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Digital identity

Digital identity

What does it mean when you type a post for The Order of Emergence on your iPad and at the same time see typos happening elsewhere? Are you here or there? As you type, can you be sure you exist, even if your typos (you) are not being observed by someone else (who)? When you type, you find that you (your externalities ) behave like Schroedinger’s cat. You exist only when you are observed, but you are already transient when you are observed.

Are all the above assumptions valid?

Archeology of identity

First of all, are your externalities part of your identity? Are the books or texts you have written part of your former identity, or are they detached from it and living their own identity? Some writers say that when they finish writing a poem, a novel, or any text, that text ceases to be part of their identity and becomes their own life. Since I keep proving that memetic structures (texts, companies, states…) have a life of their own, what is their identity status?

The answer to this question, which seems so difficult at first glance, is not only easy to understand, but also intuitive. Consider your own body. In each body there are about 3 kg of microbes that are crucial to our existence. Each microbe has its own life, which includes both creation and death, despite being extremely small and simple in structure. Each microbe is different from another in this respect, so each has its own identity. Their identity as a necessary part of my body is thus an essential part of my identity.

The analogy is simple: the typos in my texts are part of my identity and at the same time have their own identity when consumed by another identity (reader). Both are not only possible but necessary in the memetic world.

The challenge of digital identity

The fact that the physical body can have different memetic identities at the same time proves to be the biggest challenge in objectifying digital identities. This challenge is becoming increasingly important with the exponentially rapid growth of all types of digitization. What used to be a pretty good proof of identity no longer works for a body. The first step into the indeterminacy gap was already a photograph. There are so many photos possible of a body that facial recognition cannot be 100% in principle. And even more: What happens to the identity if someone crops his face so that it no longer resembles his picture? A silly question?

But then we developed more sophisticated techniques to link physical entities to some memetic externalities: fingerprints, retina prints, and eventually DNA prints. The most important message of this development is that it is impossible to uniquely link external memetic identity features to those represented by our bodies. More importantly, as noted earlier, even our body is only reasonably good evidence of our identity. It is not 100% proof of identity.

The Deconstruction of Digital Space

In the analog world, we are used to this inherent limitation. We know in advance that we can occasionally be wrong, but we also accept that rare errors do not threaten our existence. They are evolutionarily insignificant. The digital world, on the other hand, does not allow for such “carelessness” in principle. Digital is either 100% 1 or 100% 0. There is no margin in between. Identity must either be 100% proven or not. And since we have proven that it is impossible in principle to identify identity with 100% validity, this proves that either the search for digital identity is abandoned or that the digital world is understood to be non-digital, neither 1 nor 0. My bet is that the latter scenario will be realized.

What this means for the apparent digital ideological foundations, either 1 or 0 and nothing in between, is already another story for another post.

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