There is an ominous traffic sign on the electronic superhighway to that much- ballyhooed paperless society. It reads: "Road Under Construction--Completion Date Unknown." To be sure, the vaunted superhighway does extend, perfectly paved, for a good distance, as anyone who has ever made a paperless purchase on the Internet will attest, but the highway engineers have so far been stymied from reaching their digital Valhalla by practical hurdles. And there is another hitch: many travelers do not want to get on the superhighway no matter how far it extends. They prefer unpaved horse-and-buggy thoroughfares that are slower but seem to be more secure. In other words, they prefer paper. With today's technology, a society is attainable in which every transaction formerly entrusted to paper--from everyday purchases with pocket currency to real property conveyancing with grant deeds--would be performed and archived digitally. But is such a society desirable? Many are terrified of an Orwellian linkage of databases allowing any individual to leave home without a wallet or purse but with a retinal pattern or other biometric identifier and then to perform any conceivable financial or documentary transaction. At what point is our obsession with convenience overridden by a concern for privacy? There are numerous gaping chasms--more cultural and psychological than technical--to be spanned before the engineers of the electronic superhighway reach their paperless Camelot. The "CyberNotary" provides a case in point. Conceived by the American Bar Association's Information Security Committee as "A New U.S. Legal Specialization for Facilitating International Electronic Commerce," the CyberNotary's role "would be one in which technical and legal expertise were combined in a single specialization." The CyberNotary was envisioned as an American notary with both a law degree and an expertise on digital signatures who would be regarded as a professional equal by the attorney-like notarial officers of nations within the International Union of Latin Notariats ("IULN"). These foreign notaires and notarios have looked with reservation upon their ministerial American counterparts, concerned about their minimal qualifications and training. The CyberNotary, according to the Information Security Committee's blueprint, would interface as a peer with foreign notaries and would "to a very great degree, be a specialist in international transactions, whose bread and butter will be in the international milieu." This article examines the necessary development of paperless necessities such as the CyberNotary and delves in deatail into the ideal developement of such a paperless world.
Charles N. Faerber, Book Versus Byte: The Prospects and Desirability of a Paperless Society, 17 J. Marshall J. Computer & Info. L. 797 (1999)