The Future of the Signature?
Currently, the signature is being slowly debased, as digital transactions render it difficult to transfer. Credit cards use a secondary “security” number to validate purchases online, but this is an intermediary step until someone figures out a technology that will work more effectively. Government's use of RFID tags on passports promotes this as the next step in identifying us as individuals, and VeriChip Corporation's creation of an FDA-approved RFID tag to be placed in human bodies places it as the forerunner to our next method of documenting contractual agreements or extending our power beyond ourselves.
Interestingly, the signature only came into use during the 17th century as a result of another major human advance - literacy. Prior to this, the seal, typically in the form of a signet ring, was used as a personal marker. So necessary were they to daily life in Roman times that the early Christian Church permitted them to be worn despite the church's rejection of luxury and adornment. Through the Middle Ages, signets were vital to the growth of consumer society because merchant's marks were important as recognizable signs even to the illiterate. This importance diminished with the European expansion of literacy, and thus we see the written signature taking over this role by the beginning of the eighteenth century.
I express this transformation through the creation of an updated Egyptian signet ring. This style of ring included a scarab that was decorative on one side, but could be flipped to expose the signet, which was typically stamped into clay to leave its impression. In my adaptation, one side of this fabricated sterling silver ring has a black plastic RFID tag that looks like a dark stone, such as onyx. The other side has a white silicone “seal” with an imprinted image of the international power symbol comprised of a circle broken at the top by a short vertical line. The wire wrapping at the head of the ring shank references historical ring design. The bezel setting includes hidden text in binary code (the most basic language of computers). It states “I am.” The code is replicated as a decorative element around the entire setting, and is oriented such that it will be right-reading no matter the orientation of the silicon/RFID.
I offer this ring as an alternative to subdermally implanting tags into humans. The technology in this tag currently allows programming to open the front door to someone's home or cars. Also, it could potentially be adapted to be used as a security badge system, thereby removing the need for the ugly badges currently dangling from the necks of countless government and Fortune 500 corporation employees.
One downside to RFID technology is its lack of security features. It can easily be cloned from a distance, leaving the wearer at risk of identity theft and worse. Radio frequency has two natural enemies that offer intriguing security solutions - liquids and metals. This ring uses both of those to create a physical security layer, for in wearing the RFID tag against the skin, the body itself (comprises of 90% water) acts as barrier, and a thin silver backing plate hidden behind the tag prevents transmission through the ring.
Sterling silver, RFID tag, silicone. Fabricated. Size 7.5.
Copyright © 2008, Amy Johnston