In discussing some issues concerning finances for Boy One, his signature came up. He’s too young yet to know cursive writing or have a signature, but it set me wondering about what will happen to signatures as we move in to the electronic age.
Handwriting and cursive in particular are fading away as common skills. Even for those who learn them, infrequent use leaves the skills in suboptimal shape. What will happen with children who never learn cursive yet have to sign documents? Will we move to more of a ideograph style signature? Or a general increase in illegible ones (you can read all of the letters in my signature, whereas I’ve seen others from well educated people where you’d be hard pressed to guess as the initials and everything else was just a squiggly line).
It might just be a transitory thing, where in twenty years signatures will all be electronic keys or biometric measurements. I wonder, though, whether signatures might not turn out to be harder to forge than non-conscious artifacts. Any artifact not part of one’s body is, of course, subject to theft or loss. Biometric signatures are subject to replication (such as lifting someone’s fingerprint to generate fake plastic ones, or replicating DNA) or force just as signatures are. However, a good signature requires a higher level of cooperation on the part of the victim (you can get a finerprint or retina scan off an unconscious person more easily than a signature).
Whatever happens, though, I’m sure that the rise of numerous people who can’t write signatures, new authentication technologies and the interactions between them will be a bonanza for the lawyers.