Tag: digital identity (page 1 of 1)

Self-Sovereign Identity — the book, the dystopia

A fish in its ecosystem

First published to the AKASHA blog.


Manning Publications has just published "Self-Sovereign Identity: Decentralized digital identity and verifiable credentials".

Cover of the SSI book

ISBN-13: 978-1617296598 / ISBN-10: 1617296597

Congratulations to the co-editors, Alex Preukschat and Drummond Reed, for getting 24 chapters, 5 appendices, and a further 11 online-only chapters out the door. No mean feat. My copy will drop on the doormat any day now.

For the uninitiated, here's a link to the Wikipedia entry for self-sovereign identity (SSI), although it doesn't yet reflect the caution recorded in the Internet Policy Review glossary.

Of the book's 35 chapters, 34 explain the technologies and motivations and celebrate SSI's application. Here is a book written almost entirely by authors with skin in the SSI game, both reputational and financial, dedicated to making sure you understand why SSI was intended to be a good thing, why exactly it is in fact a good thing, and how it will be awesome in its real-world application.

With my AKASHA Research hat firmly donned and our purpose and values front of mind, I got to write the other chapter, the only dissenting chapter. It's one of those chapters relegated from the main book, but it is available online to all purchasers. It's the one titled ...

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Towards a shared understanding of ‘digital identity’ — reflecting on conversations with Doc Searls and Drummond Reed

water ripples

First published to the generative identity website.


No two people can share an exact understanding of anything deep and meaningful simply because we each have different contexts. Conversation relies upon and can never wholly substitute for context. Nevertheless, we can work to grow a shared understanding through conversation, and the relationship between conversationalists evolves in the process.

The relationship is immanent in such informational exchange[1].

On one level, the opening paragraph here pertains to this being a blog post about conversations I’ve valued in recent months. But there’s another level given that ‘digital identity’ is our subject. Identity, in what you might call the natural and non-bureaucratic sense, is reciprocally defining and co-constitutive with relationships and information exchange[2].

Identities are immanent in the relationships immanent in information exchange.

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How the separation and unseparation of concerns contribute to SSI’s dystopian promise

By Julian Mora

Originally published by Omidyar Network's Good ID.


As Einstein intimated [1], everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler. Current architectures for digital identity — intended to meet some definition of the needs of the complex living system that is human society — are dangerously too simple for the task.

Even self-sovereign identity (SSI), not infrequently held up by its champions as having the requisite complexity by design or claims to that effect, encodes distressing emergent outcomes.

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Control, agency and complexity — Phil Windley and Philip Sheldrake in conversation

I discussed the topics of sovereignty, agency and complexity on Medium.com with Phil Windley in December 2020 in follow-up to my September 2019 post: Generative identity — beyond self-sovereignty (first published to the AKASHA Foundation blog here). Medium.com isn't a great interface for following such threads, so the conversation was drawn together first on the generative identity website, and now reproduced below.

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The dystopia of self-sovereign identity (SSI)

triangles

SSI has distressing emergent outcomes — the antithesis of the hopes and plans of the SSI community and those attracted to SSI's real-world application. We have to reflect and rethink.

Put starkly, many millions of people have been excluded, persecuted, and murdered with the assistance of prior identity architectures, and no other facet of information technology smashes into the human condition in quite the same way as ‘digital identity’. Therefore, if ever there’s a technological innovation for which ‘move fast and break things’ is not the best maxim, this is it. We need to move together with diligent respect for human dignity and living systems.


Developed under the auspices of the AKASHA Foundation, and first published to the Generative Identity website.

With thanks to those who commented on draft versions: Dil Green, Will Abramson, Ryan Worsley, Jakub Lanc, Brent Zundel, Andrei Sambra, Mihai Alisie. And to those who have influenced the ideas here in conversation and in their writing: Matthew Schutte, Jonathan Donner, Elizabeth Renieris, Kieron O'Hara, Martin Etzrodt, Michael Shea.

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The Number 1 Challenge for Humanity – Cooperating at Scale (part 2 of 2)

green plant

First published to the AKASHA Foundation blog.


In the first of this two-part blog post I described why cooperating-at-scale is humanity's primary challenge. Here I outline some candidate concepts and pre-architectural principles to inform the necessary and sufficient 'sociotechnological primitives'.

First I'd like to qualify pre-architectural. It's not oxymoronic despite arche meaning origin or beginning. Both physical and software architecture originate structure and structural relationships, and we're not yet at the stage to prescribe such things. Structure is ossified pattern and our purpose at this early stage demands instead that we offer just a little structure to open up the space to explore and nurture multiple patterns in preparation for the emergence of multiple structural forms. If pre-architectural doesn't do it for you, then perhaps think of it as a parsimony of design.

A means to our purpose is the encouragement of multi-disciplinary cooperation towards ever-improving multi-disciplinary cooperation. At scale.

Nuclear physicists refer to the smallest amount of fissile material needed for a sustained nuclear chain reaction as the critical mass. No-one can know the variety or volume or patterns or structures of the methods, materials and mindsets required to constitute a critical mass for cooperation-at-scale, but perhaps your spidey senses are similar to our own ... maybe, just maybe, assembling such critical mass is a possibility nearer, rather than further away.

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Verifying identity as a social intersection

people blur

First published to the AKASHA Foundation blog.


Co-author of Radical Markets Glen Weyl invited me to review Verifying Identity as a Social Intersection, co-authored with his colleague at Microsoft, Dr. Nicole Immorlica, and Stanford University's Professor Matthew Jackson.

The topic is so-called digital identity, a term that could be mistaken for how personal and group identity is manifest online, but actually relates to how we might employ digital technologies to transform society's accommodations of and approaches to identity.

It is not a challenge that anyone might describe as readily "solvable", as my recent webinar for SSImeetup makes plain. If anything, it is a fine exemplar for H.L. Mencken's witticism:

For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.

This paper is an important contribution towards navigating this complexity appropriately. I do however identify a major problem — and therefore opportunity — relating to the conceptualizations of identity the authors have made their object. It appears they are intent on engineering for the trickiest yet perhaps the most societally important conceptualization, but then present it as a solution to a more mundane conceptualization, and one that desperately needs the balance of the former to mitigate its innate harmful potential.

I finish with a brief explanation of the AKASHA Foundation's work here. As you can imagine, this is core to our purpose.

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Good identity lives in between

boypoolrhizome

Written for Omidyar Network's Good ID project and first published to the project's blog.

good id


I love the way Derek Parfit introduces his book Reasons and Persons:

“We are particular people. I have my life to live, you have yours. What do these facts involve? What makes me the same person throughout my life, and a different person from you? And what is the importance of these facts? What is the importance of the unity of each life, and of the distinction between different lives, and different persons?”

The more you study it, the more you realize that identity is a tricky concept to grasp. There are many different ideas to describe what it is and what it does, but Parfit's emphasis of its innate social nature appeals to me. After all, what good can identity serve should you find yourself all alone on that fabled desert island, apart from different persons?

My identities form with others, as theirs are formed with others and with me. It's a product of relationships.

And those relationships? They're established and defined through interactions. Read more