Justin Jacoby Smith is an organizer, web geek, Buddhist, and poet.

skipping rocks across the datastream

"By 'identity' I mean something more than just who you are. I mean as well your 'attributes,' or more broadly, all the facts about you that are true. Your identity, in this sense, includes your name, your sex, where you live, what your education is, your driver's license number, your social security number, your purchases on Amazon.com--and so on. These attributes are known by others when they are communicated."

--Lessig, Code v 2.0

There's a vocal pushback of late against the idea that our identity can be reconstructed from the attributes of our lives--that 'who we are' is something emergent from the entropic cycles of our day to day existence. A person is said to be 'more than,' 'something deeper than' the collected facts of their life. This suggestion is proffered with a kind of humanistic indignance at the idea of reducing the lyric poetry of every mortal's cradle to grave journey to mere bone-dry datum.

And yet I am a materialist, and at that I do my best not to be a greedy one: we inhabit a damnably beautiful world rich with tiny interactions, each a data point in an evolving system so interdependently enmeshed and complex that it would make Deep Blue swoon. Our lives leave ripples in the source code of our world, and we've only begun to understand how fast and far those ripples can travel. Forgive me if I hear an outcry that we're 'more than numbers' and find that I just want to skip rocks and watch the water move.