Affairs

Technology

Lose your number— London

Preface

I’ll let you into a little secret.

Digital, Internet, Numbers

7 November 2011

I’ll let you into a little secret. The reason I chose a career writing about chairs over stocks and shares is because I’m dyslexic when it comes to numbers. Put a string of numbers in front of me and my brain turns to mush. I can just about get my head around the number on the front of a bus. But ask me to do basic arithmetic and I might cry.

I find myself welling up quite a bit these days because numbers aren’t just invading my life, they’re standing between me and my ability to do anything. It’s all down to the password. Time once was, not so long ago, when one password was enough to get you into anything that needed a little bit of security. But security has snowballed so absurdly of late that today I reckon I have close to 100 passwords, all of which are now required to have numbers in them, none of which can I ever remember.

With hindsight I should have followed a basic system. Hugo 1. And when that expired Hugo 12, then Hugo 123 and so on. But is that really so secure? And anyway I’m not that organised or forward-thinking. Instead I have a clutch of very creative keywords with various digits scattered around – scribbled in numerous notebook covers, with vaguely cryptic titles – my small attempt to retain some element of security should my notebook fall into the wrong hands.

I’m all in knots. I can’t do online banking (this requires a 16-digit code, followed by a 5-digit password, and that’s before I start playing with that funny little card reading machine). I don’t ever remember receiving 16 numbers and then choosing my five favourite ones. I wouldn’t know where to begin, let alone how to remember them. Can anyone remember 16 digits? Oh God I’m getting a tight throat at the very thought of it.

I may be an online banking luddite – that’s still just about acceptable. But suddenly I find myself paralysed – unable to recall what word and number combo lets me buy music on iTunes, gets me into my Gmail account, pays my electricity and phone bill, reads the FT online, orders cinema tickets, buys books online. The list goes on.

I’m paralysed into a state of inaction. I have to spend hours on the phone tracking down a human to talk to, just to be told that without my passcode they can’t help me but they can request that a new passcode be sent to me in snail mail in the next ten days. And then I’d be advised to change it to something memorable. And so it continues.

I’m going to start a petition to kill this password frenzy before it kills me. Please join my call to arms. I promise you won’t need a password to sign-up.

Monocle 24

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