I hate when I have to sign something. My signature never looks the same twice so I’m always a little worried that someone is going to have a problem with it. Like, “We can’t accept this. This isn’t really your signature.” Using signatures seems rather primitive but I guess there’s no secure and practical alternative yet. The Mythbusters showed how easy it is to defeat a fingerprint lock.
But anyway, I was thinking about this and since I was watching Through the Wormhole yesterday (and because this is just how my mind works) I thought of this. Suppose something like this happened:
We finally meet extraterrestrials and they’re friendly and want to do business with us. But they think our habit of signing everything is primitive and hilarious. They have devices that can instantly scan and identify DNA in saliva so they “sign” documents by spitting on them. Humans being the way we are, some people find this amusing, some people think it’s unsanitary, gross, and offensive, some people consider anything involving DNA a violation of their privacy, but about 80% of the people are just like, “Alright, whatever.”
As usual, the people who are offended make the most noise. There are protests, people carrying signs and writing blog posts and the mainstream media “analyze” it from every possible angle and continue to find new ways to say things they’ve already said so as to keep stirring the pot. Our alien friends had been willing to give us all the time we needed to catch up but, seeing all this uproar, they decide that we are a weird, primitive culture and that it would be in their best interest to limit contact with us.
The Earth is devastated. In the short time since first contact we have already become used to their advanced products. Everyone blames the U.S. government. Congress, missing the point as usual, quickly passes a law making spit signing the standard way of signing documents. This sets off a fresh round of protests. Meanwhile the EU is going through a similar process but the media spin the story to make Europe seem more civilized and sophisticated. The exact same Americans who were outraged about spit signing because they thought it was unsanitary and offensive ask, “Why can’t we be more like Europe.” Japan makes the switch to spit signing with little fuss. China refuses to even talk about it. North Korea threatens to launch a nuclear weapon at the U.S.
Congress passes an emergency amendment to the spit signing law making it legal to use old fashioned signatures in all dealings with China and other nations that find spit signing incompatible with their cultures. There is outrage across the U.S. “Why should we make concessions for China?!” Boycotts of all products from China are called for but most people find it impossible because almost everything is made in China.
The aliens are even more convinced that they don’t want to have anything to do with us. After a cooling off period of several months they open secret talks with Japan.
Yeah… I think that’s pretty much how it would go.