The Authentication Ritual

In the middle of a video that is freely available to everyone on all of Youtube, the Youtube app on Xbox is concerned that I might not still be me.

"You've been signed out" it tells me, before dumping me into a video that makes me question just what the hell the unregistered masses get subjected to.

I retreat to my computer, to begin the daily repair ritual. I navigate to the activation page while my partner recites the 8 letter code in a cadence timed to my keystrokes, conveying admittance across the room through two minds, a keyboard and a wireless mesh network that honestly could do all the work if it didn't slow down to include us.

After verifying that I am within shouting range of the Xbox, my browser gets suspicious. "Which You are you?" it says, offering me a list of every email address I've used in the last 5 years. I click the one with my face on it. A much younger face, from the last time I cared to update which face I clicked on. I was wearing a hat back then.

"Right of course. And which profile of you are you?" it asks, showing me a puzzling array of the same choices. I click the same option again, because if I don't, it's a nightmare. I think clicking something I wasn't supposed to is how that got there, but I'm not risking it multiplying just to find out.

"Yes, perfect. I know exactly who you are and what you like" it says, before sending an alert to my phone to double check.

"Hey, you just tried to log in" it tells me, "if that wasn't you, let us know right away". I thought this ritual was designed to assure them of that answer, but what do I know of the dark arts of Authentication.

I dismiss the notification, thankful that they don't demand a thumb print for this one. Ever careful, the alert morphs into an automated email that hides in a folder that gets automatically hidden from me for being unimportant. At least my digital litter is convenient. Someday, and automated system will tell me I'm remembering too much, and ask if it's OK to forget some unimportant things. And I will click a button, allowing this arrangement of structured data to finish it's automated lifecycle and release its inner tension. It will be reorganized into new things. Probably more automated emails.

"The ritual is complete. You have been granted access again, for now." The lingering silence becomes uncomfortable. What happened to the video that was interrupted? High on the thrill of a proper authentication pop-quiz, it has forgotten what I was doing in the first place. I navigate to my history, and begin playing the most recent listing. The video resumes, right where I was before the interruption. It knew what I wanted, it was just double checking if I still did.

I understand that at various times, I have asked for all of this.

That this byzantine dance is iteratively optimized for my own pleasure. I'm just saying, if my phone can tell an advertiser every time I talk about my mattress, it can probably listen to my Xbox and verify that it has its grip on my identity without interrupting a crafting tutorial.

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