March 13, 2017

Robin Hood Talk - Identity - Who am I?

Transcript of talk given in 2015 on the meaning of Identity on video here The specific question asked was, where will we be in 5 years, in 2020? I might have captured it for a purpose of my own, which is now published as "My Identity"...

There are multiple schools about Identity. Who am I? There are several schools that will tell you who I am.

The western narrative generally works around the notion that the state will register my name and therefore give me an Identity. This is one thing that states love, and if you look in the United Nations Charter for the Rights of the Child, it says in there that every child has the right to a state granted Identity, which is the most Orwellian thing Iíve ever read. It really says that every state has the right to give every child an identification number and control their lives. But the UN being the UN gets away with that sort of stuff.

Alternatively there is the psychological school of thought, which says your Identity is inside yourself. Youíve got the super-Ego, the Ego and the Id, is one particular scientific or psuedo-scientific theory, and then thereís various other things such as the development of the childís brain, which goes through various phases in which it discovers the notion -- the first thing that it discovers is that thereís something called a Mother.

It doesnít know that itís called a Mother, but Mother provides for sustenance. When it hurts, it cries. And then the second thing that it discovers is, thereís a Father, who happens to be around whenever the Mother is around. This leads to the creation within the brain that says, thereís Me, because thereís Father and Mother. The world started off with Mother, and then thereís Father, which forces the child to recognise Me. This is the beginning of a long journey as the brain learns who I am, which goes on through childhood, teenagership and so forth, which psychologists have mapped out.

Thatís a second school of thought. Then thereís a third school of thought that says, your Identity is this (holds up laptop) - the computer or smartphone - this is my Identity. On this thing which you all recognise as being a computer, is everything known about me. When I go out into social networks, when I write stuff, Iíve got all my secrets in there, all the details of my life, if I lose that, Iím screwed. Iíve got backups, sure, but itíll take me 2 months to get through them, and get them sorted out.

If you like, thereís a huge opportunity out there in the world today, where people have recognised that the states are not doing a good job at Identity, and weíre not doing a good job at our own Identity, so thereís an opportunity for corporations to come in and provide Identity.

You ask me where weíre going to be in 5 years time, the corporationsí 5 year plan, which gives them 2020 vision, is that they will place your Identity on their servers. You can see this happening with Facebook, and Amazon and Apple and Google, theyíre all competing for your Identity.

Thatís a third view, and itís fair to say weíre very uncomfortable with that, theyíre very comfortable with it, but Iím not sure they understand the endgame there.

Then thereís a fourth view, and this is to go back to what is Identity. Identity is such that me having a feeling of self is fine, but what was this thing about me seeing Mother, me seeing Father, me understanding there are several people here.

(5 mins BEEP - oh do I get an extension?)

Actually my Identity is not whatís inside me, my Identity is whatís inside you. Youíre all looking at me, youíre wondering who the hell this guy is, That is my Identity. In the sense that I can impress you by speaking good stuff, or I canít impress you, Iím speaking nonsense, that perception as a group, will carry forward as my Identity into future meetings, into future years, into future blog posts. People will say Iang said this stuff, and I remember, I saw, I heard, so my Identity is in all your heads. Itís not in my head at all.

Which brings us to, if you like, the fourth school, or possibility of what happens in the future, and that is, how do we get you as a group, how do I get you as a group, to protect and nurture and be nice to my Identity? And itís this, I think, which is the magic of the African invention of the chama, where in a low trust society Ö before we were talking about Google, Apple, Amazon, states, is that a low trust society? I think we can see it that way. Not as bad as Africa, but in a low trust society, what we do is we come together as a group, where we already trust each other, and we work to protect each other, as a group.

So how do we form those groups? Thatís the story of Africa, and I think this is going to be their biggest export in the future, how we come together as groups.

Itís interesting, if you go back and look at those various stories of Identity, I canít do this by myself because I canít store and analyse all the information. I canít put it into my brain and make it all happen as all these techies talk about it: weíve gotta store all this data and analyse it with data mining techniques, bayesian statistics. I canít do it in my brain!

