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Purdy (2383)

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Bleh - not feeling creative right now. You can check me out on PerlMonks [].

Journal of Purdy (2383)

Wednesday April 21, 2004
08:45 AM


[ #18419 ]

Disclaimer: This is an American-centric post, though I would be interested to hear what other countries do in this situation.

This morning, for some strange and unknown reason, I was thinking about Social Security #'s (SSN for short) and how that might be the next Y2K problem. It is conceivable that the population may exceed the total number of SSN permutations (SSN is /^\d{9}$/), which is 1 billion, though by observing the POPClocks, we still have a while. The projections of normal growth (PDF || CSV || Excel (for pudge ;))) haves us at ~420M by 2050. What if we have more than 50 states by then (Guam, Puerto Rico ... or even more sinister -- Canada, Mexico, Afghanistan, Iraq, the UK {*grin* -- sorry, slight joke and not meaning to jumpstart any political crossfires :)})?

Anyway, I was just wondering what the US would do when it got to that point? Would they add a 10th digit? Would they extend the digit definition to include alphabet characters? And just thinking about that unleashes the impact the change would make, from the database schemas to the web forms.

I get the same type of frustration/thinking when I try to register online and it doesn't accept my .info e-mail address. I'd like to manage/pay my cellphone bill online, but Cingular doesn't support .info e-mail addresses. And they're not the only site like that.

Bah -- hopefully I'll be retired by then and won't have to work on the problem, though like those Y2K Cobol/Assembly programmers back in 1999, we may be called back to hack on such antiquated technologies as MySQL & Perl & PHP to fix the problem at a nice profit. I just hope it doesn't interfere with my Social Security checks... ;)



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  • I'm surprised. Canada's SIN (Social Insurance Number) is 9 digits, but there is a checksum to validate the number, so there are "only" 100 million numbers that can actually be assigned to real people. So, Canada is in danger of runnong out of numbers if the population triples too (or if we were to annex the U.S. :-).
    • From HowStuffWorks []:

      What happens to my social security number after my death?
      According to the SSA, SSNs are not recycled. Upon an individual's death, the number is removed from the active files and is not reused. Recycling numbers might become an issue someday, but not any time soon -- statisticians say that the nine-digit SSN allows for approximately one billion possible combinations.

      I love how they had to get a statistician to tell 'em 9 digits = approx. 1 billion combinations. Why the approx, too?

      • > Why the approx, too?

        They may have set aside some small ranges for special purposes. I have an American SSN, for example, since I worked there.
        • Are EINs (distinguishable from SSNs by hyphen placement) in the same pool of numbers, or separate?

          I'm still on my first SSN, but have gone through two EINs.
      • Because they didn't want to pay for the government mathematician to multiply it out. (ba domp domp ting)

        You are what you think.
    • I, for one, welcome our Canadian Overlords. ;) What with their hockey, Canadian bacon and universal health care.

      Reference []
  • The National Insurance number over here is in the format AA NN NN NN A. Although the last letter is only A, B, C or D according to the IR website [].