Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Identity of Mr. Mouse

In most of the conversations about "digital identity" we want to stick to us humans. How we make our lives better, easier, more secure, more private. There are a couple of flaws that I continue to see in the process and thinking that, IMHO, are only going to grow and continue to impart new pressures on our thoughts.
  • Most of the planning is being done by "old people" who have a lot invested in legacy "identity" systems.

As part of the more "mature" component of the computer industry, I can say that the conversations that I hear about identity are often oriented towards solutions for people who have not had their identity gathered and managed for them from birth. As I wrote in my earlier post about Tracking Identity ... Cradle to Grave, there is a whole new generation of children on this planet who will have their identity accumulated - and available - in whole new ways. I believe that the digital identity management solutions ought to consider a focus on younger generations, rather that how to deal with legacy Internet 1.0 humans.

My analogy in this is thinking about digital music collections. For many people my age or older, the thought of digitizing their music collection is a monumental task ... having to find ways to encode audio for record albums! But for the average teen today, there is no problem ... all of their music is already digital as MP3s, or maybe they have some CDs ... which are easily ripped. With the next generation of humans, few will know anything but digital music, aquired via the Internet.

If we focus all of our time looking for ways to solve the "legacy human" problems, I'm not sure that we'll do justice for the 2.0 and 3.0 humans coming after us.

So what is the other issue?
  • We keep thinking about humans like us ... not the humans, or non-humans, of the future.
I read this article this morning on CNN: Mice grow human cells after injections ... wow, very cool. More work that is leading to the potential of some very interesting life forms. And this is only the beginning. Yes, I fully understand that these experiments are not creating human-like entities today. But this is only today. Where are we going to be in 10 years?

For those of you who have not read Accelerando I would suggest that you do. Much of the content of this book is one possible extrapolation forward of the current day research that we are doing. There is already a considerable amount of thought around mind uploading, and even the personal identity of uploads. I started to really think about the issues of "identity of uploads", and even "rights of uploads" ... since these are going to be the issues facing our society in the coming years. (What is considered the 'murder' of an upload?) It's not about if ... but when.

In the CNN article about the mice, they claim that 0.1 percent of the brain is based on human cells. When this number increases, what will emerge? If not in mice (since the brain cavity might not be able to contain enough cumulative neurons to cause emergent behaviors) then in what strange hybrid entity might we see human-like behaviors emerge? When they do, will we be able to integrate these new entities into society? If not in physical meat-space, but in the Internet, new forms of consious life emerge ... will the various digital identity systems being designed today take into account how to verify their identity, and track their attributes? Are we even thinking about these coming events?

I have another post that I want to write eventually ... about the fact that "Uploads don't have fingerprints" ... not in the same sense as we do!


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