In answering a personal survey recently, I was asked my name, apparently so the surveyors could verify my existence. Hesitantly, I gave my name as ‘Graham’…and wasn’t asked for anything further. But then I was asked for an email address. The surveyor cheerfully told me I could give a false email. So I made up a Hotmail address. When I ask my children the surname of their friend Jack or Amy, they look at me strangely – why do you want to know that? Everywhere, first names seem sufficient to identify people, even in my choir when the ‘three Grahams’ stand next to each other in the bass back row. Which brought me to the questions of what is a person’s ‘name’…and what will be in the future?
What’s My Name Now?
To almost anyone I meet, I’m ‘Graham’. Only formally does ‘Hubbard’ get mentioned. When asked for my ‘full’ name, no one seems to worry if I don’t actually mention my second name. When I’m introduced to a new person, I focus on their first name and quickly forget any second name – if it is mentioned at all – unless it happens to trigger some association. So clearly, for most people my name is ‘Graham’. Despite being short, it seems to be quite sufficient for people to identify me. Sometimes ‘Graham H’ might be needed, but rarely.
What Will My Name Be in the Future?
But what seems to be increasingly important is an email address or a phone number. While email addresses are idiosyncratic and inconsistent in form, phone numbers are increasingly uniform. As everyone has a phone, but many have several emails, it seems that – in the future – my global name may well be ‘Graham 614-449-302-975’. No ‘+’ sign, no ‘0’ for local calling, but dropped for international calling. We’ll all have global numbers. Mine will start with ’61’ for Australia and then my mobile number without the starting ‘0’. And, as soon as a person has a phone… which I expect will be around the age of 5 shortly, this will be my ‘name’.
Phone numbers are now portable, so once you have a number, you generally want to keep it. When a number is in your list of contacts, you want to keep it there. If you don’t want someone to call you, there are mechanisms to stop this.
Names are not Permanent Anyway
I’ve always thought of my ‘name’ as my ‘name. But many women change their surname during their life. This new approach to names overcomes or avoids this issue. Who cares what her surname is? But we certainly care what her phone number is.
This approach does mean that the old phrase, ‘I’m a person, not a number’, will no longer be true. Actually with all the permanent numbers that we already have (Social Security, Tax File, Passport +++), it’s not even true now. We’re well on our way to numberdom!
One thought on “What’s My Name? I’m Graham 614-449-302-975.”
Whats in a name?
I wonder if such unique numbers both individualise and ‘anonymise’ humans.
By using surnames we have been revealing our attachment to others – to family/tribe as well as to nation and in many parts of the world, to locality.
So now that our identity is standardised and interchangeable – if we use it often enough, we do ‘become’ a ‘mere’ number with a ‘human’ prefix?
Are we thereby both empowered machines and impoverished humans?