Last month a new Federal law went into effect that legalizes e-signatures on some of the most important documents the average person will ever handle: home mortgages, insurance policies, brokerage accounts, and more.
Proponents say e-signatures, which had already been officially recognized in many states, will save everyone time and money. No more waiting days for documents to go back and forth for signatures, and no more paying hefty fees for overnight delivery of documents. There could even be travel savings as people opt not to drive or fly to meetings to sign papers.
E-signatures are just the latest addition to an ever-growing list of things that we can and have automated. And, many of those things are good. For example, now you can collaborate with remote colleagues in real time, research products and problems, receive training, deal with customers, and even place orders for some materials and components over the Internet. There are plenty of examples of engineers making dramatic cuts in design time thanks to those capabilities.
Away from work, you can e-shop, e-pay bills, e-correspond (e-mail), and, through telecommuting, e-work. Here, too, lots of people have saved time in their busy lives.
We may be getting to the point where we are running out of things to automate. Or are we? Here are a few more things you might see announcements about in the future:
E-vacations. If you just can't get away, take your family on an e-vacation, camping in the mountains, surfing at the shore, or fishing in a remote stream, all on your computer.
E-dining. This solves the problem of not being able to find time for lunch. View your meal online. You get the added benefit of not gaining weight.
E-sleeping. Think of how much more you could get done in a day if you could do virtual sleep instead of the real thing.
E-socializing. We already do it through chat rooms, where some people have struck up lasting relationships. Could e-marriages be next?
Sure, some will say that we're going too far, that all this virtual activity will make us non-social beings. Pay no attention. Just tell them it's a natural e-volution.