Jewish World Review Jan. 27, 2002 / 24 Shevat, 5763
Do you know who you are?
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Are you tired of searching for a pen every time you want to give out your phone number (cell phone number, pager number, e-mail address, URL)? Sick of all of those credit cards, debit cards, store cards and that buy-12-gallons-of-milk-get-one-free card crowding your wallet?
Well, fear no more! Because scientists in Japan have discovered a way to transfer information - up to 10 megabits per second - via the, you guessed it, handshake.
A handshake may soon become all you need to give away your phone number at a meeting or at a bar.
The advantage, said David May, an expert in "wearable technology" (we're not even delving into that expertise just yet), is the ability to keep your information private. No longer will hackers and unsuspecting persons, like me with a baby monitor, be able to listen in on phone conversations or steal your credit card number from the Internet.
As a person who had her entire briefcase stolen last year - at the library of all places - I would appreciate not having to go to the Division of Motor Vehicles, the Social Security Administration and calling all of the banks and stores I owe money to so that they can reissue me my life.
It is, after all, very disconcerting to have all of your identification taken from you. As much as losing some cash bugged me, it didn't bug me nearly as much as the loss of all of my stuff. Take, for example, my efforts to get my driver's license back.
I actually thought it would not take any time at all because all of the pictures for licenses are digital now and stored on the DMV computer.
So I naively walked into the DMV and filled out the requisite S-2SB form desiring not a "new, never applied for in Wisconsin" license, and not a "new, never driven before, need to take a test" license and certainly not the "renewal, please pay $30" license. I need, what they call in DMV circles, a "duplicate." Just a handy, dandy little printout of the license I already had. The lady on the phone, after all, told me it would be a simple process, and, like a dummy, I believed her.
My form filled out, I took a number and waited my turn. I watched the other contestants as they were called up to the counter to play "Who wants to be humiliated by a DMV clerk" and immediately determined which clerk I wanted to wait on me - a nice, middle-aged lady, who appears to wait patiently as people finish filling out forms at her window. I definitely did not want the man who yelled and said, "If you haven't finished filling out the form, go get another number and sit down."
Guess who I got?
But with finished form in hand, I put on my biggest smile and approached the window. He took the form from me and said, "What is this?"
"Um, it's the form for a duplicate license?" I was now doubting my ability to disseminate between forms. Maybe I applied for a new title for my car?
"I can see that," he said. "Where is your identification?" The only thing missing from this exchange was a 13-year-old in the background sighing, "Duh."
"Well, I don't have any ID because my briefcase was stolen. That's why I'm here." Repeat big, charming, please-don't-be-mean-to-little-old-me smile.
"How do we know it's you?" he asked.
"Don't you have the picture right there in the computer?" I replied.
"So, look at it! It's obviously me," I said.
"Well, now. I could do that. But I'll have to get the official photographer, and we will have to agree that it's you." He said this in a moderately threatening way. Like, I should now be afraid and will run away because I'm really an impersonator. Because there are so many people out there who want to be me.
He waited for my response. As if I'm actually considering not taking him up on the offer to prove that I'm me. "So," I said, "go get her."
By now, of course, the entire DMV is waiting with breathless anticipation to see if I'm really me. And the two license Nazis really make quite an ordeal out of it. They stand back and look at me. They get up close to the computer monitor and then look at me.
They take it from different angles and then look at me. Each time they look up at me I flash them my big, sparkly, faux grin.
"OK," the clerk said, walking back to the window after his 300-foot hike to the back to see if I looked like me from the next room. "It's you. Five dollars please."
I restrained the urge to say "No $$%#^@, Sherlock, I could have told you it was me 20 minutes ago."
This doesn't even touch the ordeal of getting my Social Security card back. How all of this would change if I could have just shaken hands with the clerk. Without words, he would know who I was.
But this kind of technology also brings up a host of other problems.
Will people be less likely to touch you if you have been known to transmit a computer virus? People take blood tests before getting married; will they now need to see an anti-virus specialist as well?
Going to a bar, already electrified with the presence of many, shall we say, alert bodies, will be a mind-blowing experience.
The biggest problem I have, though, is not the catching of a virus or overloading with information. It's how on earth am I going to get my finger into the ATM machine?
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01/08/03: How the tables have turned