This is the 7/8 posts addressing the accusation by Philip Sheldrake that SSI is dystopian. We have now gotten to the Buckminster Fuller section of the document. I <3 Bucky. He was an amazing visionary and like Douglas Englebart, who I had the good fortune to meet and have lunch with, dedicated his life to exploring how to make things better for all of humanity.
The section is literally titled – “Identity is a Verb” this is a statement that I can totally get behind.
I believe that – Identity is process.
All of it.
All things come into being as “things” but really created that “thing” that can be seen as having an identity that is distinct from other things is process. Human beings are created via the process of life and are kept alive by ongoing processes in the body.
Remember I said it was socially constructed (construction is a process)
Some times the process of identity in some contexts leads to “things” getting produced and handed to us (like a university handing me a card when I first got to campus with my name and student number on it.
Some times when we encounter a given system we are pointed at by a system (given a number) so that the system can recognize us again – when it “sees us”.
However you are in complete denial about the nature of modern mass society if we believe that some how those things don’t matter. They matter because the institutions we have created care about them and use them to function. If we don’t want this to be true – I suggest a better course of action is to actually undertake transforming those institutions. Saying we shouldn’t have identity documents that we have in the contemporary world – then stopping SSI isn’t the way to make that change.
It makes no sense to attack people who are working on digital systems to create digital versions (verifiable credentials) of those “things” (cards).
These systems of identity (see its a system with processes that result in things) have emerged over the last 1000 years in the European context. They are the result of many forces and factors one of them being our inherent WEIRDness – building a society where individuality and who you are matters more then your family – because the catholic church beginning around 500 CE implemented what the the Marriage and Family System where there was only monogamous marriage and cousin marriage was banned. So we no longer have any kin based institutions beyond the nuclear family.
So just kin based local ties that we used for literally most of human history to figure out who people were – doesn’t work any more. So we invented tools to support people who had ZERO knowledge of who someone is having ways to do this that were invented for states to understand their subjects but it turns out that other folks seeking to transactions with people like these “state issued” documents because they provide them with enough confidence to be able to do transactions with them – they like this state “root of trust” and for better or worse that is how things work today in contemporary western society.
Legal (noun-like) identity features obviously then in the majority of the scenarios presented. This is no accident because this is how the SSI community thinks, and how it thinks is reflected in the technical architecture and documentation.
I don’t agree. I think it is a feature of the majority of features because the institutions working to “not be in the center” of how people prove the statements on their “noun” identity documents are funding the development of the technology so they do not have to build centralized architectures that require technical federation with them posing far greater privacy risks and are quite frankly not scalable.
And this statement “this is how the SSI community thinks” – really? How well do you know us? – have you actually joined our community? Have you actaully joined our discussions and meaningfully contributed? beyond just throughing your “smart thoughts” in that show you do not understand how we think and don’t understand the technology.
Have you participated in developing the Verb like features and functionality with protocols like DIDComm? – not that I know of. You just decided that because we even touch “noun” like results of identity systems and support people being empowered with this one narrow type of identity that all of what we are doing must be bad.
Historically, invoking legal identity is tiresome. It involves systemic friction and consequently it’s called upon only when really needed and ignored in all other contexts. How frequently and for what purposes have you needed to produce proof of legal identity so far this century?
Depends on who you are and where you are? In making these statements you are suggesting the status quo of paper based documents is working and good for people and points to your privilege in a major metropolitan center and being able bodied.
Do you think the rural Canadian who is in a very remote town should be denied the right to transact in a trusted (having confidence in the veracity of the party they are interacting with and vis-versa that the relying party has confidence in who they are). The Canadian government certainly believes they have the right to be able to do this and are investing heavily in digital infrastructure and trusted digital infrastructure leveraging SSI to serve remote rural people so they have the same opportunities afforded those in cities with government service centers.
Do you think the disabled woman who is largely home bound does not deserve the right to leverage digital credentials to do transactions in the world?
Really step back and ask yourself if the status quo is ok given the evolution of an importance of the digital world. Lessig didn’t think it was acceptable in 1998 and until SSI we really didn’t have any technology that could actually solve for some fo the very hard use-cases we are working towards solving.
But SSI demonstrates an unprecedented frictionless quality enabling the routine, programmatic proffering of or triangulating back to legal identity and other noun-like identities (+ buried in the foot note important point… )Many organizations and bureaucracies have a noun-like approach e.g. your employer assigns an employee number that endures.
So what do you mean by “routine and programatic” as if people don’t have control of when and how they share what. It is a system that explicitly gives people to control via their agent/wallet what is shared when.
With SSI if I’m logging into my employers site to do work for them – I can leverage a verifiable credential issued to me by my workplace. IDRamp is working in this domain.
With SSI if I’m a licenced lawyer in a given jurisdiction and I want to login into the court system in that jurisdiction I can use the crednetial that says i’m a licenced attorney to do so. Britich Columbia has this working right now.
If I’m a citizen seeking to apply for public benefits (because of the pandemic) and I can do so with a verifiable credential issued to me by that same state – because that is a relevant ID for that type of transaction. This should be able to be done using SSI because right now its done on paper and it is literally a nightmare for people and the state seeking to manage it all.
This is about Alice’s freedom, perhaps indeed her “sovereign right” if that’s how you conceive the world, to live and live through her verb-like identities most of the time as she does today.
Great – use the SSI tools to build more verb like systems and structures with them. That is what DIDComm literally does – so go nuts and make some great stuff happen.
It literally is a protocol to build relationships between people and between people and organizations using a secure connection that NO entity is intermediating like they do today with all other types of identifiers provide.
This is the 7th in a series of posts addressing Philip’s critiques.
Bonus – Why my expertise is radically interdisciplinary and not focused solely on “information technology” cause that is always a reason to not listen to something a woman is saying.