Face it. You really are only a number. And you’re so insignificant a number that you don’t even appear in the galaxy of numbers unless you’re in a group of other insignificant numbers.
Harsh words. Especially in an age where everyone is studying those little molecules we’ve become, but not as actual molecules. We are stuffed into an entire fictitious organism, devoid of any specialized characteristics. Odd template for an age in which “individuality” is so revered.
Used to be you were a real number or many real numbers. Street address, ZIP code, area code, telephone, Social Security, credit cards, library cards, drivers license, license plate, VIN, draft, rank, membership, health insurance, checkbook, savings account, turn at the deli or bakery, birthday.
All of these numbers had one thing in common: they all applied to you in some specific way and there were reasons to have them.
Now, you’ve been thrown into a group. And the data don’t apply to you. They just describe you and supposedly similar people for marketing purposes.
When you first bought things, you were a customer. Then you became a consumer. But you were still you. Now you’re just part of a herd, and it’s the herd to which people pay attention.
It’s not really you whom they attend. It’s a kind of fake you. A recent broadcast on CBS’ "60 Minutes" showed what can happen when health insurance works with numbers instead of people. You can save a lot of time by not clicking on the link... here’s a summary: Doctors at health insurers look at numbers and make payment decisions, often bad ones, by looking at statistics instead of patients.
So does everyone else.
This is leading or has led to a niche-ification of pretty much everything. Statistics abound. And in our math- weary, math-phobic society, everyone seems to believe anything that’s wrapped in arithmetic. After all, numbers can’t lie, can they?
Well, yes. They can.
They can pseudo-prove that all old people are hard to part from their money. (Sometimes true, sometimes not.)
They can pseudo-prove that a certain age group is or isn’t enthralled with a music of a certain era.
They can pseudo-prove that camel riding is efficient transportation. Or isn’t.
Haven’t you wondered why there’s so much data collection these days? It’s because people are trying to justify or cover up stupid decisions.
Or maybe the collectors are just nosy.
-Question for CBS’ Scott Pelley: You have been elected president of the Slow Talkers of America, founded by Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding... should we send the certificate to your home or to your office?
-Question for Bloomberg’s Matt Winkler: Since your new title, Editor-in-Chief-Emeritus is an acronym, EICE, would you rather be called “Ice” or “Eeky?”
-Question for New York Magazine: Can you really state with a straight face that you believed the evidence Muhammad Islam, 17, gave you to “prove” he made $72 million in the stock market, which he didn’t?
-Question for Tim Cook: are you shocked that no Apple product made Google’s top ten list of searches for 2014, and what are you going to do about it?
I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
© WJR 2014