The Peculiar Endurance of the Physical Signature

Why Do We Still Have to Print out Forms, Sign Them, and Scan Them Back In?

Last summer, an exhibit at the Guggenheim—“The End of Signature” by Polish artist Agnieszka Kurant—used a mechanical autopen to produce identical signatures every 30 seconds. The artwork was inspired by the “decline of handwriting and the dominance of keystrokes and digital communication” and, indeed, there’s no doubt that all our lives involve much more typing and much less long-hand writing than they once would have. But as for the end of the signature—well, we still seem to be an awfully long way from that.

I sign my name constantly: when …