Nick Booth

Contributed post by: Nicholas Booth, The Independent Blogs

We’re always told that technology is revolutionary. Yes, every single new invention, from a here today-acquired tomorrow social media start up to an uninterruptible power supply, is the catalyst to an uprising and the creation of a new dynasty.

Well, OK, but which revolution can we expect? Will it be like the Russian Revolution, with massive casualties, anunworkable systems and nothing worth buying in the shops? I’m not sure I’d want that. You can keep your disruptive technology, Karl.

On the other hand, if we have the right management in place, as they did during the American Revolution, we could have a simple, well drafted and easily understood constitution that lays the foundations for freedom and an economic powerhouse. I’d quite like that, as long as there’s not too much work on my part.

I desperately want to make sense of any power struggle before I buy into it. So I’m doing some research to give today’s ‘disruptions’ some historical context. The only revolutionary quote I could find that has any resonance with today comes from philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau prior to the French Revolution.

With a few additions (in brackets) one of his maxims has enormous relevance today. (The self employed) man is born free but everywhere he is in (paper) chains.

We drown in paper work. Every tiny scrap of paper has to be kept. Every time a self employed person buys something, they have to keep the receipt and file it away, in order to prove that they’re not fiddling their tax return. So you end up carrying round tons of receipts until you return to your office and dump them in a draw or an intray. Then you end up being distracted by piles of paper. Some day you’ll have to go through the fiddly process of adding up all these bits of nonsense. But by the time you get around to classifying and filing your expenses, the type on the paper will have faded and you have no idea what you bought or why. Let alone how much you paid for it or what the VAT number was.

Here’s a staggering thought. The UK produces 11.2 billion receipts a year that have to be manually filed. Each costs half a penny to produce. God knows what they cost to actually store, because you can’t quantify the time you waste fiddling around with these infernal, shiny scraps of till roll. Phasing out the paper receipt will save in the region of 100,000 till rolls each year. The time saving will be worth billions more man hours and pounds than that.

Being surrounded by paper clutters your mind and slows you down. It really is a metaphorical chain that creates a wearying drag on your thought processes.

Booths, a supermarket chain in the North West, has devised a system of electronic receipts, so you can store them onyour phone or whatever gadget you use to pay for your goods. I’m hoping someone will create a system to add up all the receipts automatically too. That will save millions of self employed people the time and money of manually adding up their costs or paying some accountant to do it for them. That really would be a liberation of the oppressed. Once we’d done that, hopefully the revolutionary spirit would give us the courage to cast aside even more of the paper chains that hold us back. This Docusign thing sounds like a tool that could help us.

I wonder how easy it is to use!

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