Don’t Repeat Yourself

How many times did you ever tell someone your name? If the answer is more than zero, you’re doing it wrong.

When you’re born, your name is given to you. It’s written on your birth certificate. At that point, the world knows your name. Why would you ever utter or write it again? Wouldn’t that be a huge waste of time?

Now, you might be frantically digging through your junk drawer looking for an old name tag. You might even be calling your favorite tattoo artist to schedule an appointment, excited by the idea of permanently stamping your favorite words on your forehead. Don’t. That’s not what I’m advocating here.

I dream of a future where all communication is done via a computer. A future where each of my thoughts, preferences, and ideas is recorded and routed to whoever/whatever is interested/concerned. A future where I don’t have to ever say or hear the same thing twice.

I challenge you to tell me with a straight face that the last 100 times you filled a form with your first name, last name, gender, birth date, address, phone number, etc. were productive and/or enjoyable. I bet you can’t. I also bet you don’t realize that telling every person you meet your name and your life story is an equal waste of time. Life is to short to tell the world what it should already know. Your energy is better spent elsewhere.

For the first time in history, computers and the Internet make it possible to approach an unlimited-context culture. Saying “I’m hungry” could convey as much meaning as “I’m hungry, I’m allergic to peanuts, I don’t eat pork, I only have 10g of carbs left in my macro-nutrient budget for today, I only have $5 in my wallet, I’m at 123 Main Street, I have to catch XYZ bus in 20 minutes”.

Fortunately, we’re already making some progress in that direction. Thanks to the GPS on my phone, I rarely have to manually enter my current location in Google Maps or Uber. Thanks to LastPass, I rarely have to enter my username and password or fill a registration form manually.

Unfortunately, we’re still not there yet. I still find myself manually selecting my shoe size every time I shop for shoes online. Restaurant menus still show me food items I can’t eat. I keep seeing ads targeting completely different demographics. It feels like the world doesn’t know me very well. I sometimes feel like a stranger.

For the past 10 years, I’ve been searching for a solution. I’ve been looking for a way to let the world know who I am and what I want. Not only could I not find a solution, but I also couldn’t find anyone talking about this. How can we expect to get what we want without a platform to explicitly ask for it? Shouldn’t this have been our priority all along? Even today, I don’t quite understand why this fundamental piece is missing.

I think I’m done repeating myself. From now on, I will put everything I know in a database. I will make sure humans and machines query it before inquiring me. I will encourage others to do the same. I might never tell anyone my name again.

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