Imagine you’re walking down the street and a stranger asks you your name and when you tell him he asks you to prove it.
Unlikely and fascinating in equal measure, right?
But let’s think about that. How are you going to PROVE irrefutably who you are? This is a stranger. They don’t know your family, friends, pet’s name, birthday, favourite colour, etc.
You could give all sorts of credentials which state that you are indeed who you say you are. But how can the stranger tell if your documents are even real? You’ve got a convincing back story, sure. But are you really YOU?
Why does this matter? Because I believe we are working hard to solve this dilemma. And I can see a future where our bio generated digital identity will indeed be irrefutable. But will it be ours?
We know what it is like today when we forget passwords, or worse still have our identities stolen. It can take weeks, months or even years to fully recover and repair our identities. And this can only happen today because there are safeguards and “back doors” which allow us back in when we have had our identity key lost or stolen.
These “back doors” are a point of weakness. They leave our identities exposed. This is of course an issue today but the exposure is limited by the fact that we have multiple identities which we use for different reasons. You can steal my car, but I have a different key for my house. And now I’m going to change all my locks anyway.
But identity experts are looking for the holy grail. One killer identity token that has a 1:1 relationship with the individual, is owned by the individual and verified by a decentralised group (chain?). This token can then be used as the master key. It cannot be copied. You cannot ask for a replacement. You cannot tell the chain that your first pet was called Doris and you get the token back.
So what? Keys get stolen. Yes, but this is not just a key. It is you.
The master key token has been generated using your bio identity and verified by the chain. But then someone walks off with it. Can’t happen? Will happen. Anything that gets converted into ones and zeros and transferred between parties can be stolen.
When “you” has been stolen and presumably traded on the dark web identity exchanges, you can’t get it back. Welcome to the identityless class. A subclass of the digitally empowered.
Try buying something. Try travelling. Try voting. Try communicating. Impossible.
Sharp divisions between the verified and unverifiable classes will emerge. But it won’t be class war. After all, the unverifiable class will exist only in the cyber shadows and will not have the ability to communicate and organise themselves. They won’t even be a statistic for the politicians to worry about.
This dystopian image may be a little far fetched, but it is not inconceivable. We are already heading towards a world where peoples worth is measured not by their achievements, but by society’s acceptance. Think about a credit card issuer using Facebook data to score an applicants worthiness. The credits you earn in life give you access to things. If you don’t get enough “likes” you may not get that credit card and you can’t hire a car without one. We are arguably there already.
Only your digital identity can be used to unlock your stored value. Lose that and you have lost yourself.