Follow TV Tropes


No-Paper Future

Go To
It's either that or data tapes.

"Every time someone says we're becoming a paperless society, I get ten more forms to fill out."
Dr. Hobbs, Babylon 5

The future is full of data drives, backups, often made of Organic Technology or crystal, and holographic terminals. No paper though, even if we still have trees around. The danger of having no hard copies of information seems lost on folks. This vision of an entirely digital future hearkens back to the 70s and 80s, when the increasing popularity of the home computer and email led many to believe that soon paper would be made obsolete by the ability to transfer and access hundred-page documents instantly on portable computing devices. Ironically, as the years went on, the growing use of fax machines and printers meant paper was in higher demand than ever before. However, by the 2000s, the growing trend was towards everything being digital, and the rise of e-books threatens to make a No Paper Future a reality (despite the no hard copies risks).

Another way to tell it's the future is to make money 'weird', if not get rid of it. This is a Justified Trope in the United States and a few other First World countries, since now many of us really do pay with cards to transfer sizable amounts of money when possible (and preferable). For now it's still more practical to bring money for smaller transactions, to save the 20 or 30 seconds to sign a receipt or key PIN; yet even now, swipe-and-go smart cards that can be much faster than handling messy physical change are spreading.

This trope usually presumes the complete elimination of the Black Market or illegal transactions, as, obviously, drug dealers are not going to be interested in transactions that leave a paper data trail. Ditto for people arranging transactions to evade or avoid taxes or purchase something they'd rather not admit to; cash has no trail, electronic money does. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are a thing, of course, but keep in mind that for most works using this trope cryptocurrencies didn't exist when they were made. But then the government decides how money is done, so who cares about the criminals? (Let's not dwell on the obvious answer to that question which is shown every time a newspaper presents news about political scandals involving large bribes...)


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Cowboy Bebop keeps the paper, but apparently mostly gets rid of paper money. Outside of a betting pool being run in the episode "Heavy Metal Queen", physical cash is never seen. Whenever the people pay, they use credit cards. One episode featured not only a set of criminals who had hacked their way into the paperless money system by planting a virus in the automated hyperspace gate toll system that robbed people blind as they passed, but also had an executive with the company annoyed that some of those defrauded sent in complaints on paper letters, something he considered "harassment, it's a waste of resources". Though they were on Mars...
  • Ghost in the Shell has a near absence of all books and papers in physical form, to the point where libraries are only maintained as historical archives. When paper is seen, the text is often barcodes. In fact, the lack of physical hard copies of information becomes a plot point several times throughout the series. In a world where Everything Is Online, and skilled hackers lurk everywhere, how can you really be sure the records you're reading are the truth and not just a well-written fabrication?
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica is only 20 Minutes into the Future, but paper has been largely eliminated. Almost every student brings a laptop to class, and Madoka is shown doing English homework on a computer. Even the whiteboard is digitized, though this isn't obvious until the entire thing scrolls sideways to show a new page. For all Kyubey's talk of "contracts," there is no paper or signing involved. The only actual paper shown is Madoka's notebook, which she apparently just uses for doodling, and a wall calendar. None of this has much bearing on the story, though; and cellphones are hand-waved into irrelevance. Smartphones finally appear in the sequel movie.
  • The sufficiently future setting of Sky Girls has normal computers and papers... that has a scrolling function much like flexible, ultrathin tablet PCs.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • In Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions, Seto Kaiba uses a completely virtual deck, while Yugi still uses physical cards.
    • Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS also uses a virtual deck in LINK VRAINS, to the point where modern duel disks look like smart phones strapped to your arm in the real world, and as little more than watches in Link Vrains. Yusaku is one of the few people who still use physical cards.

    Comic Books 
  • The 30th century depicted in Legion of Super-Heroes is generally paperless. In the Beach Episode issue Legionnaires #77, when the Legion visits a resort planet, one character remarks on the "old-fashioned paper money" she's received for her winnings in a casino.

