Names Are Secret Things

Don’t call me by my name.

Names Are Secret Things

Ancient cultures knew the power of names.

In Aboriginal culture, our oldest surviving tradition, to ask someone's name is considered rude. A private matter.

Which figures... in mythology, calling a demon by its true name gives you the power to summon and control it. So maybe they just know something we don't.

Naming everything in the Garden was Adam and Eve's first order of business. The Enlightenment was a process of naming, and the European Empires - especially the Brits - were obsessed with taxonomy, categorisation and lists: their attempt to bring a world to order.

But they had nothing on the information age.

The internet has already started to shape our names:

We won't name a baby without consulting the internet.

We'll pick a business name over whatever domain we can get.

We'll interchange names depending on context; from real name, to alias, pseudonym, or handle.

Pretty soon this will encompass our blockchain selves, like giving ourselves an .eth suffix. As crypto becomes more central to art, commerce and life - we'll become more tied to our online personas, and to protect ourselves might resort once more to pseudonyms.

The return of names as secret things.

As Balaji Srinivasan puts it - real names can be dangerous. Knowing someone's name is the first step to fraud. It's the easiest way to find, terrorise, cancel or destroy someone. In the future, we'll be smarter, keeping our false names discrete from our real selves, maybe even masking our voice and appearance.

The practices of the rich and famous tend to democratise, and in this case, privacy will no longer be just the preserve of the privileged.

Our work might be known to strangers continents away.

But our names: secret things.