Dematerialization –stuff that used to take up physical space no longer needs physical space.
Matt Ridley summarizes a large component of the radical change surrounding us in terms of dematerialization. In his WSJ post, The Future Is So Bright, it’s Dematerializing, he says:
Dematerialization is occurring with all sorts of products. Banking has shrunk to a handful of electrons moving on a cellphone, as have maps, encyclopedias, cameras, books, card games, music, records and letters—none of which now need to occupy physical space of their own. And it’s happening to food, too. In recent decades, wheat straw has shrunk as grain production has grown, because breeders have persuaded the plant to devote more of its energy to making the thing that we value most. Future dematerialization includes the possibility of synthetic meat—produced in a lab without brains, legs or guts.
I hadn’t thought of it quite that way, but it makes sense.
Music, books, photographs. All have dematerialized. The last half-dozen books I bought were in Kindle format.
Add to his list: x-rays, both at the hospital and dentist’s office. Over the next few years, medical records will dematerialize.
Consider my profession, public accounting. Everything I need for my audit and tax work is digitized. Vast amounts of papers and books have dematerialized. I choose to keep signed contracts after I scan them because I feel like it. Other than that, I shred the few actual papers I used after scanning them.
I provide peer reviews, which is essentially a CPA inspecting the audit practice of another CPA. You wanna’ see paperwork? Wow, do we have tons of forms and questionnaires for a peer review. All that paperwork has dematerialized.