I’m posting this here as a personal reaction (copy of a private note I sent to someone else on this topic). I accept that some are very committed to existing crypto / blockchain ecosystems as the basis of an alternative ‘decentralised society’, ‘DeSoc’, and may take offence at critique or doubt.
To me this seems like ‘shamanistic’ promotion of a new thing ‘they’ call ‘DeSoc’ to try to breathe life into a flagging blockchain and DeFi universe. Particularly when ‘they’ is a club of familiar distinguished names (Vitalik Buterin from Ethereum and Glen Weyl from mathematics, economics and game theory)
Here is the paper that has been hurriedly issued:
It’s nice to see the leadership of the ethereum ‘community’ coming to the conclusion that there’s a problem with NFT’S and identity and the placing of PII (personally identifiable information) on immutable blockchains.
It’s nice to see them ‘discovering’ ZKPs and Verifiable Credentials and referencing them.
But I wish they would acknowledge that identity is a human thing. ‘Digital identity’ does not exist.
This ‘tokenisation of souls’ they seem to invoke makes me think of some scary future dystopia.
Blockchains (plural, interoperable) may one day have a role in cryptographic decentralised key management (at the bottom of the stack, or as a niche component elsewhere)… but even for that they are not strictly necessary.
It’s therefore very cynical to pretend they are a solution for everything in the identity stack and to propose that an alternative society can be built on it.
Complex systems have unintended consequences… rather like the identity tragedy of a public registry system that very efficiently dispatched Dutch jews to concentration camps in ww2.
Give people wallets to hold provable things about themselves if they want them, but please don’t tokenise people or their souls.
The paper makes some very questionable statements about Verifiable Credentials as an established standard. Perhaps if they do have global ambitions they should turn up at W3C identity-related groups like CCG and ask questions and contribute to the debate there.
In short, I am interested more in a ‘commons’ of identity and human rights and less about property rights.
I don’t agree with the statement in the abstract that “Key to this sociality is decomposable property rights”. Making an ugly marketplace of identifiable identity attributes seems a backward step, with many risks. However, I do think there are some great ideas and tools within this work that could help build and safeguard a community of proven trust, without ‘over-sharing’. You can be smart without a smart contract, after all.