Whether you’re a soon-to-be parent, think you might like to have kids one day or are just interested in social trends, there’s something uniquely fascinating about looking at which baby names are in or out of fashion. Go into a coffee shop on a Wednesday afternoon in 2017, and you’re all but guaranteed to trip over a clutch of small children with names like Jack, Sophia, Oscar and Isabella. Rewind two decades or so, and you’d be far more likely to encounter a bunch of Pauls, Rachels, Lauras and Andrews.
At the last count, the most popular baby names in the UK were Amelia and Oliver, both of which were in the top 100 a century ago. But what will the naming landscape look like in 2100, at the end of this century?
A US developer and designer thinks he has the answer – and, like so many things, he thinks it will lie in technology. Nate Parrott, who is also a student at Brown University, has created an algorithm that creates names of the future: that is, names that don’t exist yet, but could conceivably be popular in years to come.
Parrott used 7,500 popular American baby names to train a neural network to convert each name into numbers, a tactic often used in machine learning. Once he had a model that could translate between names and their mathematical representations, he could generate new names, blend existing names together, and more.
“We live in the future,” says Parrott. “Computers drive cars, fight parking tickets and raise children. Why not let machines name our children, too?”
By analysing similar elements of different names, Parrott’s network could identify which words were “name-like” and which weren’t: for example, it could tell that “winter” and “July” are “more like names” than “automobile”, Fast Company reports. In time, the algorithm was able to organically meld common features of names or name-like words to come up with entirely new names.
Many of the algorithm’s out-there original names sound like characters from a dystopian novel. “Some of them definitely don’t make much sense,” admits Parrott, citing “P” and “Hhrsrrrrr” as examples. But, he says, he “kind of [like] a couple: Pruliaa? Halden? Aradey?”
So if you’re looking for a totally unique baby name, perhaps take inspiration from Parrott’s 30 new names. You’ll be so ahead of the curve, darling.
30 baby names of the future
Images: iStock and Nate Parrott via Medium.