Self Sovereign Identity and Web Access Control Lists

“digital identity … if ever there’s a technological innovation for which ‘move fast and break things’ is not the best maxim, this is it.”

Thankfully someone has put it into words.

People will, as they always have, build things that we cannot know the consequences of in advance. There are ways to deal with this, but these days I don’t think self restraint or regulation are effective. The former never works at scale and the latter is now too slow and too easily subverted.

Subverted by what? The ultimate issue is an imbalance of power, brought about by the centralisation of power through various means.

So while we can and should advocate for better rights (and regulation) that attempt to keep the basics from dropping back to the worst experiences of the past (such as slavery and genocide), we also need to limit inequality and start moving things the other way.

The latter I think is what Solid and other decentralisation projects share in common, although the lack of emphasis on tackling centralisation from Tim and those who now form Inrupt, has lead me to doubt that this is really recognised and likely to be tackled in this community as things stand and are being developed. Inrupt’s plan as far as they’ve shared it, is to build a service based product on exactly the same technology platform and using the same VC backed vehicles that lead directly to the over-centralisation and enclosure of the web. So while that plan has some merit compared to the status quo, IMO it doesn’t address the fundamental issues, and will not be capable of achieving the change we seek. I can in fact imagine it making things worse.

I hope I’m wrong about that, and it doesn’t stop me supporting the Solid protocol so I still anticipate picking that up again in future.

tl;dr: decentralisation is the way to address the ills that have arisen from over centralisation, and it is over centralisation which has lead to the problems outlined in the first part of the article. And servers are part of the problem because they continue to foster and encourage centralisation (and associated vulnerabilities).

So it will IMO be over-centralisation that leads to the ills of SSI, not SSI itself. That’s technology, and humans will continue to develop new technology. We can though develop technology that makes it hard for others to exploit us, and which delivers more, better, easier, without forcing compromise upon us as individuals - causing us to diminish our selves.

If we have that base, when things built with SSI are harmful we can and will choose to avoid them. One of the problems that’s sustains and feeds over-centralisation is that the alternatives we have are less useful in decisive respects: functionally, harder to setup and use, and more costly to run.

Maybe that’s utopian, but if I’m wrong, humans risk becoming a dead end in the kind of evolution we think the universe fosters. If nature teaches anything it is that diversity and redundancy (ie decentralisation) are many times more important than efficiency in creating a sustainable self managing system that can survive for billions of years, while growing in strength and variety, including recovery from planetary scale devastation.

Regardless, evolution (or God if you prefer) will do its own thing as it always has. My faith in humanity has taken a knock in the last decade, but as a confirmed human, this (and evolution) is what I will continue to bet on.


Thanks for posting @tag42git, I have queued up for reading. Hope I find the time. Its been a long time ago I caught up with SSI developments, so that might be a good opportunity then :slight_smile:

Edit: Also read the ReDecentralize newsletter that @megoth has posted. It has a summary and intro to the article above: Redecentralize Digest — October 2020

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Don’t worry I don’t dispute evolution :). And all of us humans are one species, period. But equating God with evolution is a stretch. God is whatever is good, and whatever is good, that is God. But what is good? No person or group of people or species has a monopoly on that. But as a human I’m biased. I would rather not see for example, insects overrun the world. Or robots. Pretending humans don’t have a right to guide evolution is hypocritical.

As I read it, all this article is saying is that we need to think and rethink this digital identity stuff, because if we remove all the friction the results will be unpredictable and maybe irreversible, and decentralized technology does not guarantee decentralized results.