What is the hard core of the individual? Attributes are peeled off. Skin shed. Data gathered. Profiles built. Our Intimate digital companions mirror us. Flat reflections in dark surfaces. (But deepening quickly.) Quantifying us in bits. Dividing us into pieces. The modularization of the self. Dividing the previously un-dividable into fungible containers optimized for the global logistics network. Everything is a number. Everything has a price. It is a vulgar truth. Embarrassing to share.
Our trust in national and international institutions dwindle while our reliance on high technology soars. Yet we do not trust anyone. Not politicians. Not the friendly green giants of Silicon Valley or Hangzhou. Trust issues.
Conspiracies go viral. Zero-knowledge opinions functionally equivalent to facts. Which Uber driver is sent to get you? What news piece show up in your clickbait feed? Is Ted Cruz the Zodiac Killer? Is Obama American? Is Hillary a robot? Does Trump have a micropenis? Nothing is true and everything is possible. Got to go deeper, Leo. Trust retreats inwards to the core of our intimate companions, clones of ourselves. The universal language of Mathematics and von Neumann’s game theory rules this land and its super-rational inhabitants. Algorithmic destiny reigns supreme. Alea iacta est. You might meet the love of your life or the end of the same. Mix and match. Bubble sort.
Mid-20th century, just as macro-scale utopian architecture turned out to be a dead-end, micro-scale (processor) architecture turned up. The same visual order rules here. A die shot of a micro-controller chip is indistinguishable from the master plan of a totalitarian capital city. La Ville Radieuse in silicon. Luckily electrons are more predictable and malleable than meme-filled meat-sacks high on consumer choice. All bits are created equal.
At the heart of the iPhone is the quad-core A10 fusion processor, and deep within this lies the Secure Enclave. An inviolable territory with minimal attack surface built on finest TrustZone® technology. Completely separated from all other systems, responsible for reading our identities from the marks on our fingertips. Converting a meatspace identifier to a digital one. The streets and boulevards of the Secret Enclave are rationally laid out, its zoning optimized, but at the center sits Azathoth, a divine idiot burping out streams of (pseudo-)random numbers. This is the Deep State Machine.
Disrupted Nation-states try to regain sovereignty, not by securing the borders of its territory – this is a futile battle. Rather they fight for control of the Random Number Generator at the core of its potential subjects or their digital doubles. Take the center of the decentralized network, and the rest will fall. Installing backdoors and secret corridors and pushing vassal-states. Air-lifting instructions into an air-gapped enclave. A 51% coup. Rooted to the core.
How will an individual be defined, when its attributes can be quantified, chopped up, sold, sharded, fragmented for redundancy, re-packaged as exotic derivates? The answer might be a single number, a secret key: quantified but unknowable. The Ship of Theseus sail on. It’s turtles all the way down and I don’t trust them.