ATG’s Thinker Thoughts: Names & Identities

Welcome to ATG’s “Thinker Thoughts”, an initiative intended to help us THINK more deeply and deliberately amid the hurried pace of life’s existence.
Every Friday, we’re posting our “Thinker Thoughts”, a short quote to reflect on from a recent commentary. Give it a think and let us know your thinker thoughts!
This week’s Thinker Thoughts comes from the article in The Atlantic (May 5, 2017), “All the Other Julie Becks and Me: What a quest for my namesake taught me about the meaning of names in the internet age“:

Online, names are more significant than they are when they’re worn by a person you can see. The internet has created ‘a whole class of name-only interactions,’ [Laura] Wattenberg says [a name researcher and creator of BabyNameWizard.com], emails and Google searches being prime examples. Even on social media, where there are pictures, much of a person’s existence is textual.

It makes sense that in this environment, parents would be motivated to give their kids more unique names. But in order to really precisely identify people on the internet, we’d have to move beyond names as they’re currently conceived, [Judith] Donath says [author of “The Social Machine: Designs for Living Online]…

Donath says she could see a future world where ‘an email is something that’s yours at birth, and in perpetuity,’ as a way of assigning people a permanent online identity. ‘But we’re not there yet.’

But Wattenberg thinks people focus too much on creating a unique identity through names. ‘A name is a social signifier more than anything, and we might be making a mistake in treating it like a username that has to be unique in a network,’ she says. ‘Day to day, having a name that is perceived as attractive and intelligent and strong is so much more important than having a name that nobody else on the internet has.'”

Keep thinking with our previous Thinker Thoughts on:
lifelong learners
star sanctuaries
artificial intelligence
the intellectual life
learning from early humans
and the importance of generosity of spirit

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