“To workers I’m just another drone/ To Ma Bell I’m just another phone/ I’m just another statistic on a sheet/ I feel like a number/ I’m not a number/ Dammit I’m a man/ I said I’m a man” – lyric, Bob Seger, “Feel Like a Number”
All hail the individual, the creators, designers, workers, innovators. Without individual achievement and spark, we would still be eating nuts and berries in a cave.
But as much as we seemingly give adoration to the individual, the wheels of society and commerce quickly convert our uniqueness to an algorithm so we can be dealt with in an efficient manner.
We become numbers. Social Security, account, personal identification – you name it – a number is what we are boiled down to in the end. It’s so much easier for machines to keep track of us if we are numbers.
It’s also easier to steal numbers than individual achievements.
I heard a news account last week about the data breach at Equifax, one of the three major credit reporting bureaus. Security experts were theorizing that it may be time to ditch one of the most venerated numbers in American society: the Social Security number. These experts theorized that there have been so many databases of Social Security numbers stolen over the past decades, that nearly everyone’s number had been stolen.
According to a CNN Money report, “Social Security numbers were first issued in 1936 — “for the sole purpose” of tracking the earnings history of workers for benefits, according to the Social Security Administration.
Until 1972, the bottom of the card said: “FOR SOCIAL SECURITY PURPOSES — NOT FOR IDENTIFICATION.”
But it is currently the gold standard when it comes to identification for all financial transactions.
A national identification card, with yet another number to remember, has been floated as an alternative.