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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