I started a new job a few weeks ago, and my employer unwittingly gave me a bunch of future collectibles and items worthy of a museum. Let’s quickly recap the process:
- Filled out a bunch of government and insurance forms by hand
- Got a box full of crisp new business cards
- Given a plastic corporate credit card
- Had my picture taken and got issued a prox card for the building
- Was mailed an insurance card
- Set up direct deposit by stapling a paper check to a paper application
Sitting at my desk for an hour on my first day filling out forms, it struck me how absurd this will all sound in ten years’ time.
Quickly, let’s review the several ways these old processes are going to die:
- Near Field Communication – no need to exchange information by holding anything other than a phone. I don’t suspect that I’ll be using many of these 300 business cards.
- Virtual wallets – plastic cards won’t be around for too much longer.
- Electronic distribution – already exists, but hasn’t made its way into older systems like insurance credentials yet. So they’re still sent via snail mail. But the USPS itself won’t be around for much longer in its current form.
- Persistent, linked virtual and real-life identity – at some point, governments will issue us all credentials that we can use for jobs, security, applying for credit cards, and so on. No more bringing your passport to the office to fill out your I-9.
- Remote access control – my credentials to enter the building will reside on my phone, and can be tracked and granted/revoked remotely. See the Yale NFC door lock.
That said, these changes won’t see substantial adoption for annoyingly long. Michael Arrington wrote about business cards dying three years ago. And probably a hundred companies have started to attempt to manage the problem. Yet still the paper cards persist and I got a new pack in 2011.
It’s a great reminder that, while things happen lightning-fast in tech world, the “normal” world still inches along. And summarily rejects the majority of our attempts to uproot systems that have existed happily for decades.
Humbling and frustrating at the same time, but it makes me so excited to write a retrospective on this in October 2021. It’s on my calendar already.