Identity Crisis: How Identification Is Overused and Misunderstood

Identity Crisis: How Identification Is Overused and Misunderstood

Identity Crisis: How Identification Is Overused and Misunderstood

Identity Crisis: How Identification Is Overused and Misunderstood

Excerpt

Take a moment to appreciate the air. So good is the air around us. It holds the oxygen we carry into our lungs. It disperses the carbon dioxide we produce. When we vibrate the air just so, the vibrations reach other people's ears as sounds, and they can hear us. Common, ordinary air has so many ingenious uses.

All is not sweetness and light with air, of course. It transports smoke and bad smells sometimes. Some pollutants in air can do us harm. Scientists are studying these things and, as sure as the passage of time, we will know more about what is good to have in air, what is bad, and what are matters of indifference.

Now consider something just as essential for living as air, and nearly as ubiquitous. It is something you use every day, many times a day, for your good purposes. The people you see use it for theirs. You probably think no more of it than you think of breathing most of the time, but if you stopped you would die just as certainly as if you stopped inhaling sweet, sustaining air.

Air is a tangible thing. This is not a thing like air, though. This is a process. It is the process of identification.

We all know that air is made of constituent gases like nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide. Do we know what identification is made of?

We have a pretty good idea of the difference between good air and bad air. Usually, we can tell the difference by smell. Where our senses fail us, science, again, is constantly studying the health effects of the things we might breathe.

Is similar work being done to figure out when identification is good or bad for us? Not very much. To the extent there is debate about identification, it tends to operate on gut instinct and slogan: [No to national ID!] [Identification is essential in this age of terrorism.] We can do better.

The identification policies of the past are being tested by the dawning of the Information Age. If you are unsure of what the . . .

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