    Fan Works 
  • Usually played straight in Bait and Switch (STO), with characters usually using PADDs. Hard-copy documents, such as Eleya's commission as a lieutenant commander and CO of the USS Kagoshima at the end of "The Universe Doesn't Cheat", are typically printed on "archival plastic", which is apparently nearly indestructible. However, there's a brief moment in chapter two of Bait and Switch where an admiral crumples a report and chucks it over a railing, where it bounces off a Breen's helmet. Queried about that in the Star Trek Online Foundry mission for which the fic is a novelization, the author cited Rule of Funny: "You can't crumple a PADD."
  • Plan 7 of 9 from Outer Space goes into Technology Porn detail describing the Zeerust 'work console' of a CEO, concluding with "There were no pens, notepads, or sticky yellow reminder notes — such things had become obsolete in the modern paperless office."

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Alien: Resurrection, the crew of the Betty is paid in untraceable cash, which the General notes was rather hard to obtain in this day and age.
  • In Back to the Future Part II, people interact with several objects using their thumbrint. We can see Biff paying the taxi fare by applying his thumb on some sort of portable paying machine. He gets a paper receipt. Interestingly, it appears that the receipt that Marty got for the Sports Almanac was made of plastic. On the other hand, future Marty got fired by fax machine. The store clerk who sells Marty the almanac implies that by 2015 books are no longer printed on paper. Since the almanac has sports scores up to the year 2000, this suggests printed books stopped being made between 2001 and 2015.
  • Totally inverted in Brazil, in which the semi-futuristic dystopian society uses nothing but paper. The world is full of giant printing presses and those pneumatic tubes that are in drive-thru banks. That's not what "information retrieval" means, though; it's a euphemism for torture. Most of the plot is brought about by a fly flying into an automatic typewriter, causing it to type one letter wrong and therefore sentence the wrong man to death.
  • Demolition Man has fun with this one. Characters use tablets and nobody writes anything down. Even toilet paper is considered obsolete and has been replaced with the three seashells. The only things that are still printed on paper are fines for swearing, which John initially uses in lieu of toilet paper.
  • Fahrenheit 451 (2018): All transactions are done digitally by verification with one's fingerprints. Therefore, dissidents are punished with getting their prints burned off by cauterization, effectively cutting off access to society.
  • Minority Report featured a newspaper that folded like a regular paper but was really an ultrathin digital screen, with breaking news updating live on it much like on a website. The Precrime terminals are also pretty much paperless, storing all information on transparent digital slides (though those too are becoming vulnerable to Zeerust, being essentially futuristic-for-the-time diskettes or flash drives) … or, in an odd throwback to even older recording methods, on wooden balls, in the specific case of pre-murder victims' names.

