Rob van Kranenburg: Identity as a process

27/02/2020 - 07:24

Let's start with the obvious. We have the technical and socio-psychological means to build a large scale decision making structure without formal and political representation. Today, as I have a similar qualitative information management, similar or even better then the people that I do not know whom I outsource decision making to,  in matters concerning my personal life, those of my family and friends and direct surroundings, I think it is time to put an end to representative democracy, as it makes no sense anymore. I don't think we should recreate the issues that lead to creating new states , but we should aim to build new large scale decision making structures that tune to Climate Change as the main challenge and direct democracy on local levels, our streets.

[^]: In 2012 I was in Rome. I received an invitation to talk about Internet of Things from the GFF 'and the Italian Intelligence community', Transformational Technologies #4: Implications for an Expanding Threat Environment September 17-18, 2012 Rome, Italy. In the afternoon five breakout groups (senior intelligence, police and military, SOCA, CIA, MI6, Homeland Security…) came back with five scenarios of major threats: one was military, two were about DIY Bio and two were about the *'total breakdown of society'*, because of the inability of current institutions to deal with the digital. It was quite crazy to see my own breakdown scenario of a decade ago[[1\]](#_ftn1) played back by institutional analysts. We know that the intelligence and security community is making the exact same ana^lysis as we do. They are at the forefront of the data tsunami and realize there is no way to secure at item level as people walk out of the room with data on their t-shirt, nor is there any more agency in securing the levels of political formats that make up national states. Their solution (or maybe I should say, a faction of them) is to militarize society and bring their organizational model of discipline and punishment to bear on society at large. There might be another faction however that could be willing to start negotiations.      [[1\]](#_ftnref1)

The cunning plan (please don't retweet), rather long term, is to change large scale decision making radically, replacing party politics, politicians and GDP as the main KPI. The EC as a protocol of regulation - down to the chip - and local direct democracy enabled  by full access to reliable data on our phones, with our DID chip talking to the router and applications, a trustworthy environment. So with proposing new type of identities we get citizens to focus on their agency as awareness for the second step, reimagining states showing their overhead for which we are all paying, not replaced with the next parachute of vested interest and power dressed up as convenience, but with local open source distributed and democratic tools and *the people* - even if that sounds old fashioned these days.

It is clear that the young already finetune their messages to a different drummer. Soon they will be asking a decision making system tuned to tools of everyday life: real time data streams, ethical AI analytics,  real KPIs and all of that in a nice graphic app please! Now can we have that reality without this old model breaking into mayhem after it has outdone disciplining whatever it can?  It is not so hard to do. *Not doing it*, now that is hard and hard as in falling easy and slow but for sure failing and falling. We are also not in need of any new regional states or new forms of organizing around territory. Any form of identity politics based on land is excluding all others not on or in or from or once from that land and leads to unproductive friction, unproductive as in can not be resolved but on the same grounds as it excludes, binary: friend or foe.

This kind of thinking was once seen as radical and has roots in anarchist practice yet because of the peculiar situation of the precarious balance of power between commercial and institutional actors in data ecologies the European legislation (right to be forgotten, minimal data disclosure) actually offers a lot of room:

*"Empowering individuals to exercise their rights:Individuals value the high level of protection granted by the GDPR and ePrivacy legislation. This promises significant benefits to individuals, including to their health and wellness, better personal finances, reduced environmental footprint, hassle-free access to public and private services and greater oversight and transparency over their personal data. Those tools and means include consent management tools, personal information management apps, **including fully decentralised solutions building on blockchain, as well as personal data cooperatives or trusts acting as novel neutral intermediaries in the personal data economy**32. Currently such tools are still in their infancy, although they have significant potential and need a supportive environment." European Data Strategy

Philip Sheldrake in *In Generative identity — beyond self-sovereignty*, rightly assumed "lawmakers will step in to constrain the types of entities that may request ID in such a manner, and to constrain the corresponding purposes too. Such a license to operate would be cryptographically provable by the requesting party."

[^]: September 02, 2019

He points out that sovereignty, is not so much about control (as in real life you can not control the. image that others form of you)  but about relationships and boundaries. … 'Sovereignty defines a boundary, within which the sovereign has complete control and outside of which the sovereign relates to others within established rules and norms.', that the 'I and the we are not really separable. Neither the individual nor the collectivity can be or become without the other..." and that "Identities are formed through narrative. Narratives are informed by interactions with others. Interactions are modulated by identities. In other words, there are no absolutes here. Nothing is concrete. Everything is agencement. An individual is an agencement with her narratives. A group is an agencement of individuals and distinct and shared and conflicting narratives."

In the ongoing Council manifesto licensed under Creative Commons "*[*CC BY*]( [*IoT Council Members*](*" we are trying to build such a narative that can not only inform and educate citizens but bring back a sense of purpose:


*People are complex beings with clear needs, wants and dreams. People need love, health and dignityavoid sickness and shame. and want to belong (if only to themselves). People die. Time is therefore important.*

*Machines are complex objects with clear needs and wants, not dreams. Machines need energy. Machines are in a perpetual now. They have no sense of birth or death. Time is not an issue.*

*The two should not be mixed conceptually. They are mixed now. This leads to confusion and anxiety.*

Identity becomes a process distributed over a person (in her/hisself a set of narratives), the object ecology he or she is part of, has some agency over (the smartphone, the NEST, the connected car), and the behavorial aspects he or she stages willingly (in the home) and unwillingly in the (smart) city and camera's where everyday behaviour taxonomies such as are running in the visual grid.

It is clear that without individual or let's say citizen agency (non institutionalized in state actors, not captured in commercial shareholder economies) on how digital applications work and how the environment is digitized it can not exercise any agency, let alone 'sovereignty'. A lot of SSI projects seem to be quite happy if they are allowed to offer a login with their SSI to pay taxes, to vote, to be part of the system. That is  not the goal. The goal is to change taxation, to take it away from the current actors. To change representation, to bring decision making back in the street, the neighborhood, the city.

A good place to start large scale horizontal change is to bring this kind of identity thinking. to the  3 million cooperatives worldwide; 10 % of the world's employed population.  In the EU "there are some 131 000 cooperatives, with more than 4.3 million employees and an annual turnover of €992 billion.

[^]: EPRS | European Parliamentary Research Service Cooperatives: Characteristics, activities, status, challenges. Author: Cemal Karakas Members' Research Service PE 635.541 – February 2019.