Zero Knowledge Decentralized Identity Tech And It’s Potential Ripple Effect On The World

decentralized identity

Recently in a blog post by a very brilliant man that goes by the pseudonym LogrisTheBard wrote a post about Monetizing Honesty. It’s excellent, and you should read it, but for some reason it triggered my brain to start thinking about all the little problems a decentralized identity could reduce or eliminate and it’s really endless. I’m going to do my best to formulate my thoughts in a way that you can hopefully understand though.

You Are A Giant Arsehole

you are arsehole

Ok… easy now ya arsehole! I’m not tryna start a fight. I just mean to say that people are flawed. Whether you want to or not, you have biases. Scientists call those “Implicit Biases.” Those biases influence your decisions. Your parents are mostly responsible for making you an arsehole, but your community and peer group are also responsible for it as well. So, basically it’s not totally your fault is what I’m tryna say.

You believe I am human, therefore I am guilty of it too. No person alive can honestly say they aren’t. We all make judgements of people based on any number of factors all the time. These judgements could be based on race, sex, age, your name, who you’re related to, attractiveness, smell, appearance of health, clothing style, body shape, hair color / style, pitch of voice, country or region of origin, hobbies, personal interests, hygiene … well you get what I’m tryna say here.

Arseholery Is A Very Serious Problem

The list is endless. We can’t really help it, even if we’re aware of it. Even if we don’t want to be. It’s subconscious. It may not seem like it, but each of these seemingly inconsequential judgements have seriously destructive consequences. Obviously, they have consequences for the ones you’re judging, but they also create terrible ramifications for yourself. Your biases prevent you from taking advantage of so many opportunities, even unknowingly.

Opportunities for business, profits, insights, knowledge, friendships, love, growth, fun… ok … I’m getting too far out there. So, for the rest of this post, I’m only going to talk about the problems and consequences they create for people and organizations, and hopefully illustrate how a zero knowledge, decentralized identity could help us be less of an arsehole as a society.

The Three Isms Of Mass Destruction

isms of mass destruction

Racism, sexism, and ageism. This obviously isn’t all of the judgements we make about people, but I believe these are the three worst ones that we’re all guilty of, even unknowingly. They’re also the ones that cause the most damage to you and the victim. It can prevent them from getting jobs, or housing, or credit, or equal protection under the law … you know, it prevents them from having truly equal opportunities. As an organization, it can prevent you from getting a good employee, or tenant, or borrower.

Worse than all of that though, is that these three isms damage society as a whole. History has proven repeatedly that a society can not exist long term if there are subjugated classes. If certain groups are favored over another, it sows the seeds of discontent, and discontent grows into destruction. If there is rule or law, it must apply to all equally or it should not apply to anyone at all. That is the only way people can build faith and trust in a system. Without trust there is rebellion, which inevitably leads to a societies complete collapse.

An Example Of Everyday Bias Destruction

Let’s take a simple hiring scenario as an example. Let’s say an entry level position is posted for a large corporation. Applicants would submit their resume to the human resources department, and a person there would likely review them to filter out any “unqualified” candidates before passing them on to the department manager for interviews.

This is where biases come in. Let’s say in this example you have two candidates: Bradley Johnson, and Svetlana Petrov. Right away, you can infer just from the names, that Brad is likely a Caucasian, American or UK born male, and Svetlana is likely a Caucasian, Russian/Eastern European born female. Or are you and I just making biased judgements just based on a name? Hahaha! See what I mean! Like it or not, odds are that the HR filters and the hiring manager will most likely choose to hire Brad. Possibly even at a higher pay rate, even if Svetlana is the more qualified candidate.

Personal biases will lead most people to incorrectly believe that Brads race, nationality, and gender will make them a better, more dependable and trustworthy employee. The next day, Svetlana goes and starts a competing company and puts you out of business, and Brad out of a job in 5 years. That’s if you’re lucky and Svetlana doesn’t join a class action law suit to sue you for discriminatory hiring practices.

Now look, I’m not trying to pick on any specific race, or nationality here … oh shit, did my biases just make me write this whole pos… Oh god dammit! Alright, well I don’t want to debate this with you right now, but the data, at least in the United States, has proved this fact over and over again. It’s systemic, and it’s sickening, and we just can’t fucking help it as a society because we don’t even know when we’re doing it! AAAHHHHHH! 🙀

Decentralized, Immutable, Anonymous ZKID

polygon id zk

With the Ethereum blockchain providing an energy efficient immutable base layer, you’re already beginning to see emerging Identity technologies utilizing ZKProofs. I believe a society could use this technology to build a future that’s a little less arseholey for everyone. If each of us could actually own, secure and hide our identity immutably, while still being able to use it for identification purposes, and without revealing bias inducing details when there’s no need to, that could be a powerful tool to combat this problem.