  • Mentioned in Accelerando when the protagonist of the first part sees someone's home library and muses on the almost shocking retro-novelty of data stored in "kilograms per megabyte" instead of the reverse, because he's such a dedicated futurist and wanderer who has no room to store much information in something as inefficient as a book.
  • In the Animorphs books, Ax, an alien, is amazed that humans invented computers after books, which he finds much easier to use. He's also surprised that the telephone was invented before the chat room.
  • In the 1950s short story "Business as Usual, During Alterations" by Ralph Williams, a department store trying to adapt to the sudden introduction of Matter Replicators stops accepting cash after a customer duplicates a large pile of bills and uses them as cigar lighters. Instead, they hand out credit cards (at the time of writing issued by and only usable with specific retailers) to everyone.
  • Inverted in Death's End, in which the Earth Civilization Museum stores information by carving characters onto the surface of Pluto in order to have it last for geographical eons after the fall of humanity.
  • Discworld:
    • Ridcully is Archchancellor and supposedly an administrator, and "has always wanted a paperless office", but the Disc is just getting its Industrial Age underway and so paper is, of course, widely used. Ridcully gets rid of papers he doesn't feel like dealing with by locking them in a cabinet and throwing them out the window at night. Ponder Stibbons winds up handling a lot of the paperwork Ridicully ignores.
    • When he is briefly promoted to captain, Fred Colon achieves a paperless City Watch by burning all the paperwork and refusing to accept any further forms or memos.
  • The Doppleganger Gambit, a 1979 proto-Cyberpunk Police Procedural by Lee Killough, centers around someone finding a member of the underclass who resembles him, and hiring him to wear a fake thumbprint and spend a day with his credit card, making public, traceable transactions, to cover up a murder. The Un-person's payment isn't in cash: it's getting to keep the items he purchases.
  • Enforced in-universe in The Fear Index, as Hoffmann's company moto includes "In the Future companies won't use paper!", so he insists that no paper be allowed on the property or they'll be fined. However, he collects rare first edition books.
  • In Glasshouse (the sequel to Accelerando, above), a drawback of purely digital records is shown: the backstory of the setting involves a war and a computer worm named Curious Yellow that not only affects computers but people's minds. As a result of the worm, there's a part of recent history where people have no idea what really happened because the worm erased all digital records and memories that would explain who released it, why they did it, and what information it targeted. People know that someone won the war, but haven't the vaguest idea who it was or what they were fighting for, even if they remember actually fighting in it.
  • In The Handmaid's Tale, 20 Minutes into the Future, paper still exists but paper money disappeared before the dystopia came into existence. It actually made things a lot easier when it was suddenly decided that women could not own property or have a job.
  • Zig-zagged in Honor Harrington. Quite a bit of information is passed back and forth digitally, including financial transactions. At the same time, characters will occasionally carry hard copies of important information for various reasons. Money is occasionally seen being transported on small digital media devices not entirely unlike flash memory cards, typically attached to a printed document from the bank vouching for the veracity and contents of the chip. It is also made clear that the digital nature of paperwork has not significantly reduced the volume of paperwork. The earlier books went into some detail on the grim duty of reading the daily dispatches, in the form of a long series of digital documents that had to be acknowledged individually after being read. One officer decides to cheer up his commanding officer by putting a dispatch with particularly good news at the bottom of the stack so that she would end the chore on a high note.
  • Most of the paperlessness of the In Death novels, set in the late 2050s and early 2060s, is fairly reasonable: paper is available but is not commonly used, having been replaced by the convenience of electronic media, and some characters still prefer paper books to electronic readers. However, paper money and coinage have been entirely replaced by credit... and since this includes small "credit chips" that apparently have the exact function and appearance of metal coins, one wonders why Robb bothered. In addition, the chips are one single denomination, rather than the vast amount of denominations used by US cash.
  • In Left Behind (and many other 'end times' novels based on Christian eschatology, especially Darbyist varieties), the economy is being moved in this direction, so as to make the implementation of the Mark of the Beast easier, based on a line in The Bible about one needing to have a mark on the head or right hand present to buy or sell, thus obviating the need for paper money.
  • Zig-zagged in the spacefaring setting of The Locked Tomb. Electronic records and communications are widely used, but so is a non-biodegradable "flimsy" for both printing and handwriting. Paper is available, but comes across as archaic or particularly formal.
  • Played with in Master of Formalities (all we know is that it takes place over 2000 after the Terran Exodus), in which "papers" sure look and feel like genuine paper (or cardboard, or parchment, depending on one's social standing), except they're actually highly-advanced tablets that utilize nanotech and can be interacted with using either a "quill" (probably some kind of stylus) or one's finger. It's very difficult to damage or even permanently bend them, except for the three pre-designed folds that allow the papers to be put away into a pocket.
  • In Memento Nora by Angie Smibert, which takes place 20 Minutes into the Future (it is never stated when the book takes place, but 9/11 is considered the not-so-distant past), people use TFC points, earned when one goes to the Therapeutic Forgetting Center to have their memories erased. Only poor people use paper money.
  • Subverted in Stanisław Lem's Memoirs Found in a Bathtub (Pamiętnik znaleziony w wannie): the preface talks about how Earth history from roughly the late 20th-early 22nd century was all but lost by the destruction of all paper-based records ("papyralysis") due to something (it's unclear whether it's a microorganism or not) brought back from a Uranus mission — which also contributed to the downfall of world civilization of that era.
  • In Paradyzja by Janusz Zajdel, this trope is actually justified — the eponymous Space Station holds a People's Republic of Tyranny where print and writing is illegal (a character is mentioned to have learned reading and writing from imported gum wrappers), because it would make more work for the automated censorship system. Everywhere else people use paper freely — the protagonist is a writer, researching Paradyzja for a book. They confiscate his notebooks and only allow a dictaphone in.
  • In the Quadrail Series, set in the late 21st century, paper money appears to have vanished — the stated means of exchange consist of credit transfers or the "cash stick", which appears to be a USB drive-type object that you can upload to and download from virtual sums of money. Books have been replaced with multimedia devices known as "readers". The readers even avert Everything Is Online since rather than downloading content wirelessly it must be loaded onto some kind of data card or chip.
  • In Return from the Stars, paper books have been phased out; instead, they are recorded on tiny crystals and can be read when the crystal is inserted into what resembles a modern-day e-book reader (note that the novel has been written in 1961). Paper books are only found in antique shops and mostly include children's literature.
  • In the Uplift series, all aliens, and even humans, use the Great Library and compatible software instead of paper. In Infinity's Shore Gillian Baskin, the commander of the Streaker learns of the native Jijoan method of storing information on paper, and Gillian spends a few moments pondering the espionage opportunities.
    • The Jijoans, a loose alliance of six species who abdicated technology, including some humans, didn't have any means of storing information before the human settlers arrived and introduced paper. Because the other five races had all been given Galactic level technology when Uplifted and knew nothing of any tech between stone age and Galactic.
    • The forward to Contacting Aliens, in-universe a guide for Terragen Intelligence Agents, states that it is written in an old-fashioned paper book specifically because Galactics wouldn't recognize it as a form of data representation. Ironically, it's now available as an e-book.
  • The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara shows how bad this can be. The library the characters are looking for is entirely paperless, and thus they have no way to remove the information.
  • In the far-flung future of The Zodiac Series, holographic projections have replaced paper. When Rho is taken to see her captive friend aboard the main antagonist's ship, she's genuinely surprised to see actual paper books.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Almost Human: Paper is, for the most part, not used in 2048. Screens are everywhere, and virtual post-it notes replace the real thing. Kennex is once shown writing on something and then mimicking a throwing gesture at a virtual wall, causing a colorful post-it to appear on it.
  • Babylon 5 does have paper, but is also more frequently shows characters holding transparencies of the type used on overhead projectors that need to be placed on a lighted table to read. Paper currency is never seen, but the Centauri Ducat consists at least of coins, and is thus preferred for shady transactions. Paper newspapers are occasionally seen, which one episode showing that a kiosks prints off newspapers tailored to the readers' interests on-demand, and the previous day's newspaper is fed into the same machine for recycling.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Subverted in "Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead": The Library is the largest one in the entire universe, comprising the surface of an entire planet, with its core containing digital backups of every text stored within and having an artificial moon in orbit serving as debugging software to keep the computer systems running smoothly. It's explained that the reason it's filled with good old-fashioned paper books is the result of a recurring fad, since although the technology keeps improving, such as e-books and "fiction mists", nothing can replace "the smell of books" in the consciousness of the human race. The builders even deforested and pulped an entire world to create enough paper for the books... which in hindsight, turned out to be a horrible mistake.
    • In "Kerblam!", Yaz and Ryan find it odd that, in a corporation where everything is stored electronically, executive Slade needs a clipboard and filing cabinet. When asked, Slade explains that he thought the System was responsible for all the employee disappearances, so he was keeping a log that no one else could access.
  • In La Femme Nikita, Section One operates without a single piece of paper within their organization. All data is either emailed, put on a hologram, a laptop, or a tablet.
  • Played with in one scene of the pilot of Firefly; the gangster Badger holds up a sheet of paper... to reveal that it's actually an active computerized display of scrolling text. Of course, paper money itself is still used, and actual paper documents are used repeatedly, but the paper itself has become much more versatile.
  • The Alternate Universe in Fringe is this way to the point that a ballpoint pen becomes the most exotic thing about a crime scene. It eventually leads the Fringe Division to a hospital where patients can't reliably use computers and are therefore given pens and paper.
  • In an episode of Journeyman, the protagonist ends up accidentally leaving his digital camera in the 1970s, where it's found and reverse-engineered to jump-start another computer revolution. He goes back to his work at the newspaper. His boss hands him a sheet of paper that has a video playing on it. The protagonist's reaction is "what am I supposed to do with this?" Also, all computers have holographic screens. He likes this more advanced world but still ends up hitting the Reset Button because the same computer revolution resulted in his son never being born (he was about to do his wife, when he got a call about a malfunction of the new systems), replaced with a daughter.
  • In Star Cops, a one-off character's collection of about two dozen hardback books is used as an Establishing Character Moment. The exact status of print media back on Earth is never really spelled out, but the cost of shipping items off-world is such that you have to be a dedicated bibliophile, extremely rich or both to even contemplate bringing your collection to the Moon with you.
  • In the Stargate SG-1 episode "2010", which is set 20 Minutes into the Future (at the time of airing), after Earth has made an alliance with an advanced alien race, cash and cards have apparently been replaced with fingerprint scanners.

