A Million New Chinese Surnames

Posted by K Krasnow Waterman on Wed, Jun 20, 2007 @ 19:06 PM
Last week, the New York Times carried a small Reuters piece explaining that the Chinese government is considering having people combine their mother's and father's family names in order to dramatically expand the number of surnames in China.  With only 100 surnames currently in use, the police and other government officials are presumed to have significant difficulties distinguishing individuals.  The new combinations would create an estimated 1.3 million new surnames.

In the long run, such a change may aid authorities in distinguishing one person from another.  In the short run, though, it may create an unintended problem.  The designers of software for business and security are constantly creating system rules to reduce errors  As business has gone global, tremendous effort has been put into dealing with the variations of names from so many cultures and countries.  For  example, are there programs that have rules to "disambiguate" -- to properly match records from two people with the same name to the right person.  And, there are programs to identify "dirty" data and "cleanse" it -- to recognize common spelling, typing, or transliteration errors and change them.  The big question, then, is how many of those programs would fail to run or would run but reach the wrong results with the addition of a million new names.  Are there programs currently in use that would kick out as "dirty data" those records for Chinese citizens with surnames other that those on the list of 100? 

Topics: technology for business managers, technology management