Persistent Selv: An interactive demo around long-term digital identity

The full article was originally published by Florian Doebler on blog.iota.org. Read the full article here.

Persistent Selv: An interactive demo around long-term digital identity

This is the third and final part of our 3-day series on the EIT Climate KIC Deep Demonstration. If you want to learn more about the idea behind the program, you can reread part one, while part two gives an overview of the broader vision of our partnership with EIT Climate KIC.

Today, we want to share with you the result of an experimental demonstration project we have been working on with a number of compelling partners. First and foremost, this demo is the result of a collaboration with Dark Matter Labs, a strategic discovery, design and development lab. Built on Selv, IOTA´s self-sovereign identity (SSID) demonstration platform, we want to give you a glimpse into digital identities and how they can impact mankind’s sustainability in the future. It is important to stress that this is an experiment and collaborative thought experiment and we are grateful to EIT Climate KIC to have the foresight of supporting such bold developments. But before we share with you the demonstration, we want to give you more background on the underlying thinking regarding digital identities and the concepts that went into this playful experiment:

Me, myself and my many identities

When talking about self-sovereign identity, we often see the great opportunities that technology in general, and distributed ledgers specifically, can create by empowering people and providing identities to the one billion people currently without legally accepted means of identification. But the road to a universally accepted, and more importantly, privacy-preserving and secure implementation of self-sovereign digital identities on a large scale will still be a long one and many challenges such as GDPR compliance are yet to be solved. Selv has a number of unique strengths as a platform, which are necessary key aspects for long-term identity management:

  • Free & Accessible: The app is free and will be open source. There are no fees involved in using it.
  • GDPR-Compliant: Selv is a decentralized system for managing personal data. The app and its use of IOTA are GDPR compliant.
  • Private & Secure: All personal data is encrypted and stored on the user’s device.
  • Scalable & Interoperable: Selv follows the W3C specifications on identity.

Today and over the past months however, we have tried to look beyond the immediate benefits of SSID and tried to better understand the implications for our own perception of our identity. Research has shown that all of us possess multiple identities – When confronted with a specific scenario, the same person tends to make very different decisions depending on which of their many identities is currently being spoken to. Concretely, the same person might be much more risk-averse when reminded of her role as a mother compared to their day job as a banker. Such small differences in how we perceive ourselves become systemic when applied to individual behavior on a large scale. However, understanding behavior is highly complex and can only be achieved by experimentation, research and iterative development. Centralized social networks have perfected this approach, running millions of experiments per year and ultimately being able to influence and predict our behavior effectively. We want to specifically bridge the gap between identity and sustainability and try to explore more holistic notions of long-term identities and digital heritage in this research probe.

The main ideas behind the Demo

We tend to treat data as a commodity. But while the prospect to control and individually being able to monetize data is promising for many, our digital data might end up being the longest lasting remainder of our time on earth and as such, a highly emotional and important part of our legacy. Regaining control over our data also means taking back control of our (digital-) heritage. Everyone is passionate about something, be it contributing to an open-source project, taking care of others or the environment. These things form who we are as individuals and we want to share it with friends and even future generations. Dark Matter Labs is focussed on the great transitions our societies need to respond to the technological revolution and climate breakdown we face. Their aim was to discover, design and develop the institutional ‘dark matter’, in this case inheritance, that supports a more democratic, distributed and sustainable future.

Indy Johar, Founder and executive Director at Dark Matter Labs explains the motivation behind developing a new understanding of inheritance and heritage: ”A set of new inheritance and legacy mechanisms built on the backbone of emerging tech can release opportunities to establish diverse Persistent Selves. We can start thinking, how can we incentivise individuals to plan long-term self-executing digital actions beyond their life, for the benefit of future generations? What types of inheritances, beyond monetary wealth, can we pass on?”

Wealth and income depends on the efforts and achievements of the many generations who came before. However, people tend to underestimate relationships and lineages with both past and future generations due to systemic inability to perceive the effects of their actions in the long term or even beyond death. Distributed Ledgers, SSID and the trust they enable in peer-to-peer networks might be able establish an understanding of yourself that persists across time to encourage collective action with shared, long-term goals that are needed to counter multi-generational challenges such as climate change and rapid decline in biodiversity.

