Tim O’Reilly did a great opening keynote at Web2.0Expo about 5 technologies to watch and subsequently also commented on a related Forbes article about the emergence of a social nervous system.
Tim is saying some really profound things here. I will spend 2-3 posts to comment.
He is saying some cool stuff about identities of things. He says that meaning does not have to formalized. And that for example the identity of CD’s in the CDDB project is based on recognizing the checksum of the length of the songs on the CD. Or the energy-signature of major appliances is so unique that you can derive from that unique signal what brand and model of fridge you are using. Its all about pattern recognition.
Fine. All that is about things. But what about humans ? Do we “radiate” some sort of unique pattern that can be used to uniquely identify each of us ?
In my previous life, i was pretty deeply involved in the Belgian Electronic Identity Card project (eID). In Belgium more than 8 million citizens have a smartcard that contains 2 certificates issues by the Belgian Government. One to authenticate and one for digital signatures with legal value. Is that advanced ? Depends how you look at it. Americans and Britains for ex shiver by the idea only of an identity card, don’t even mention an electronic identity card. Now on the other hand, a smart-card is not what one would call these days “rocket science”. And of course we get biometrics mixed in all of this. But all this is about capturing something unique of our body (fingerprint, retina, voice, etc) and being able to read it and map it to a database.
And aren’t we all looking for one secure identity that we can use in many different contexts (work, private, different online services, etc,…) and across many different devices (PC, Mac, iPhone, touchwall, arm wrist devices, car, etc) ?
And that we can use in different scenarios: authentication, signature, encryption,….
But would there be something like a human unique energy-signature ? Or unique footprint ? Maybe your Twitter behaviour has a unique “twit-print” ? I don’t know. Are you aware of such initiatives ?
If you want to think about human identity from a broader then technology perspective, then I recommend www.identityblog.com by Kim Cameron. Kim is Microsoft’s Chief Architect Identity. Kim is a non-typical Microsoftie 😉 He has a high teddy-bear factor, and talks more to the open source, IBM, Sun, etc community than pure Microsoft audiences because he is convinced that digital identity will need to be solved at industry level, not as proprietary company initiatives. Kim has on his blog some interesting whitepapers on the Identity Meta-System and CardSpace implementations in both Microsoft and non-Microsoft environments. If you want to get a feel of the full scope of identity – including themes like privacy, user control, etc – then this blog is an excellent point to start.