    Multiple Media 
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation predicts tablets and e-books, though each device seems to be programmed only for a single function or to contain a single document. Paper books are treated as treasured collector's items or old-fashioned indulgences.
    • In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "The Muse", Jake Sisko is encouraged by an alien entity to write on paper, something which Jake said he'd never done. In "What You Leave Behind", however, the peace treaty that ends the Dominion War is written on a piece of paper and signed with an actual pen. Through this, we learn that the Female Changeling is a southpaw.
    • Subtly parodied in Star Trek: Insurrection when we see Picard at a desk... piled high with PADDs.
    • The season two premiere of Star Trek: Enterprise sees Daniels (and Archer) find themselves in a screwed-up version of Earth's 31st century. Daniels' greatest shock is reserved for the discovery that the (abandoned) library has physical books; in his version of the time period, it's all on computer.
    • Discussed a little, but averted, in Star Trek: Vanguard, when Pennington reads a newspaper:
      "Print is dead."
      "Sure it is. They've been saying that for more than two centuries. Yet here it is in my hand, defying all predictions of its demise."
    • In Star Trek: Discovery, Tilly is amazed that Burnham owns a paper book, in this case a copy of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, a gift from her foster mother.
  • Star Wars:
    • At least in the movies, as pointed out in Darths & Droids. There is absolutely no paper in the original or prequel trilogy; even flat-panel displays are a rarity, mostly reserved for spaceship cockpits. Instead, most of the communication and information-storage is done with holograms.
    • One deleted scene from The Empire Strikes Back shows that the Rebels used a warning on paper stuck on a door that leads to a room in which they had trapped a Wampa. As the main characters escape the base, Threepio rips off the paper so the Stormtroopers will barge in there unaware. The scene was cut because of this trope.
    • The Expanded Universe sometimes uses paper-like materials and writing utensils for using them, but it's something called "flimsiplast" or "flimsi". Unlike paper it's completely reusable, snaps back from being crumpled if it's smoothed out, and dissolves in water. There's also a similar reusable material called "durasheet", popular among students passing notes because not long after being written on, any messages fade.
    • The trope is played absolutely straight in the Expanded Universe novel New Jedi Order: Refugee. Requesting access to a Chiss library to find a specific world, the characters are shown shelves of objects described in the most absolutely vague terms — shaped like a brick, etc. After puzzling over it for a moment, wondering if it's some kind of PADD or digital display, another character flips open the cover, showing the object to be a book. They are absolutely baffled—not at the concept of a book, but in storing information in a system that is so hard to search. Once informed of the benefits (a power outage will not cut off information access, just for example), they gradually adapt, though they still find it a mind-numbing task to search.
    • In Galaxy of Fear, finding a library stocked with paper books is treated as slightly absurd. The protagonists have only seen such things in museums.
    • In Star Wars: The Old Republic, there is a quest on Taris about ownership of a certain piece of land. One of the sides claims they have a deed for that land ancient enough to be in printed form.
    • Some books appear in The Last Jedi, but they're millennia-old artifacts of the old Jedi Order. Despite being from a rundown backwater, Rey shows every indication of understanding what it is, suggesting books are mostly gone, but not forgotten.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • One Bizarro Sunday strip is entitled something like "Three More Signs of a Paperless Economy". The kicker? The third panel shows a bathroom stall with a monitor showing an image of a roll of toilet paper
  • One Dilbert strip is dedicated to mildly deconstructing the "paperless office". Engineers have notes written up and down their arms, and in the ultimate panel, the topic of the meeting is "the bathroom problem".

