Here’s what Google would do

The irony is just too obvious: Google buys a paper factory in and replaces its machines (like the one above) with a data center.

Note, too, the irony – or at least symmetry – of this happening in Finland, where its proudest company, Nokia, shifted from making paper to making phones that also traffic in digits.

Whenever I find myself in a whither-print discussion (as happened, of course, at this week’s O’Reilly Tools of Change conference), somebody will point out that one medium doesn’t replace another. At a panel discussion elsewhere this week, one of the speakers said the telegraph was the only medium that was replaced by its successor.

But the discussion shouldn’t be around paper. It’s about change. I realized lately that I’d been assuming we could see an orderly transition, Jan. 20-like, from old media to new. But it’s clear that we’re going to see destruction, voids, and vacuums in the transition. The Finnish paper factory closed first and now it’s being converted to a server farm. Newspapers will die this year and there’ll be silence before successors emerge. Change is rarely smooth.