Friday, June 21, 2013


Our lives have been reduced to codes, the new shorthand for who we are or where we’re going. Zip Codes are fifty on July 1st. They have become so important that our insurance rates, even before our claims or driving history is taken into account, are initially determined by them. When our own Indian Land got its own Zip Code to distinguish us from Fort Mill our auto insurance rates jumped:new area, unknown history, let’s raise their rates just in case.  I know that back in the 60’s Zip Codes greatly speeded up mail delivery, but with the mailbag-load of junk the carriers have to deliver today nothing will speed up their appointed rounds.  (I’ve already commented on this here.)

I suppose Social Security numbers were really the first ‘codes’ to affect our lives.  The information that goes along with our Social Security numbers is critical and vulnerable.  I think there is supposed to be a method to the SSA coding, but it seems nebulous to me.  Perhaps the newer numbers are more representative, I only know that my sister and my brother and I got our cards within a few years of each other in the same state, and our numbers are radically different.  I also know that my Mother and my uncle’s numbers – obtained many years apart and in two different states, were off by just the two last digits. Go figure.

This shorthand for who we are and where we’re going, this endeavor to speed us through life, now includes our DNA codes, of course, Social Security numbers, Zip Codes, airport and station codes, UPC codes, and log-in user names and passwords. I’m sure I’ve missed some. I hope we never have to use CodeRED.   LOL, we’ve got acronyms coming out of our ears and emoticons galore.  Every walk of life, every profession, has its own shorthand lexicon to abbreviate and supplement our language.  

Fairly soon we’ll have more electronic encodings – and their acronymic names – for all the patterns of our selves:  irises, retinas, voices, fingerprints, and whatever else they come up with to identify us as individuals. Driver’s licenses and passports may become a thing of the past. Papers alone won’t identify us: we will be scanned and we will stand for ourselves; some great database in the sky will know all about us.  Not to mention the current flap about our government monitoring our various modes of communication, it all sounds sort of Big Brother-ish, doesn’t it?




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