-line phones. Just two years ago we wouldn’t have dared to make such a move, but today there’s been not one complaint.

Let’s face reality, and reality is digital, Bluetooth and the Internet have made land-line phones and a lot of dead-tree mail obsolete. Digital products are cheaper and of better quality.

The future of digital communication is becoming easier to see every day as more and more advertisers, utility companies, and newspapers are switching to digital. They call it going paperless, but what they mean is: stop using dead-tree mail to pay bills and stop using dead-tree money to make purchases. Do it digitally. The reasons are varied, but it boils down to saving money and making daily tasks easier and more efficient.

I’m certainly not leading the charge to get rid of dead-tree mail. I’m just being swept along with the changes. 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 my column holding a dead-tree newspaper, I probably won’t ever read the Democrat-Gazette any other way.

Reading 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 of the paper. And the daily newspaper is just the tip of the iceberg, if we consider the overwhelming potential economic advantage of digital transmission of data, money, and news has over traditional dead-tree mail.

The next digital step is losing your checkbook. I know that seems so unlikely that you could easily dismiss that possibility, but let me give you an example of a no-check society. My early-20s grandson borrowed $100 from me recently—-sound familiar? He paid it back, and I know you’re shaking your head, but this is the way it happened.

“Hey, I’ve got enough in my bank account to pay you back that $100 you loaned me.”

“Great! Write me a check.”

“Uh, well, I don’t have any checks.”

“You mean you’re out of checks?”

“No, I don’t use checks.”

“Well, how …?”

“I have a debit card, and I use it for everything. Just give me your bank account number, and I’ll transfer $100 into it.”

I was shocked until I thought about the loan payment. It wasn’t just a young person who hadn’t bothered to get a checking account; it was an exclamation point to where this digital world is going. Then I remembered that I receive several other money transfers to my bank account each month; something I hadn’t paid much attention to.

The question is: Should we embrace the digital change in the way we do business, get paid, and get entertained, or stick with our crinkly old dead-tree newspapers and checks? To answer that, we must consider why companies and individuals are going digital. The reason is simple. It increases productivity. And when we are more productive the companies we work for produce more goods for less cost, and they make more money, so they can pay their investors more money, their workers higher pay, and the consumer gets their products cheaper. It means a higher standard of living for everybody concerned.

If we look back and visualize how this country became an economic powerhouse, increasing productivity is a big part of our success. Economic growth is a factor of the amount of goods each person produces, and that translates into striving to find ways to produce more during the same number of working hours. Embracing digital will not only make you more productive, but it serves as a way to increase your income indirectly, and thus give you a better quality of life.

A quick look around the world will tell you that the countries who have a horrible quality of life are the ones whose people are the least productive. Many of those countries leave women out of the workforce, and the loss of 50 percent of a county’s ability to produce goods equals a lower standard of living for everyone. Gender equality would make not only those countries more productive, but it would do the same thing here.

What does the future look like? Take a look at new stores and restaurants in New York or California, and you can see it coming: Restaurants that take only debit or credit cards and stores that are stocked with goods but without a cashier. In those stores, when you remove an item from a shelf your debit or credit card is automatically charged. All of that translates into allowing a company or an individual to produce more products or services at less cost and therefore create more value.

We already have digital streaming entertainment options, but that is just a trickle of what’s to come. Would you like to watch the Metropolitan Opera live at home? Maybe you won’t this year, but it will come, and not only will you have your entertainment venues increased, and your quality of life ticked up, but the Met will have millions of new customers, the performers will get paid more, and your digital ticket to the Met will be less.

As you can imagine, by going digital goods will drop in price, entertainment will be more varied, businesses will make more money, and workers will make a higher salary. Look at the difference between our grandparents’ lives and our lives today. The big difference between then and now is the amount of value produced per hour worked.

The faster we join the rush to become more digital, the better lives we will have.

Richard Mason is a registered professional geologist, downtown developer, former chairman of the Department of Environmental Quality Board of Commissioners, past president of the Arkansas Wildlife Federation, and syndicated columnist. Email richard@ gibraltarenergy.com .

Print Headline: Embracing the digital age

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