Naming convention for a crowded planet


It happened again today. A confidential email meant for me was sent to one of the seven other “Gaurav Rastogi”s in my company. Fortunately, this email was sent to the GR who is on top of the MS Outlook list, and he is used to receiving emails meant for me.

The world needs a new naming convention for humans. Read this link for more info.

A naming convention designed for a planet with 100 million people (as on 500 BCE) is hopelessly useless in the world where the number of people to be named has expanded 70-fold. What was designed to be a unique identifier (viz. “Gaurav”, son of the “Rastogi” family) is no longer unique now. By my reckoning, there must be another 5-600 people called “Gaurav Rastogi”, and another 5-10,000 people called “Amit Garg”. Living. Today. Waiting for their unique names.

We are taught early in our careers not to name a problem without offering a solution. Before I offer an alternative, perhaps in a later post, let us meditate on what exactly is a name.

What’s in a name? Names carry a lot of information about who you are, and where you are from. A person’s name carries meaning (as in…Nice name, what does it mean?). A person’s name carries information about the parentage and upbringing of the person. Names could also be said to carry period information, for names that have been in an out of fashion. In some cultures, the city of your birth would also be appended to your name, as would be your grandfather or mother’s family name. A name is a “handle” which other people use to think about an entire human being’s life, work and story. It’s a mnemonic.

For any alternatives to be workable, they need to fit into the social norms of our current society, and should also be able to extend the naming convention without burdening it with numbers (eg. gaurav_rastogi04) that have the potential for getting out of hand (eg. gaurav_rastogi10768_456). Simplicity, therefore, is the only yardstick for the new naming convention.

Inserting numbers would be a quick alternative. Like with free email accounts, the person who gets the first instance of the name could carry a numeral-free name, while others could just add  numbers. This system is not elegant at all, because it gets worse with time.

Inserting additional fields would be another alternative. The additional field could be town of birth, month of birth, the President at the time of birth, or pretty much any other random word field. This system is more elegant that the number system, but it has the problem of being more unwieldy, with no guarantee of uniqueness.

This is an urgent identity crisis that needs to be solved. We have to work together to find a solution!

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About Gaurav Rastogi
Gaurav Rastogi is a writer and a business-exec living in the San Francisco bay area. His other blog is a personal philosophy blog at http://rustus.blogspot.com

7 Responses to Naming convention for a crowded planet

  1. Vidya says:

    I recommend going alphanumeric. Think how much it’ll improve our memory. Pet names could be constructed out of the first 3-4 characters. And you could pay extra for Vanity Names which actually mean something.

  2. Basab has a hilarious response to my post on naming conventions…http://6ampacific.com/2010/04/14/the-best-names-are-gult-names/

    • Mohan says:

      Vidya and Gaurav, Droids in the Star Wars universe already had Alpha numeric figured out: R2-D2, please raise your hand!

  3. Kalpesh says:

    They didn’t had emails in 500 BCE.

    More so, the person writing emails have to be responsible.
    The same problem doesn’t arise in postcards because it has address 🙂

    Why not create alias for “Gaurav Rastogi”, one is dealing with?
    and show the list with “Gaurav R” only one knows of & not the entire organization?

    Excuse me. But this sounds like an MBA is trying to solve a problem of emails 🙂

    • Kalpesh…of course, MBAs have emails too! 😉

      You have a good point about emails not being present in 500BC. My post wasn’t about email IDs, but about personal identity. Is there only one Kalpesh in the world? How can yo and I have unique identities that people will know and remember us by.

  4. Hi Gaurav

    Nice post, I had faced the same problem in Infy, by Infy conventions I was 02…

    On a separate note, any idea why we Rastogi s end up being called Rusty/Rustey (I have been nicknamed that since college). Somehow our surname is more acceptable/palettable than our first name…whay say 🙂

  5. Kalpesh says:

    🙂

    Not everyone needs to know me.
    And if I know, more than one Gaurav Rastogi – I know how to differentiate.

    And ask anyone who is “Mahatma Gandhi” & everyone will know him. Thats what I call unique identity 🙂

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