L.E. Modesitt ’65 asks some good questions:

[Our society] seems to think that electronic storage is permanent and that, because it’s electronic, anyone can access it and figure it out. Neither assumption, of course, is true, widespread as both appear to be.

We have books and records dating back thousands and thousands of years, evidence from other cultures and civilizations, written insights into what they did and how they acted. If we follow the trend — and go “paperless” as all the businesses urge us — what insights will we leave? We can’t even read computer records of thirty years ago.

This is even truer on a personal letter. My father kept letters he thought were memorable, and they’re still available, yellowed paper and all. Somehow, I don’t see much in the way of memorable emails being saved (if there are even such)… and there’s another factor involved as well. Most letter-writers, and possibly most writers whose works are recorded in print form, tend to write more accurately and clearly, almost as if they understood that what they wrote might be scrutinized more than once.

In my mind, all this leads to a number of questions:

Do disposable communications too often equate to disposable thoughts and insights?

Do impermanent and easily changed records lead to greater carelessness? Or greater dishonesty and fraud?

What exactly are we giving up for the sake of going electronic and paperless?

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