Finding Pay Dirt in Scannable Driver's Licenses

posted Mar 21, 2002

'"It's the same information as the front of the license," said Frank Mandelbaum, chairman and chief executive of Intelli- Check, a manufacturer of license-scanning equipment based in Woodbury, N.Y. "If I were to go into a bar and they had a photocopier, they could photocopy the license or they could write it down. They are not giving us any information that violates privacy."'

I wish I could take this guy's computer off his desk. It does nothing that couldn't be done by hand. It doesn't give him any capability that enhances his ability to do business, as long as he has paper, a pencil, some envelopes, and some stamps. So why does need a multi-thousand dollar computer?

Meta-point: We often contrast "qualitative" and "quantitative" as if they were always opposites. But they are a continuum: Enough "quantitative" change makes a qualitative change, eventually. There is nothing a computer does that could not be done by hand, and there never will be; that's the point of a Turing Machine. But somewhere between seconds-per-operation and billions-of-operations per second, we get qualitative changes. And suddenly, things become possible that weren't before.


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