My solution to the Identification Problem

Tailored for democratic monetary systems

So I’ve been trying to see how I could improve on the democratic.money simulation and turn it into an actual monetary system.

Democratic monetary systems that generate money by paying an Universal Basic Income to all people serviced by that system need a solution to the identification problem. An identification system must ensure three properties:

  • Existence: an identity record must describe a person that exists. The identity does not describe a fictitious entity. Also, when people die, the record must be erased;
  • Uniqueness: a person that exists must not be described by two or more separate identity records. They are either described by one record, or none at all;
  • Binding: an identity record must be controlled by the person that it describes. For example, if the identity record contains, in its published (public) part, a cryptographic public key, then the system must make sure that the matching cryptographic private key is possessed and controlled by that person. If the person loses their private key, the identity system must allow the identified person (and only them) to set a new private key for themselves, and to update the published public key.

My solution is the following.

A person’s identity is split into a public part and a private part. The public part is available for the world to see and query, and contains the following information:

  • Name (self-assigned, social name);
  • Date of birth;
  • Place of birth;
  • Selfie photo (like typical document photos and social media avatars);
  • One or more links to digital presence (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, blog, public e-mail address, etc.);
  • A public key.

The private part of a person’s identity is:

  • E-mail address (for private contact);
  • Phone number;
  • Photos of documents.

The identification system is made of independent, private identity providers. Anyone can run their own identity provider in a free market of such providers. The identity provider contacts the person (left to the identity provider to decide, e.g. email contact, phone call, Skype, in-person, referrals, etc.), asks for personal data, documents and photo (identity provider decides which ones, which quality settings etc.) and then manages the existence, uniqueness and binding for all identities they manage.

Identity providers can then network in some fashion, and that is also left for them to decide when and how to do so. Identity providers can extend uniqueness checks and harden existence requirements by networking.

The public part of people’s identities is published on the internet. Identity providers function as oracles to democratic monetary systems. For example, the democratic.money server could quickly, effortlessly plug into any identity providers that existed. All it would take is a list of identity provider domains and code to query their public APIs.


So now all I have to do is implement my own personal identity provider system (which I will personally operate), and the people I identify will beta-test the peer-to-peer democratic monetary system I will create.

So you see, there are two components: Identity, and Money. I have solved the Identity system to the extent it serves the goals of the kind of Money I want to create.

It is not a perfect solution to the identity problem by any means, and not everyone will like it or want to participate in it. However, I believe it strikes an excellent balance between risk and functionality (a massive improvement from my idealist dream that people would publish their documents online).

It is also an exclusionary system. However, money itself is exclusionary. To operate money, you need a minimum level of competence as an administrator of identifiers and passwords, a basic level of computer operation literacy (for “online banking”), a basic level of personal organization (to store devices, passwords, physical paper money, etc.), basic psychological defenses (to avoid revealing your secrets to others who try to manipulate you), and even basic physical defenses and strategies (to avoid being robbed of your physical money). Those who can’t hold money today already depend on others to hold it for them, and hand it out to them piecemeal so they can spend. And in extreme cases, they are not reached by money directly, but indirectly, by being physically taken care of by others who trade and bank on their behalf.

Money is a stupid, simple points system. That is why you can “rob” someone. It is a board game with pieces, and the pieces represent a person’s inalienable share of social access to the things they want (or “need”) out of their environment (a healthy person only wants what they need; the separation between “need” and “want” is a distortion of trade society). If you take people’s game pieces away from them, you take a game accelerator to social recognition of their right to exist. You don’t take their actual claim to what they need, but you take the only guaranteed, efficient and dignifying way they currently have, in our society, of getting access to what they need. In a totalitarian trade society, once a person’s pieces are gone, they are essentially gone too. Not too different from tribal banishment in earlier societies. No money = no social approval = no social power = death.

My system aggravates the problem of money being an exclusionary system, where people need skills and technology to be able to play and avoid being robbed. But we have to start somewhere, and it is more important that the system is sound at first than that it can reach 100% of people. The current monetary system is tanking; it favors 0.1% of people, which are the ones living off of interest and money creation. If my system can democratically reach 20% of people with its democratic, Universal Basic Income of created money, then it is 200 times better than the current one (at least).

It is clear that the Money serviced by this Identity system is a peer-to-peer system, and a “cryptocurrency,” a decentralized form of digital money that can’t be either cheated (“hacked”) or censored (shut down). It may or may not be a “blockchain.” Perhaps it is like one of the systems I have been describing here on Medium. Feel free to dig through my past stories; look for the “Replica” system, as that’s a strong candidate.

We’ll see.