We Used To Remember Phone Numbers

How we are liberating our brain.


— This post was originally posted on blog.inutie.com I am a founder at Inutie.com

How many phone numbers can you remember right now ?

I am not talking about 911 or a commercial phone number. I’m talking about your friends, colleagues and family phone numbers. I played this game with some friends. The highest score was 5 numbers and the lowest was my score: zero. I can only remember my phone number and the last 4 digits of my work phone. An important note here: we were all less than 28 years old. I asked my parents the following day and we stopped counting after 10 phone numbers remembered. Even more, their visual memory is better, so when they see a number, they are very likely to tell who that is.

This shouldn't come as a surprise to most of you. We have been busy, as a species, offloading our brain storage to our trusted machines. Not only storage of pure data, we also offload a lot of calculus and analytic work: huge multiplications, database sorting and so on. However, I want to focus on storage. It is clear to me, that the machines we build, are far more good at this than our fragile, limited brains. All my contacts are stored in some server in some country. If I have internet connectivity, I can access all of my contacts. Not only phone numbers though, I also used to remember addresses, bank accounts and recipes. Now we have Evernote and Dropbox.

Our brains are really bad at storing things. I really do believe that the human mind is not a tool for storage but a tool for creativity.

We offloaded all these things to our computers, why not our passwords ? Passwords are a pain. I have a hard time remembering my passwords. Every time I need to login, I have to try at least 5 different passwords before clicking the “Forgot my password” button. The perfect password (if there is such a thing) is infinitely long, totally random and humanly impossible to remember. The next best thing is a long enough password, random but not to the owner and crucially secret.

We have proved, time and time again, that as humans, we are very bad at remembering things and keeping them secret. Passwords should disappear.

The future of passwords

There is no doubt that over time, people are going to rely less and less on passwords. — Bill Gates

Companies are moving to 2-step verification. You can track them here: twofactorauth.org. Biometric authentication can now be used by everyone thanks to their smartphones. Global alliances are forming to standardize this new era beyond the password: the FIDO Alliance is leading the way with members like Google, Microsoft, ARM, Paypal and Qualcomm. People will be using their fingerprint on their phones more and more. Today, you can unlock you phone, access services on apps and pay using your fingerprint. However, your limited to the apps on your phone.

Inutie.com was founded to solve this issue I personally have. Just like technology enabled me to forget all those meaningless phone numbers and bank accounts. I want to be able to authenticate not only on my phone, but also on my desktop, my smart-TV and my home alarm. Without a password. Actually, the word password is dangerous and out-dated. Why not use Tokens or OTP (One-Time-Passwords), solutions that are already in use in the banking world (See Apple Pay). I want that same level of security to be used to secure our online identities.

My parents still have a piece of paper with some important phone numbers on it, just in case. People will still have a password, just in case. But someday, passwords will be as rare as hardcover phone books are now.