I’ve acquired the habit of patting myself down like a policeman frisking a robbery suspect. While the practice must appear peculiar to onlookers, I’m simply taking inventory; trying to ensure everything I need to function beyond the confines of my home or office is somewhere upon my person: car keys, pen, house keys, reading glasses, comb, wallet, cell phone, driving glasses, note pad. Did I mention driving glasses? For me, the journey of one step or one-thousand miles begins with two or three failed attempts to walk out the door without forgetting something.
I don’t know if my absentmindedness is a sign of aging or whether I’m exceeding the load rating of my brain. Either way, it’s annoying. Where my mind was once a steel trap, it now has the holding power of a twice-used post-it note. Keeping track of the material world is bad enough, but something far more sinister looms on the horizon.
I recall when people rebelled against being treated as numbers. Today, people seem to largely accept the fact that they are numbers. The reality of our existence is no longer in our physical being, but in strings of random numerals, user names, passwords and security icons. People may stand face to face, but until a computer acknowledges their identities, they are non-entities.
It may sound as though I’m leading up to a grand philosophical treatise or about to pronounce a dictum to rival René Descartes. All I really want to know is how on earth am I going to remember a PIN number five years from now when I can’t remember where I put my checkbook five minutes ago.
Life is progressively becoming a virtual world over which we have no veto power. To be an active participant in society requires accepting the electronic world and all the virtual locks and keys that go with it. Young people with young minds may think this is perfectly marvelous. For old dogs and soon-to-be old dogs, passwords and the like are the mental equivalent of child-proof caps.
Personally, I find myself far less enamored with new technology and new ways of doing things than I once did. I’d happily return to a time when life was lived locally and customers and business owners knew each other on sight. A time when personal security meant locking one’s door rather than memorizing streams of mumbo jumbo. While musing about the past is a soothing balm, it does nothing to alleviate doubts about my future ability to confidently stride through a gauntlet of electronic gatekeepers. I hate to say it, but the solution may be fighting fire with fire – technology with technology.
As a kid visiting my uncle’s farm, I saw feedlots full of cows identified with metal ear tags. Today, I’ve read these old-style tags are being replaced by passive data tags. Without lifting a hoof or mooing a password, the life history of any cow or steer can be instantly accessed simply by pointing a radio frequency scanner in their direction.
I’ve never thought much of body piercing, but if it works for cattle, why not people? I could warm to the idea of having a tag attached to my ear if it would eliminate the need to produce half a dozen cards, punch numbers into a keypad and recite the first two lines from my junior high school fight song to access an account. As with any new technology there is also the prospect of spin-off industries. This idea could usher in an entirely new fad in body art. When I get to those retirement years, creating designer ear tags might just be the ticket to keep these artistic hands busy.
Have a prosperous and happy New Year.
Once again, special thanks go out with this our Business Person of the Year issue. We are grateful to everyone who nominated a business person for consideration and thank the MSU College of Business professors who have served as our judges for five consecutive years.