Struggle for the soul of Web3: The future of a blockchain-based identity

Struggle for the soul of Web3: The future of a blockchain-based identity – Mail Bonus

There’s no shortage of visionary scenarios for Web3’s evolution, but one of the latest, ‘Decentralized Society: Finding Web3’s Soul’ – a mid-May issue of E. Glen Weyl, Puja Ohlhaver and Vitalik Buterin – is nearing completion. one of the top 50 most downloaded articles on the SSRN academic research platform.

The attention that one might suspect has a lot to do with the participation of Buterin, the astonishing blockchain and mythical founder of the Ethereum network. But it could also be a drop in the paper’s ambition and scope, which involves asking questions such as: What kind of community do we really want to live in? One that is based on finances or trust?

The authors show how “non-transferable” psychological “symbols (SBTs) representing the commitments, credentials and connections of” souls “can transcribe the trust network of the real economy to establish origin and reputation. These SBTs seem to be something like blockchain-based CVs, or CVs, while “Souls” are basically people – or, strictly speaking, individuals’ wallets. However, souls can also be institutions, such as Columbia University or the Ethereum Foundation. The authors wrote:

“Imagine a world where most participants have souls that hold SBT that correspond to a series of relationships, memberships and credentials. For example, an individual might have a soul that holds SBTs that represent educational credentials, work history, or a hash of their publications or works of art.

“In its simplest form, these SBTs can be ‘self-certified,'” the authors continue, “as we share information about ourselves in our resumes. But this is just scratching the surface of possibilities:

“The true power of this system comes when SBTs owned by one soul can be issued – or confirmed – by other souls who are counterparties to these relationships. These counterpart souls could be individuals, companies or organizations. For example, the Ethereum Foundation could be a soul that issues SBTs to souls attending a development conference. A university could be a soul that issues SBT to graduate students. Stadium could be the soul that releases SBTs to longtime Dodgers fans.

There is a lot to digest in the 36-page paper, which sometimes seems to be full of different ideas and solutions, from restoring private keys to anarcho-capitalism. But it has been praised, even by critics, for describing a dispersed society that is not primarily focused on overfunding but rather “coding social trust relationships.”

Fraser Edwards, Co-Founder and CEO of Cheqd – a network that supports the Self-Esteem Project (SSI) – criticized the newspaper on Twitter. Nevertheless, he told the Cointelegraph:

“Vitalik stands up and says NFTs [nonfungible tokens] are a bad idea of ​​†‹вЂ‹ identity is a great thing. The presentation of use cases such as university degrees and certificates is also great, as SSI has been terrible at marketing itself. ”

At the same time, the paper’s attention to issues such as loans that are over-mortgaged due to a lack of usable credit ratings is “excellent,” he added.

Overall, the response from the cryptocurrency community, in particular, has been positive, Weyl co-author told Cointelegraph. Weyl, an economist at RadicalxChange, presented the core ideas for the paper, Ohlhaver wrote the most and Buterin edited the text and also wrote the cryptographic section, he explained.

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According to Weyl, the only real persistent backlash against the paper came from the DID / VC (Distributed Identity and Verifiable Certificate) community, a subset of the self-proclaimed blockchain-based identity movement, distributed certificates for several years now, including ideas such as peer identification.

“Lack of understanding”?

However, this idealistic work drew some criticism from media outlets such as the Financial Times, sem called it “efficient paper”. Some also worried that SBTs, given their potential public, non-transferable characteristics, could lead to a “social credit system” for the Chinese government. Others took personal shots of co-author Buterin, criticizing the “lack of understanding of the real world.”

Mystic and author David Gerard went even further, declaring: “Even if some of this could actually work, it would be the worst idea. What Buterin wants to implement here is a binding permanent record of all people, on the blockchain.

Others noted that many of the planned SBT use cases – such as establishing a source, opening a credit market with a reputation, measuring decentralization or enabling decentralized key management – are already being done in different areas today. SBTs are “potentially useful,” Edwards said, “but I have yet to see use cases where they knock out current technology.

The Cointelegraph asked Kim Hamilton Duffy, who was interviewed two years ago for a story about distributed digital credentials, about some of the uses suggested in the “Soul” magazine. How do they compare, if at all, to the work she has done around digital credentials?

“This is similar to my thinking and approach when I first started exploring blockchain-based authentication requirements with Blockcerts,” Duffy, now director of authentication and standards at the Center Consortium, told Cointelegraph. “The risk and, at the same time, the first use cases I cut out – limited to claims of identification that you feel comfortable being accessible forever – were therefore similar.

