I’m always fascinated by the early 20 century movie that show the office life in New York, hundreds of people in offices typing, doing nothing but entering information into a structured format.
These jobs have steadily disappeared with various machines: telex, fax, photocopier, computers, bar-code systems, RFID tags. All these systems avoid the need for data-entry, mostly because the data has already been entered, so it just needs to be read again.
Standardisation of business to business communication started a long time ago, and states and administrations are finally catching up: many administrations let you fill in form electronically or give you programs to fill in the more complex ones, like tax declarations.
Data entry is not finished, many of crowdsourcing projects are about just that: data-entry of more complicated information, geographic data, food product meta-data. Companies and administrations are also organising similar data entry initiatives, but they typically are heavily automatised, or outsourced to countries were personal costs are low. While we will probably never reach the situation where everything has been entered as data, we are inching closer.
Of course, removing all those data-entry jobs made a lot of people redundant, think at all the people involved in a commercial letter as opposed to an e-mail or an automated business to business interaction. Yet those people never did anything useful, just copied data around. Creating and transforming data is what is important nowadays, but this requires much deeper skills…
Macintosh SE/30 image Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic.