- The Case for Web3 Identity
In 2013, I remember the rise of Bitcoin in the media and popular culture. Talk show hosts made fun of it, people asked me what it was, and I was personally astonished (already for some time by then) that you could have a piece of hardware — maybe even your own computer CPU (depending on the coin at the time) — hashing solutions to math problems, and, AND(!), that you could trade the product of that solution, a ‘cryptocurrency’ (a word at the time that sometimes felt dirty to say, what with the not-so-light tinges of Silk Road drug trafficking staining the word, and normative techno-backlash by pundits who knew really nothing about it), for REAL money.
Fast forward eight years and so much has happened: successive bull and bear runs, Ethereum and smart contracting, privacy coins, stablecoins, CEX prominence, DEX incompetence and later competence, ICOs, STOs, IEOs, IDOs, DAOs, DeFi, NFT, GameFi, Web3, Layer 0, L1s, L1s, L1s, L2s, Metaverse, and now, now, I think DeData and Identity.
The locus of crypto has always been the individual, just as the locus of any technology is for and by, ultimately, individuals. A can opener and the Bitcoin White Paper have no base difference within human utility. Individuals want to be free and want to be efficient. You can try to open a can with a steak knife, just as you can try to access your money at a closed bank.
Crypto, which is more broadly understood as a term to encompass the financial use cases of blockchain, is only the first can opener in a broader historical narrative-shifting of humanity and society; it has a very primary place, though, because without an efficient, ecumenical, and decentralized value transfer layer/protocol(s), we cannot have the foundation for this narrative shift — if capital is always tethered to nationally-based power dynamics (and thus beholden ultimately to some amount of asymmetries of special interest and self-sustaining structures and cultures), it will never lead back to the individual in any final analysis.
The internet we have been delivered is awesome, make no mistake. We often forget that. It’s allowed an incredible amount of freedom — especially freedom of and access to general knowledge. There’s been an evening of the playing field globally with respect to this. This is good.
It’s been a bit of a Faustian bargain, though, we have traded our very selves for access to this level of Promethean access: all knowledge, all the time. How have we traded our selves? It has started to enter mass consciousness that surveillance capitalism is an endemic reality; as Zubov has written of so well in her recent book titled with the same term, Surveillance Capitalism, our very lives have become the source of raw material for a handful of dominant internet players, your synapses are their train stations and your nerves are their railroads in a continuation of the robber-baron rapaciousness of industrial capitalism.
Capitalistic orientations work — so far — the best for productive organizational frameworks. Though surveillance capitalism patently blows, and we can easily evidence its existence, this treatise is not mean to dispense the baby with the bathwater and propose a fundamental change to capitalistic endeavours. However, we may see a new form of capitalism after this period of surveillance capitalism, which has been, in full trot, since at least the mid-2000s.
We will see. I think we will. If I had to guess, it’ll prob be called crypto-capitalism or something like that. I will also assume states won’t give up their monopoly on the use of violence for at least another 25 years. But, after this point, this crypto-capitalism will likely be based politically on a mix of useful reputational indicators and DAOs informing the political characters inhabiting this world, which will probably be more real in some ways within its metaversal expression than it’s brick and mortar one.
This gets us to what I feel is part of an overall historical narrative-shifting toward autonomy and agency of the individual to choose, and build, their worlds. We have always done this, of course, built our world, and that choice reflected so well in our architecture, which often lasts past human lifespans and remembrance: a cathedral and a skyscraper, say.
The metaverse, which is another way, I think of saying, a decentralized internet (inclusive of a decentralized value transfer layer — crypto), is occupying a turn and opportunity in human history where we can expand our selves into a way of being that sits aside from the exploitation of humanity for capital — precisely because capital is now physically out of the control of the state.
This doesn’t stop the use of humanity for capital, and I would hope not! Until we figure out something better that doesn’t lead to gulags, or cults of personality, or oligopoly, capitalism is the best we have. This stops the exploitation of humanity by and for capital.
Now that we can extend the analysis and presumptions this far about capital, humanity, crypto, and a historically-unprecedented narrative-shifting away from an inherent exploitative mode via technical means (blockchain tech), rather than toward it, it’s time to think again about decentralized identity and how that is handled, because right now, that’s still a very inchoate area.
We are really only one year into the efflorescence of a new technical standard, DIDs (which have been under working group validation, vetting and development with the W3C for over four years), which, like blockchain technology before it, will revolutionize maybe what we can call the identity layer. And this is needed, because without some sort of unified identity layer, the idea of crypto-capitalism and a global DeData economy, where data sharing, monetization, and operationalization has an intrinsic P2P orientation, will never happen.
We need some sort of common referent or hub, some nexus for the individual, and this must be a conception around identity. At NFT3, we are primarily concerned with anonymous reputation — a conception that allows one’s identity to be as mutable, powerful, and beautiful as they want it to be, depending on the situation/operation at hand. Indeed, we expect that a new type of identity will emerge on this basis. It might be called a metaversal or web3 identity or something. We really can’t imagine, I think the number of new efficiencies and applications involved in the reality of a decentralized identity layer working in a Web 3 world. It’s similar in terms of development significance to the conception of Turing-completeness and smart contracts.
Anyway, thought dump over and super-excited to see what happens!
— Dylan Dewdney
- Date of publication:
- Thu, 11/25/2021 - 20:26
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