Sunday, July 1, 2018

Your Digital Identity

Here. Take a look at this.




Sorry-- I don't have an English language version. But let's go ahead and wander down this particular rabbit hole. It may not seem to have anything to do with education, but this is another slice of the same iceberg that Personalized/Competency-Based/Algorithm-Based/Blockchain-stored education is just a tip of.

A digital identity is more or less what you would guess-- an on-line, digitally created and stored picture of everything anyone could ever want to know about you. It's how you interact with a million billion things, and how a million billion things interact with you. I don't really know what it means to be a thesis driven firm, but you can see why corporations like this one are interested in the whole digital identity biz-- "trillions of dollars in economic value." If they can get this stuff to work and people to go along with it (two large ifs) then some folks are going to get hella rich off the whole mess.

PTB looks like one more company that is either a genius start up or a giant nothingburger with a side of vaporware. What you're looking at above is what you see on their website-- the only additional feature is a link for sending a request for info (and putting yourself on their mailing list). They have a LinkedIn page that contains the same information (though it seems they've tweaked the wording a bit). And the page also takes you to a page for the one and only employee I could find mentioned anywhere-- founder and CFA David Fields. Fields graduate from University of Chicago in 2006 with a BA in Economics. Since then he's been working in the private equity biz.

PTB has already gotten its feet wet by helping launch an Artificial Intelligence company Element Inc (where Fields now sits on the board). Element specializes in biometric identity. Part of the digital identity challenge is to bridge the gap between your meatworld self and digital self with something more reliable than a password. Palm print, fingerprint, facial recognition-- those would be good (bet one of your personal tech devices is already at least offering one of those). And because you can't be a tech startup without a proper creepiness factor, Element's big excitement is reserved for this:

With Global Cloud, a collaboration between Bill Gates and Intellectual Ventures, Element is building the world's first infant biometrics platform-- one that runs offline, on any mobile device. Here's how we're working with icddr,b in Bangladesh and Angkor Hospital for Children in Cambodia to do it. 

Yes, we'll start your digital identity the day that you're born. What a brave new world that will be. PTB is also in the authentication biz via Callsign, another of Fields' connections.

PTB also has their hand in on another part of the iceberg with money in Learning Machine, a group that works with the Blockchain side of all this:

Learning Machine makes best-in-class software for organizations around the world looking to issue blockchain-based credentials ("Blockcerts") at scale. The Blockcerts open standard was developed by Learning Machine in partnership with the MIT Media Lab. The use of Learning Machine's software streamlines routine business operations, de-risks official credentialing practices and reduces both fraud and verification costs. Its trusted digital identity solutions also promise to improve access to services, education, capital and dignified employment.

I'm not going to wander down the blockchain rabbit hole right now (here's my earlier attempt at an explainer). You can ask your crazy friend who's always going on about bitcoins to explain it, but the bottom line is that it's supposed to be a utopian incorruptible digital record that removes the need for meatworld authorities. For example, right now the "authority" of your college or university is needed to authenticate your education. But the blockchain would be all the authority anyone needed-- if the blockchain says part of your digital identity is intensive study of Romantic art, then that's it. From there it's a short jump to the abolition of all meatworld authorities like schools and teachers-- everyone just earns badges for various microcompetencies that are paid off in bitcoin and which can be seen by anyone who wants to hire someone with your exact constellation of micro-competencies for a particular job. And the corporate privatizers are peeing themselves with joy, because in a world without formal authorities, suddenly a whole lot of money is available for the taking (and from there we hop over to social impact bonds, where corporations agree to be paid off to handle the functions of government, now easily measurable because see all the above....)

At any rate, when Fields says that we're talking about trillions of dollars of fresh money, he's not kidding.

Fields is out there working the territory. Here he is at a big fancy Blockchain Alternative Investment Conference in London a few weeks ago. And if you think this digital identity stuff sounds crazy pants, you should know that there is an entire annual conference about it in Vegas-- and Fields has been a featured speaker there. That conference is presented by One World Identity, "The nexus of the identity industry" where they are there to help "business leaders, governments, and investors stay ahead of market trends so they can build sustainable, forward-looking identity products and strategies."

You can imagine that this all sounds far-fetched and unlikely, and there's no doubt that a lot of things have to align, including the technical solutions, the implementation solutions, and the getting-people-to-accept-something-even-creepier-than-big-brother solutions. But there is no denying that there is a huge industry out there, jam packed with guys like David Fields who think they are about to become incredibly rich. Pay attention.

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