Identity Mechanics in the Cypherpunk Utopia
A Decentralized Autonomous Society is a new type of social structure that is physically possible only through recent, radical advances in technology. DAS’s might allow humanity to escape the cycle of power; of inevitable consolidation, corruption, and decay that traditional, centralized governments face. A DAS can distribute power by enabling its users to control how the organization's resources are used. A DAS's constitution is not just a piece of paper, but computer code that is distributed and ran on many machines all over the world.
Identity is one of the most powerful forces that a society can generate. Identity is the difference between being able to rent a helicopter from someone you have just met, and being detained for the rest of your life at trying to cross a border checkpoint. This text will explore how Identity has proven problematic in decentralized systems, and what possible routes around this obstacle might look like.
By the year 2020 it will be just as easy to create a new Decentralized Society with its own currency, forum, government, and court system as it is to make a FaceBook group. But no matter how successful a DS or full fledged Decentralized Autonomous Society becomes, it still runs the risk of trolls exploiting identity to steal resources or make lulz at your expense. This abuse could take the form of the song “Never Gonna Give You Up” playing non-stop to anyone visiting your forum, or even worse: stealing all of your society’s currency reserves by fraudulent voting on a bogus proposal.
This malicious abuse of identity is commonly referred to as a “sybil attack”. The human super consciousness is hard at work on this problem, as occasionally evidenced by impassioned debates on Slack channels. One proposed method of minimizing these attacks is by using a gradient for identity; that is to say, to have different levels of citizenship. Rather than one being either a full citizen or not, one could be someplace in between, receiving partial benefits from that society. This solution is already employed in traditional societies. For instance, I could become an official resident in a country like Chile, and if I paid them taxes, I could receive health care from their government, but still not be able to vote. (Assuming I was somehow able to navigate their kafkaesque bureaucracy.)
A gradient of identity - some sort of liquid, digital reputation - is already being used in the community augmentation project called Ekata, and it seems to be the direction BitNation’s chief unicorn is prancing towards. Gradient identities minimize the amount of resources that can be leaked to bad actors. Just as important, however, is safeguarding the system’s internal mechanics from malicious threats. As Societies become increasingly Autonomous, people will be able to vote directly on the Society’s code. After a proposal is accepted, the new constitution will propagate to the blockchain network, making the old organization obsolete in minutes.
If citizens’ power is moderated by their stake in the venture, the ‘troll’ attacks become rather futile. Any malicious behavior would harm the troll, since it would result in a reduction of the value of their own stake in the organization.
Taken to an extreme, partial identity could be implemented using a proof-of-stake model. This is the model that traditional corporations use, with stake being represented by ownership of shares. However, a society using stake for voting is on a very slippery slope. As DLITE puts it, proof-of-stake is the same thing as proof-of-oligarchy. Verifiable oligarchy doesn’t seem to get us very far in the pursuit of decentralized governance, but it is at least a more transparent Oligarchy than the current political system that has been rather convincingly masquerading as a Republic.
But let’s pretend we can do better than Oligarchy for a moment. Perhaps we could meet up in person, at some sort of proof-of-identity party, and hand every attendee a token. On the token is a passcode to register a new account, ownership of which signifies that you a REAL GENUINE PERSON™. This approach would work well for smaller communities that are localized. People would feel more comfortable in sharing their wealth and power, knowing that abusers would not be siphoning it off unfairly by making many accounts. But over periods of time, societies need to be able to add (and remove?) members, and some societies wish to be global if not universal! Gathering all beings in all of creation to the same place for an Identity Party seems unlikely.
The enforcement of identity mechanics is done fairly well in our traditional societies, but even these legacy institutions are exploitable by identity thieves and those who are lucky enough to continue collecting benefits when their loved ones pass on.
Perhaps this problem of identity will eventually solve itself. After all, once everyone has access to food and healthcare and housing there is much less of a need to “steal” from others. As humanity transitions from scarcity consciousness to abundance consciousness, the amount of trust assumed between people increases. Until then, Decentralized Organizations (and eventually Societies) can and should have the ability to Fork: to split off from the hijacked system in order to retain what resources they can. This solution was utilized in a rather inelegant manner with SlockIt's DAO, whereby the attempted theft of its Ether reserves resulted in the Ether blockchain forking and becoming both Ether and Ether Classic.
As decentralized organizations and societies flourish, the mechanics for identity will multiply, and they will be subject to natural selection. There is no perfect solution - perhaps because the Truth of identity is that we are all One? - but there are many decent solutions. These partial solutions are sufficient in giving our species the structure we need to transition to a more trusting society, where abundance is assumed just as much as the good intentions of others.
We have recently hit this problem when designing a distributed solar powered proof-of-stake system. We are not sure how to keep the electricity that is produced tied to the actual person (as a producer) so that other people don't just come in and take over that person's equipment by force and steal the electricity produced. We realized that it has to do with a unique identity, and, protecting that. But we also want to keep it open system, open source, and op-out at any time.
interesting problem! I think each device could have its own signature (like a mac address), and each user has its own signature (like a crypto wallet). multiply the signatures to get a unique identifier of their relationship. if that changes, and the original user contests it, then shut down payment to new user.
Thanks this is a great suggestion.
Human drives include other things besides survival. One of the strongest drives is to compete for status (i.e., mates). That drive won't go away once we're all fed; it may intensify.
why are you using the word 'utopia'?
it is something to head towards even if it is not something that will be achieved.