The state canít do it either, because the state can only collect that which it is empowered to collect. It can trick the UN into getting the right to identify me with a number, it can do that. But what richness can it get out of that? Not very much.

Google can store huge amounts of data, it can store all the data, but it can only store what I can give it for free. The same with Apple, Amazon, Facebook. Only that which we can store up there for free, information that is valued at approximately zero, can then be collated to be approximately slightly more valuable.

So we have a conundrum. I canít do it, the state canít do it, Google canít do it. But a group could do it. If a group had the software, that collected information, if I was part of a group and I willingly gave them valuable information about me, myself, and the group protected that information -- because itís my group and weíre all members of the same group -- then I could build a situation where I would be comfortable inside my group. My group would be comfortable with me. And we can work together.

And I think that is the opportunity. In five years time, we will know whether we got the mega-corporations holding my Identity or whether we managed to take it back.

Posted by iang at March 13, 2017 09:44 AM

There is another view - identity is your right to own things. You identity is your title document. It is a right that we only grant to living humans. This is the sense in which the term is used when one talks about identity theft. If I steal your identity, I take possession of your possessions. Your house, you bank account, your credit,..

This is the sense in which the state has an interest, because you can't have a capitalist society without state recognized ownership, and you can't own something without an identity...

Posted by: Identity as Rights at March 29, 2017 09:28 PM

The group can provide mutual liability or dispute insurance to all members. In case of a dispute, the group comes to a consensus about whether to pay the claim on behalf of their member, or to dispute the claim in arbitration.

These groups will operate in a way similar to the small groups in solidarity lending, or similar to the way groups operate in "Reinventing Organizations" by Frederic Laloux.

The blockchain can be permissioned with permission requiring a bond posted or insurance. One can get insurance by joining a group, or by posting a bond if one doesn't want to join a group.

Posted by: Vincent Youngs at May 28, 2017 03:45 PM

Hi Vincent,
yes, this is where we are heading in the Identity Cycle which is now out at

Posted by: the Identity known as ... at May 29, 2017 08:44 AM

I think you are conflating identity and trust. While true that psychological identity and reputation in a group are about trust, for the purpose of governance, identity is, or should be, about identifying a person's physical body with biometrics. If you rely on small groups to vouch for a person's identity, a person may have as many identities as groups they belong to. That may be fine for many purposes, but it also allows a lot of weasel room for criminals. A criminal can easily build and burn trust in a never ending succession of small groups. If he is identified globally by his biometrics, the criminal gets stopped after the first time he does this. Orherwise he could serially creat a 100 different ifentities in 100 different small groups, and get away with betrayal of trust types of crime 100 times.

Posted by: Vincent Youngs at May 29, 2017 10:35 AM

Trust is easily measured with insurance. Identity is easily measured with biometrics. These are two separate things. If a group expresses trust for somebody with insurance, then has to pay a claim, they need to be able to communicate to the rest of the world who it was that burned their trust, for the benefit of the system as a whole. If however, the group also vouched for the person's identity, and the group used something other than biometrics to identify the criminal, then the criminal could have deceived the group about their identity in the first place. Anything other than biometrics can be forged.

My preferred solution would be to just publish biometrics of anybody willing to publish. I see no major security problem with publishing biometrics. However, many people don't want to to do that. So biometrics could be stored privately by the insurance provider, or the small group vouching for a person's identity, and published only in the event of betrayal of trust. That way, most people's biometrics could remain private, but criminals' biometrics would get published.

Posted by: Vincent Youngs at May 29, 2017 11:27 AM

I also would prefer to limit participation in governance to those who have published their biometrics. There can be lots of ways to function anonymously in the system, but when it comes to making a decision which creates any change in the system protocol or the constitution, all participants in the decision process should be unambiguously identified with published biometrics.

Also, while most people could keep their biometrics private, anybody who vouches for the identity of others should have published their own biometrics.

I know this viewpoint of mine has a lot of resistance. However, there are plenty of people willing to publish their biometrics. Even if it is a minority, there are enough people willing to do that to provide a transparent foundation of governance, upon which the rest of the structure can be built which would let most people keep their biometrics private.

Posted by: Vincent Youngs at May 29, 2017 11:42 AM
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