    Tabletop Games 
  • Cyberpunk 3.0 uses this as the reason for the change in the setting from that in Cyberpunk 2020. All the world's records were held online, and a Computer Virus scrambled all the data. The game is set in the year "303x" because all the calendars were scrambled too.
  • One d20 Modern setting option, CyberRave (basically Shadowrun), has the Wealth score now covered entirely by digital currency, as the near-future economy has gone entirely paperless to discourage the Black Market and illegal trades exactly as described above. However, players also have a "Grey Wealth" score that represents access to physical objects and old currency still accepted as a medium for exchange in the underground economy — stuff like precious metals, disposable consumer electronics, and so on. This is Truth in Television, as goods like prepaid cell phone time cards, gift cards, and even laundry detergent are already used to launder money or trade straight across in barter for illegal goods, and there's no reason to expect these practices to disappear.
  • Genius: The Transgression: While not something that's come to pass, the idea has certainly come up many times in both theory and genuine desire by one or another genius. Like any idea that gets repeatedly or thoroughly refuted, it ends up spawning something born of displaced Mania; in this case, Paper Goblins, which are quite clever and will work with any Genius for the right price. And are also usually Latin American for some unknown reason. It's thought that whenever someone brings up the idea of a paperless society yet again, another goblin is born.
  • In Shadowrun, paper has mostly been replaced with credits in the form of the everpresent Matrix and commlinks. However, physical cash is still used occasionally, as are certified credsticks, which are like flashdrives that contain a certain amount of money.
  • On most civilized planets in Traveller, transactions tend to be electronic, and physical Imperial Credit banknotes on the worlds that use them are made of plastic too. However, due to the complications of interstellar banking without a Subspace Ansible, most spacers carry cash, or trade goods, preferably ones that will be more valuable at their destination.
  • Zig-zagged in Warhammer 40,000, set in a galaxy with plenty of Schizo Tech. While dataslates are fairly prevalent, paper records, including books and scrolls, are also quite common. Case in point: the Administratum, the monolithic bureaucracy managing the Imperium of Man, has entire planets devoted to keeping archives of files, staffed with countless scribes, servitors, and mono-task servo skulls constantly writing down everything on scrolls, and libraries (forbidden, of course; knowledge begets heresy) filled with rows upon rows of dusty ancient tomes, scrolls, and datatomes. And this takes place in the 41st millennium. Some planets are almost at civil war just over the little space that is left to put paper!