If you can still provide “proof” of things about yourself when you’re required to, things like your legal status for work, or proof of citizenship, or your credit worthiness, without revealing exact identifying details that could trigger biases, we can greatly reduce the influence they place on our decisions, unknowingly. If we’re only given the absolute minimum required amount of information, then that’s what we’ll be forced to use to make our decisions.

Most of the reasons for identification I listed above really only require a “yes or no” answer. Is this person legal to work here? Yes or no. Is this person permitted to be in or enter this country? Yes or no? Is this persons credit good enough for this loan, or this interest rate? Yes or no. Being able to provably provide that “yes or no” answer without providing any other details about yourself is a game changer for fighting our inner arseholes.

If you apply this same principle to things like lending, housing, college applications, criminal justice, etc… it could be a powerful weapon against the Three Isms of Destruction. If this were common practice across every action in our society where we are required to provide personal information in order to receive or provide something, this would be an amazing step towards ending some of the problems that have plagued humanity forever and have prevented my very own country from ever being able to heal from the absolute raging dumpster fire the people born before me created.

Fixing The Meatspace

meat space

Obviously it’s difficult to control biases in the meat space, lord knows many of lawyers have tried though. At some point you’re going to have to show people your face or let them smell you, and at that point people will quickly realize that you’re actually an extra terrestrial entity without a physical body. But! It’s still better! It’s still a good place to start! Mostly because, most people won’t be arseholes face to face. So once you’re past the gate, you’re in.

With anonymity at the first level of application, you reduce your odds that a single, or small group of individuals personal biases will have too much influence over your organizations culture. For example, if your HR review gatekeepers send every qualified candidate to your hiring manager, then those candidates have a better chance to be hired. It’s possible your hiring manager doesn’t have the same biases, or is more personally aware of them than your HR gatekeeper.

It’s not perfect, but it reduces your odds. It increases your efficiency. It also adds a check and balance. You can increase this check and balance by having different managers conduct the different interview stages, as long as they don’t know anything about the potential candidate (other than qualifications) before they walk through that door or into that Zoom meeting. You can’t let the previous managers biases (notes or words) leak through into the next person though.

Decentralized ZK Identities would be really effective in scenario’s where the first gatekeeper is the only gatekeeper. Things like credit applications, insurance purchases, banking services, etc.. in this scenario you submit an application and a single person in the organization approves or denies it. This creates an enormous liability for a business.

For example, if you’re a large multinational bank, and a loan officer in one of your branches has a burning hatred for Russians because of their total and complete domination of the sport of Chess, and that bias causes him to wrongly deny poor Svetlana for a business loan. She goes somewhere else, she makes that other bank money, she sues you for discrimination… yadda yadda yadda, all I hear is LIABILITIES. Do you now understand how having only the necessary information is an asset, but having too much information is a liability?

Bootstrapping A Positive Meatback Loop

meat strapping

Soooo… if we can increase the odds that qualified Svetlana’s get hired, then theoretically, you should have more Svetlana’s working there and contributing. I believe, that is all that will be needed start a positive feedback loop that reduces The Three Isms Of Destruction down to a rounding error over time.

Most people, when confronted with something that repeatedly contradicts their biases, will change their attitude given enough time and exposure to those contradictions. That is to mean, when their biases are regularly contradicted, they will change them… or they’ll go totally bat-shit crazy. Most people just change them though. That means if more Svetlana’s are contributing, working with or around your arsehole gatekeepers, the less likely their negative biases will influence their future decisions!

That means you’re helping your current employees grow as human beings, without silly training courses that try to make them feel bad for having unknown biases, and you’ve significantly reduced the liability of the isms causing damage to your business, and people who were previously victims of your arseholery have greatly improved chances at creating success for themselves. It’s a Win/Win/Win! Those people who’s perspective has been changed will then carry this information out into their peer groups where they learned their negative biases in the first place! The meatback loop!

In Summation

The world is quickly becoming a place where having too much information is no longer an advantage. It’s a giant liability on so many levels. The problem is, for humans, too much information causes confusion. Too many choices make us not want to choose anything at all, so when humans are still expected or required to make a decision, they will always revert back to using their lizard brain to choose. The primitive one.

Who can blame them really? The lizard brain got them this far didn’t it? When nothing makes any sense, the lizard brain has always gotten humanity through the tough times. There’s no place for the lizard brain anymore though. He causes more problems than he fixes nowadays. So let’s make it easy for humans to use their real brain, so they don’t even have to wake their lizard brain up anymore… and maybe one day the lizard brain will fall asleep, never to wake again.

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  1. Fantastic write! I wish the ideas you mention here were already readily available apps and software we could use today. Hope you inspire the right person with your excellent content. Thanks man