Ident Therefore I Am

As usual, I’ve had trouble wrapping my head around the Digital ID discussion. Last time, it took me 3 days to say something, which must be a first. Now Andre, Doc, Mitch, Eric and the rest of the Digital ID brain trust are discussing Andre’s thoughtful article at Digital ID World.

Finally I’m beginning to get it. I think. Although the following is purposely cynical. The Digital ID initiative is a new form of  the failed Push technology.

There’s no such thing as a federated Digital ID and there won’t be.

The various records about you are currently owned by others, not by you. That’s because you don’t own any data and never have. Data about buyers and employees is always owned by sellers and employers and never by buyers and employees. Since a company is no more than its data, no company will give it up to support the righteous quest for standards and interop and all the rest. Sure, they’ll talk about it and go to seminars and purse their lips and seem to be interested, but, when it’s time to fish or cut bait, they’ll just donate a little chunk of historic data to the Digital Yellow Pages and keep right on hoarding their own, far richer, more current dossier on you.

“So what?” you properly ask. Surely that doesn’t invalidate the DigID initiative. But data hoarding is the core of the problem because the Digital ID resolution (whether 1, 3 or 27 phases in the future) won’t substitute a unique ID for the others, it will just add yet another digital record of you to the multitude already out there, and not a very good one, at that.

There’s no way this incremental ID will be more accurate than all the rest, because no one will guarantee the accuracy of what they supply. It’s just another kind of credit report. Doesn’t the following describe what we’ll have if Digital ID ever happens?

Lots of mistakes are made.
The sheer size of the consumer reporting industry is mind-boggling. According to the Philadelphia Federal Reserve, there are more than 1,000 consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) in the country. You’re probably most familiar with the three biggest CRAs – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Two million credit reports are ordered each day and two billion pieces of information are added to these credit files each month. The average consumer’s credit report is updated five times a day. Computers or not, when you’re handling that much information, mistakes are going to happen. But how bad is it?

Understanding how prevalent errors are depends on who you listen to and what their biases are. We’re aware of four studies that have been done, all of which point to either serious errors in credit reports or problematic inconsistencies in credit scoring across the Big 3 CRAs. The overall consumer reporting system is very important to our economy and does far more good than bad, but it’s undeniable that serious errors are made pretty regularly.

(Disclosure: written to get people to buy a fool.com online course, but probably accurate)

What will happen when (if) the DigIDialogue gets to the point that it’s serious? Will the huge credit reporting industry let some tech startup(s) wrest their franchise from them? That’s what’s being proposed here. Hell, this has as little likelihood as Microsoft giving the Windows source to the Russkies (ya gotta love irony!)

So what’s the answer? This DigID meme stirs up so much interest that something deep is going on, even more than the usual excitement that can be generated by really smart, intelligent, attractive, energetic young men describing a non-existent enterprise that might get some funding from equally high-functioning other white guys with money.

I suggest our overarching interest is from 2 opposing forces:

  Most of us hate the idea of being no more than a blip in someone’s data.
  A few of us love the idea of creating an industry that federates Digital ID.

We want to be of consequence! That primal urge, contrasted with our daily reality, is as painful to us as MP3s are to the RIAA. Consider these truths:

  • No seller cares about your kids’ Little League record.
  • You’ll be missed about as much as your dead school buddies.
  • The buyer doesn’t care whether the seller lives or dies
    — as long as he doesn’t die on the premises.
  • In an economic (non-village-based) world of willing followers and exploitive leaders,

    We are the hollow men
    We are the stuffed men
    Leaning together
    Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
    Our dried voices, when
    We whisper together
    Are quiet and meaningless
    As wind in dry grass
    Or rats’ feet over broken glass
    In our dry cellar

    Shape without form, shade without colour,
    Paralysed force, gesture without motion; 
                               — T.S. Eliot, 1925

Digital ID in its myriad existing and future forms doesn’t replace or represent you or me. Digital IDs are fictional symbols, personas if you will, that have been created by companies to substantiate bookkeeping entries which they alchemize into assets at the bank, in the stock market, at the country club and to inspire employees.

Customers aren’t you or me. Customers are data events that, referenced to other supposedly valid data, pass the auditor’s test of which collective fictions are acceptable to the capital markets during the current reporting period. Customers are as evanescent as the money supply.

Economic/Cultural Romanticism

Might there be any way to make digital ID human? (Thanks, Doc!)

NYTimes.com, January 21, 2016

Congress today passed the Carbon Life Form Digital Identity Act (CLFDIA) by an overwhelming vote, prohibiting any entity recording or archiving information of any kind about any carbon-based human persona. This is seen as a strategic win for President William Sterling who had
made the legislation the centerpiece of his Sociolibertarian/Independent agenda, and will sign it using his digital signature at a ceremony at Davos.

Experts agreed that all the technical requirements are in place to support the bill’s implementation. It’s estimated that 78% of AmeriEuro adults now control their own web-based Digital IDs, as do a staggering 94% of people between 13 and 21. The bill requires anyone who wishes to transact over the internet, through the mail or within the EuroDollar Community to maintain a web-based DigID site supporting biometric validation.

Economists downplayed the significance of the legislation, calling it largely symbolic, since the bill does not affect transactions among Algorithm-Based Personas (ABPs), which comprise 86.3% of the GDP. These self-perpetuating digital entities will continue to transact with each other, exchanging digital services for digital money, even though their creators, whether human or corporate, are no longer involved in maintaining the entities’ algorithms.

It is believed that the first ABP was the No Iraq, No Way meme, started in 2003 and which still is collecting donations from the many pacifist ABPs still active. The ancient precursor to the NINW meme, the Stop-the-Taliban-Now meme, functioned briefly in the early 1990s but failed because there was no mechanism at that time to automatically fund meme support infrastructure.

2:34:35 PM    

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