Philip Sheldrake

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Category: Identity

Generative identity — beyond self-sovereignty

First published to the AKASHA Foundation blog.

With thanks to those who commented on draft versions: Matthew Schutte, Jonathan Donner, Martin Etzrodt, Andrei Sambra, Mihai Alisie.

Hero image generated from the original image by Ryan Alexander.


I'm going to outline three ways to think about digital identity to help move the conversation forward in line with the AKASHA Foundation's purpose. I'm not claiming any neat taxonomy per se, just exploring very different degrees of nuance with radically distinct implications.

  1. Relating to how personal and group identity is manifest online, naively
  2. Relating to how personal and group identity is manifest online, expertly
  3. Relating to how we might employ digital technologies to transform society's accommodations of and approaches to identity, generatively.

Naively

It seems from observation alone that quite a few technologists work in this mode, excited to be bringing pre-digital bureaucratized identity into the digital age.

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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

Webinar on identity, interpersonal data and collective minds for SSI Meetup

boy with painted face

I was delighted to accept an invitation from Alex Preukschat to host a webinar earlier this week on the topic of digital identity for SSImeetup.org. My presentation is based on the reciprocally-defining, inseparable conceptions of identity, relationships, and personal data — or interpersonal data as I like to call it after my AKASHA colleague Mihai Alisie unjumbled my previous garbled attempts to make a distinction.

The presentation can be downloaded as a PDF here, and can be viewed as a Slideshare and video below. Please get in touch if you want to discuss any facet, over a cup of the good stuff if you find yourself London way.

 


Photo by Sharon McCutcheon.