About the Demo

The Persistent Selv Demo has been designed with invaluable input from experts in the field of Futures Literacy at UNESCO and the University of Turku. Futures Literacy is the skill that allows people to understand the role that the future plays in their actions and understanding of the world. People can become more skilled at ‘using-the-future’, more ‘futures literate’, because of two facts: One is that the future does not yet exist, it can only be imagined. Two is that humans have the ability to imagine. As a result, humans are able to learn to imagine the future for different reasons and in different ways. When building the next generation of Distributed Ledgers, we constantly imagine new, speculative futures and the collaboration with Futures Literacy allowed us to better understand and operationalize our work in order to cater to an emergent, uncertain future.

With the Persistent Selv Demo we demonstrate the idea how one or more of your identities can be tied to a present or future commitments to e.g. to better the environment, decrease CO2 footprints (verified through connected digital certificates) or by donating digital assets or monetary amounts towards sustainable goals of your own choice. You can share your commitments with future generations in a privacy-preserving way through the imaginary “Good Ancestor Registry” to make sure you pass on your values and make sure that your heritage is preserved through verifiable credentials.

Persistent Selv: An interactive demo around long-term digital identity
Persistent Selv: An interactive demo around long-term digital identity

The demo has been inspired by the thoughts and feedback of public philosopher Roman Krznaric on how to be a good ancestor and how societies throughout history have shown the ability to plan for future generations and take long-term action. His insights on intergenerational solidarity and the social movement underlying long-term action were critical in framing the work on Persistent Selv and thinking about what makes a good ancestor in our time and how we can create global networks around generating value for future generations.

Bringing together these strains of thinking and turning them into something that is tangible and real was a fascinating yet challenging process. We hope to provide an experimental concept to receive feedback from our community and learn for the future development of our own products. With IOTA´s ecosystem around digital identities constantly evolving with outstanding projects from the community and the open-sourced identity libraries, we can’t wait to further collaborate in creating the future of digital identity. If you are interested in exploring how IOTA can help in creating a more sustainable economy, please reach out to us at impact@iota.org or join the discussion in the #social_impact channel on our Discord.

  • To test the demo on iOS, please download the Testflight App from the App store: https://testflight.apple.com/join/3FCosIcj
  • When prompted to download the mobile app on the Selv desktop experience, use the iOS camera app to scan the desktop QR code with your mobile device.
  • This will take you to the download link for the Selv demo mobile companion app.
  • If you do not have TestFlight installed, you will need to download TestFlight before joining the Beta. Follow instructions provided in the link above.
  • Once TestFlight is installed, if necessary, return to your web browser and join the Selv Beta. Re-scan the QR above if you cannot find this link.
  • Accept and install the mobile app when prompted.
  • Once installed, open the newly installed Selv mobile app on your device and follow the quick onboarding process to create your digital identity.
  • When the onboarding is complete, return to your desktop device to continue the Persistent Selv narrative.
  • Use your Selv mobile app to scan subsequent QR codes when prompted on the desktop.
  • To test the demo on Android, please download  from the Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.iota.selv.demo
  • When prompted to download the mobile app on the Selv desktop experience, use Google Lens to scan the desktop QR code with your mobile device.
  • This will take you to the download link for the Selv demo companion app. You will need to be signed in with your Google account to proceed.
  • You will be asked to join a testing group. You will need to do so in order to have access to the Selv demo app.
  • Follow all prompts to install the test app on Google Play.
  • Once installed, open the newly installed Selv Demo app on your mobile device and follow the quick onboarding process.
  • When the onboarding is complete, return to your desktop device to continue the Persistent Selv narrative.
  • Use your Selv mobile app to scan subsequent QR codes when prompted on the desktop.

We hope you have fun with this demo over the New Year and think about the future you want to build on IOTA. To try the demo, click here.

A special Thanks

We would like to thank Marianna Birmoser Ferreira-Aulu, Nick Balcom Raleigh of the Finland Futures Center at  the University of Turku and Dr. Riel Miller, Head of Futures Literacy at UNESCO for their valuable advice and comments during the development of Persistent Selv.

We would also like to extend a special thank you to Roman Krznaric, whose ideas, feedback and writing on being a Good Ancestor, have influenced the development of this experiment. You can find more information on his work here.

This experiment is just one piece of the puzzle which is the EIT Climate KIC Deep Demonstration on Long-Termism and would not have been possible without the collaboration of the whole design group and EIT Climate KIC´s leadership over the past year.

Finally, we want to especially thank our collaborators and friends from Dark Matter Labs for their invaluable contributions and thought leadership in designing this demo. You can find more information on their thinking around long-termism here.

Persistent Selv has been produced with co-funding from EIT Climate KIC as part of its Deep Demonstration on Long-termism.

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