    Video Games 
  • In Detroit: Become Human, paper seems to have been replaced by touchpads that serve as magazines, bills and even mail. These touchpads are found lying all over the place, suggesting that they're treated as disposably as paper is today.
  • In Deus Ex, paper money has been supplanted by a global electronic currency, credits, which is mostly seen on physical chits. Otherwise, paper hasn't gone anywhere — there are a lot of newspapers and books in the game world, though notepads have gone the way of dinosaurs, entirely replaced with datapads.
  • Mass Effect: The No-Paper Future happened 50,000 years in the past. The Protheans stored both their memories and information on crystals, Organic Technology or even water which they accessed with their empathic abilities. Javik even dislikes datapads for how "primitive" the technology is compared to what he's used to.
  • In Secret of Evermore, the Omnitopia biome uses "credits" as its currency instead of paper money, though the whole game technically doesn't use paper money since Talons, Jewels and Gold are not paper either.
  • Wasteland 2 completely inverts this trope. People don't use paper money, they use Scrap. In fact, the picture for scrap is... a pile of scrap. You get it off all human enemies. It's a Crapsack World so bad that people are flat-out trading with raw materials, even though it's treated exactly like currency.
  • In Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders, you can use your cash card to send away a panhandler at the airport. This results in a "beep" and a debit of ten dollars.


