For thousands of years, we only had one life
We lived it and those who knew us remembered us when we were gone through special moments and the achievements of our lives. The oral tradition was passed down.
Then we learned to write. The oral tradition became the written tradition and history was born. The oral recitation of lineage became the lives of the great people of history. We could all know Caesar, Jesus, Achilles, Buddha, and all the other notable people of history vicariously through the written word. Statues and Biographies became the first representations of people that were not the people themselves. We became able to communicate through time.
Then the printing press arrived. Now not just the notable people of history could relate their timelines and ideas, but more of our ancestors could share their experiences and tell their stories. Truly these were no longer the physical representations of ourselves but the paper version of them that became our legacy. We could hear our ancestors through the medium of the written word.
We used the written word for many things: books to convey knowledge and newspapers to convey current events and to debate the issues of the day. Commerce and finance adapted to the new medium (as they had for centuries) to take signatures and seals from the provenance of kings and nobles to the lives of everyday people. Commerce expanded around the world. Locations became fixed: maps now included specific locations, and math expanded to give us precise measurements for latitude and longitude. Country borders became clearer. The address was born.
When the telegraph entered the scene, things changed forever. Words now could move in real-time. The world became smaller and sped up. Commerce expanded. News moved faster. Then the radio arrived. We moved beyond the conversion of ourselves into paper into encoding our actual voices into electricity and allowed others to be able to share directly via broadcast our lives and thoughts, no longer separated by time. A shared experience was created. The telephone then allowed us not only to broadcast but also to have two-way communication. Our identity now became linked with a number for the first time. The new Avatar was created. An analog representation of our physical self. The precursor to the advent of our digital representation of self that was soon to follow.
The Social Security Number that followed became linked to our specific taxable and benefit-eligible physical selves in the United States. Other countries soon followed. Soon we all had a verifiable identity, a location, and a way to contact us. Point to point, near real-time communications now existed and would spread to cover the world.
To manage this massive information growth, computers and databases entered the scene, and our avatars began to proliferate. Our SSNs were used for many things, but each of these large discrete systems was isolated and had to create a specific identifier for each individual in the system. Thus the account number was born and attached to each of us. For our phone bills, for healthcare, for insurance–for everything.
Many account numbers. Many.
Leap forward to the advent of the Internet and the World Wide Web.
Although this rapid change began in the broadcast age above, it was now taken to new levels. Every aspect of life that could be recorded and tracked was pursued with mathematical efficiency to create detailed profiles of every person and their activities and relationships.
Society has always been built on trust. Even the oldest, most brutal societies had social compacts between their members, albeit quite unequal ones in many cases. With the advent of modern democracy and the creation of the American Republic, the world entered a new stage where individuals had a direct impact on their government. Individuals acquired rights, and so identity was necessary to exercise those rights. It took centuries to acquire them. And we gave them up in 50 years without even knowing it was happening.
Today we have no ownership of digital identity. We sign End User License Agreements where we “agree” that whatever products or services we receive are mere “licenses.” We don’t own any of those products or services. They are simply “granted” to us for specific uses, just the way ancient kings “granted” land to their serfs to work for them. We are all digital serfs, and the actions that we perform with the tools we have been granted are harvested by companies for their massive financial benefit.
True, we do receive some benefits in this trade, but given the nature of the “agreements” we must sign in order to function in the digital world today, it is little different from the serfdom people were forced to accept to be able to grow crops and feed their families in previous eras. Could you function in today’s society without a phone number? Absolutely not. And your provider owns that network. How about not being able to access the Internet? You would be in poverty and unable to perform almost any job, nor would you be able to communicate with anyone outside of your immediate environment. You would be isolated. Big tech controls all of those avenues we need to live and work in today’s world.
So how do we take back our identity?
How can we create a place where we can stand on our own in the new digital society we live in today? How can we work with these large centralized systems, yet preserve and control our own information and be rewarded for our labor and our creations rather than giving up 90% of the profit from those labors to third parties?
We use new technologies to empower us to control our own identity and our own creations that we can then use in the digital world as we see fit. All the digital world we live in today constitutes what we call the Metaverse.
It is ours.
And we need to have our own identity and an address that only we control. De-centralized technologies allow us to control all of the digital representations of our physical self that now exist. We can link to all of the third-party services we want and grant them access to the information we want them to have–to control our own digital assets, make our own contracts, and engage in commerce directly with others.