Philip Sheldrake

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Tag: identity

A call for interdisciplinarity — generative identity and the Internet Identity Workshop

First published to the AKASHA Foundation blog.


The post Generative identity — beyond self-sovereignty (2nd September) has spawned a lot of conversation in private channels and on the ProjectVRM Harvard mailing list ... some 15,000 words in exchanges with more than a dozen people active in ‘digital identity’. This post is dedicated to the most salient parts by way of making a contribution from a distance to the 29th Internet Identity Workshop (IIW) taking place this week at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California. Living eight time zones away, I have not yet had the opportunity to attend an IIW, and this occasion is no exception unfortunately.

This is a call to action. Whether it succeeds or not in that respect will depend in good part on how well I’ve been able to communicate the severity of the problem with the current trajectory — in terms of our psychological, societal, and ecological health — and how well I’ve been able to make the ethical case for the urgency of interdisciplinarity. Beyond that, it is in the hands of those leading the ‘identity community’.

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Presenting generative identity at Edinburgh Napier University

Professor Bill Buchanan OBE invited me to present generative identity at the 2nd International Conference on Blockchain, Identity and Cryptography at Edinburgh Napier University earlier this month. Thanks Professor, and thanks too to Will Abramson for making me feel so welcome.

On the basis that the video of me walking around in front of my slides isn't all that visually exciting(!), here's a cut my colleague Joshua Long was good enough to produce, showing just the slides with the audio.

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.

Defining Sovereign Technology, so we can build it, and so we know it when we see it

head

Note: the IIW community adopted the qualifying prefix "self-" not too long after this post was first written, ie. self-sovereign technology.


Agency refers not to the intentions people have in doing things but to their capability of doing those things in the first place.

To be able to ‘act otherwise’ means being able to intervene in the world, or to refrain from such intervention, with the effect of influencing a specific process or state of affairs.

(Giddens 1986)

Technology must always be a component of agency as tools change our capacity to ‘act otherwise’. And it’s a component that’s all the more pervading and penetrating as the delineation of the analogue and digital dissolves, as ‘the device’ assumes an exo-brain role and as sensory ‘things’ form our exo-nervous system.

Simultaneously, I have a digital self and a self with digital presence.

Simultaneously, this is me and it is my representative, my agent.

Simultaneously, it is core to my agency and must be subject to it. Read more

Who are you?

[Originally written for the CIPR Friday Roundup.]

Identity is not a black and white thing. Sure, at one end of the spectrum anonymity reigns. This is the world of 4chan, the popular image-based bulletin board from which famous memes such as lolcats and Rickrolling emerged. At the other end of the spectrum we have passport border control.

And in between we have many shades of identity.

Nightclub handstamps for example are needed only to ascertain who has already paid. Many a website cookie serves just to determine if you've dropped by before. A supermarket loyalty card serves just to build up an understanding of your shopping habits, and may be associated with a bank card proffered for payment.

OK, so what has this got to do with marketing and public relations?

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