    Western Animation 
  • Batman Beyond features a future mostly devoid of paperwork and money, with "cred cards" as the standard form of currency. The spinoff series The Zeta Project has the titular robot equipped with a card that can generate unlimited money, which often becomes a plot point.
    • There is, however, quite a bit of cash seen in the episode "Payback".
    • Most episodes handle the "cred cards" and "cred sticks" exactly as if they were cash, however, with thugs gloating over big bags of "creds", and larger quantities of physical "creds" being treating as a greater quantity of value. Issues of traceability, of crime victims canceling their cards, and so forth never seem to arise. It's possible that there's a brisk business in pre-paid debit cards, because, frankly, you don't have to be a criminal to have transactions you'd rather not have recorded.
    • One Villain of the Week uses a newspaper's printing room as a hideout. Terry says that the place is empty because nobody reads newspapers anymore.
  • One Robot Chicken skit has Clark Kent out of a job because the Daily Planet became an app and has slashed the staff.
  • Dr. X from Super 4 brags about Technopolis being paperless.

  • In the late 1980s and early '90s, there was a humorous poster in many offices showing a man in his office with computers. The caption was "The future will never be entirely paperless." If you look past the man, you can see the bathroom with the toilet paper clearly visible.

    Real Life 
  • This article on why the world should eliminate paper money in favor of a cashless society.
    • The US makes much heavier use of electronic currency payment via debit and credit cards in stores than places like Japan and Hong Kong. The big exception is the "Octopus" card, a prepaid debit card that can be used in everything from the mass transit system (for which it was created) to restaurants and soda machines.
    • During the COVID-19 pandemic some businesses stopped accepting cash because of concerns that the virus could survive on paper currency and be spread that way. Early in the pandemic even some government bodies recommended people not use cash but to either shop online or use contact-less payment options. Research later showed that the risk of contracting COVID through cash was very low, however some businesses still no longer accept cash.
    • Money was never really paper to begin with — most banknotes are made of cloth. Several countries have gone a step further and introduced plastic banknotes. Some even have transparent bits to show you that it's not paper.
    • Although electronic payment is becoming increasingly popular (for one thing, it's much easier and even safer for businesses not to worry about dealing with cash in the register), it has been argued that refusing cash payment discriminates against the poor, who are less likely to have bank accounts for a variety of reasons.
  • A tragic example, but in countries with a severe crisis in resources, paper money is hard to find. By 2018, the paper crisis was so severe in Venezuela that the government was looking for a cryptocurrency called Petro to work for the country. While paper-cash is around, it is so hard to find that most of the population pay through electronic services. In fact, if you have paper-cash (or dollars), you can find resources cheaper than with electronic payment in the market.
  • Sweden actually considers the bold move of ditching paper money.
  • During the 2008 housing recession, many newspapers went out of business, with most cities only having one or two active newspapers lines, and many paper companies still have trouble as many people didn't resubscribe when the economy improved. The Batman Beyond example above may prove to be correct.
  • At Adobe Systems in the mid-90s, it was common to see charts on office walls showing the massive increase in paper use, coinciding with the advent of the "paperless office" meme. Hello, "Desktop Publishing"! Most folk do not understand how important paper and ink profits were to the companies that made copiers and printers. Sales people were often called "tonerheads" for this reason.
  • Many jobs that historically involved extensive writing and use of paper have now gone totally digital — writing as a job, for example. Many authors today write drafts almost completely on computers, and the only time significant paper is used is upon publication. (Sometimes not even, in the case of ebooks.)