Excuse me, but who are you, exactly?
You are a father or mother, a son or daughter, husband or wife, a significant other, a rock
climber, a kite-flyer, a bicycle enthusiast, a marathon runner, a collector of old movies, a
secret novelist, a boxing fan. You are the center of your universe. On the picture collage from
the company picnic, which is taped to the wall just inside the cafeteria, you are represented
by color photos of you with your colleagues, eating potato chips and tossing a Frisbee.
But to your company… you are a collection of bytes. In the recesses of your employer’s
servers, you are represented in binary.
From Patrick McGoohan’s surreal TV show The Prisoner, we get the famous line, “I am
not a number, I am a free man.” Well, forget it. You are a whole bunch of numbers, all of
them ones and zeros. There’s likely a central cluster of ones and zeros that established a
foundation for you when you landed the job. Or when you initiated the bank account, or
the phone service, or the request to get your refrigerator repaired, or whatever else you did
to plant your flag saying, “I exist.” And you branched out from there.
Here’s your life cycle as ones and zeros:
The first thing you get is a profile. Name, address, phone, e-mail, hat size, all the
attributes that say who you are. Your profile is the launchpad from which you are propelled
into the maze of databases and applications that determine what you can have, what you
can do, and what is being done to you. One day, when you change jobs, get your phone
service, or finally have a working fridge, this data transmogrifies into who you were, what
you did, and what was done to you.