However, the Soul magazine touched on potential approaches to risks and challenges – such as how to handle sensitive data, how to deal with key and account recovery challenges, and so on. – “These solutions are more difficult than they seem at first. What I found was that these problems required better primitives: VCs and DIDs.

Weyl, for his part, said there was no intention to claim priority in view of the intended use cases; rather, it was just to show the power of such technology. That is to say, the paper is less of a policy document and more of a research program. He and his colleagues are willing to distribute credit where credit should be. “The VC community has an important role to play,” like any other technology, he told the Cointelegraph.

Question of reliability

But the implementation may not be so simple. Joshua Ellul, associate professor and director of the Center for Distributed Ledger Technologies at the University of Malta, was asked to comment on the viability of companies as a “psychological symbol,” the Cointelegraph said: “The main problems are not technical but like many factors. in this area, confidential. ”

As soon as there is a need for input from the outside world – for example, an academic degree, connection or certification – the question arises as to the reliability of that input. “We can increase the reliability of data with distributed oracles, yet we should recognize that this data is still dependent on the common reliability of these oracles,” said Ellul.

Assume that a university is a “soul” that issues a blockchain-based certificate for students. “People can trust the certification because they trust the centralized university that makes its public key public,” said Ellul. But then others might ask, “What’s the point of keeping SBT on DLT when the university maintains such control?”

Or to look at the concept of peer IDs, “In real life, would a company honor peer IDs issued by an individual or organization that the company does not know? Or would they rather just rely on traditional credentials? “

It is a matter of “changing the mindset of trust” from a centralized institutional trust to a trust network, Ellul told the Cointelegraph – and it could take some time to achieve that.

As soon as there is a need for input from the outside world – for example, an academic degree, connection or certification – the question arises as to the reliability of that input. “We can increase the reliability of data with distributed oracles, yet we should recognize that this data is still dependent on the common reliability of these oracles,” said Ellul.

Assume that a university is a “soul” that issues a blockchain-based certificate for students. “People can trust the certification because they trust the centralized university that makes its public key public,” said Ellul. But then others might ask, “What’s the point of keeping SBT on DLT when the university maintains such control?”

Or to look at the concept of peer IDs, “In real life, would a company honor peer IDs issued by an individual or organization that the company does not know? Or would they rather just rely on traditional credentials? “

It is a matter of “changing the mindset of trust” from a centralized institutional trust to a trust network, Ellul told the Cointelegraph – and it could take some time to achieve that.

What if you lose your private key?

The paper shows some use cases in areas where very little has been done so far, Weyl told the Cointelegraph. One is the restoration of community on private keys. The paper asks the question of what happens if one loses one’s soul – ie. if he loses his private key. The authors introduce a recovery method based on an individual’s solid relationships – that is, a community recovery model.

With such a model, “restoring the private keys of the soul would require the consent of a member of the growing majority (random subgroup) of psychic communities. These consent communities could be the issuers of certificates (eg universities), recently attended offline events, the last 20 people you took a photo with, or the DAO you participate in, among others, according to the paper.

Community recovery model for soul recovery. Source: “Distributed Society: Finding the Soul of Web3”

The magazine also discusses new ways of thinking about assets. According to the authors, it is unlikely that the future of property innovation will be based on a fully transferable private property. Instead, they discuss property degradation, such as allowing access to resources that are under private or public control, such as homes, cars, museums, or parks.

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SBTs could grant access rights to a garden or even a private backyard that is conditional and non-transferable. For example, I could trust you to go into my backyard and use it for recreation, but “that does not mean I can trust you to give someone else a license to do so,” the paper said. Such a state can easily be coded in SBT but not NFT, which is transferable in nature.

Backlash against NFT?

Inevitably, speculation is brewing about Buterin’s reason for attaching his name and respect to such a paper. Some media outlets indicated that the founder of Ethereum was gaining the upper hand or looking for the next big thing to stimulate marketing, but “This does not fit with Vitalik’s typical approach,” Edwards said.

Buterin’s motivation can be as simple as looking for another way to maintain and build Ethereum’s dominance on the ground. Or, perhaps more likely, the motivation “could be a backlash against speculation and fraud with NFTs and seek to reuse them in a technology that changes the world in a positive way,” Edwards told the Cointelegraph.

In any case, the Soul magazine sheds light on a decentralized community, or DeSoc, providing positive services in the opinion of Edwards and others, even if the SBTs themselves end up not being beginners. In the real world, you often do not need a comprehensive, complete solution, just an improvement on what already exists, which today is the centralized control of one’s data and online identities. Or as the magazine’s authors write:

“DeSoc does not have to be perfect to pass the test to be acceptably odystopic; to be an ideology worth exploring, it only needs to be better than the available options.