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Wednesday, June 7, 2006

2006-06-06: Switzerland Ready for Population Explosion, Antichrist

And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.

Revelation 13:17

The Swiss parliament chose the auspicious sixth day of the sixth month of the sixth year of the present millennium to vote, 124 in favour vs. 45 opposed, to expand the AVS numbers issued to all residents of Switzerland to 13 digits from the previous 11. (AVS numbers, like Social Security numbers in the U.S., are nominally for social insurance programs but are, in fact, used as a national identity number for various other purposes.) The reason for the change is that the previous numbering scheme was so well designed that it is possible for more than one person to be assigned the same number and, starting at the end of 2007, the numbers will wrap around and it will be impossible to distinguish mature people 100 years and older from youth of 99 and fewer.

Still, to anybody with a smattering of knowledge of information theory or the entropy of numeric data, a thirteen digit personal ID number is a pretty breathtaking concept, especially when you're living in a country with a population of about seven and a half million people. Were the new thirteen digit numbers assigned with complete efficiency and no redundancy (which, of course, they aren't, not even remotely—in fact the number encodes an individual's birth date, sex, initial letters of their family name and nationality, and certainly must include some kind of check digit and, one hopes, provision for disambiguation in the case of collision: consider twins) they could accommodate a Swiss population of ten trillion people: more than a thousand times the entire present-day world population. While Switzerland is one of the few European countries whose population is not forecast to shrink in the coming decades, even ten billion seems pretty far off demographic-wise.

Posted at June 7, 2006 16:02