Why identity is critical for successful communities — Sandra Miller, Democracy Earth

On February 27, 2019, Sandra Miller from Democracy Earth spoke to @distributionjoe and @jsgordon about the critical role that identity plays in forming communities that we can trust.

Democracy Earth enables token-based community participation, through a design prioritizing open source, peer to peer and human centered architecture. The platform launched on the mainnet on March 1. For cryptocurrency projects, Democracy Earth is a crypto governance platform that projects are able to use with their own token.

Following is a summary of our discussion; Sandra’s responses are sometimes paraphrased:

What is community?

Community is a perception, a perceived connection between a group of people with overlapping interests. There are overlaps between aspects of self between members of a group.

Community isn’t a place or merely a membership.

We are all part of multiple communities. In the future, citizens will be members of hundreds of different communities. What makes you unique would be the set of communities that you are a part of and that you are part of the governance of. Communities, not nation/states, will provide for a lot of our needs.

Blockchains are political organizations

Blockchains themselves are organizations. They redefine communities. Democracy Earth is doing work with Radical Exchange and Glen Weyl who co-wrote Radical Markets: Uprooting Capitalism and Democracy for a Just Society. The political experiment of 20th century was communism, which failed. Democracy Earth believes that the experiment for the 21st century will be blockchain. You can hear more from Glen Weyl and Democracy Earth’s founder, Santiago Siri on this recent podcast:


Threat to the future of community

Before this vision can come to fruition, we have to deal with the threat to identity. AI is the biggest threat to democracy. Ninety five percent of people see the pictures below as actual humans but none of them are real. This is a frontier that we have to cross — how do we identify humans that are not created by AI?

We cannot be sure who is in our community unless we understand their identity. None of these images is of a real person; they are created by AI.

Facebook as a threat

To the team at Democracy Earth, Facebook is the biggest threat to democracy. Facebook became the most influential political force of the modern world because it formalized humans on the web. The influence of AI in politics is getting stronger after every election.

Facebook has become the most influential political force because it formalized humans on the web. Mark Zuckerberg has called Facebook a community, but Sandra doesn’t agree. The community of Facebook is bigger than the population of India or China, but one man has all of the power — that’s not a community. Facebook is an advertising company. We can vote with likes or our reactions, but our votes only serve to benefit the advertiser.

Whoever controls the identities controls elections

During the last US presidential election, we watched Facebook be invaded by fake information/disinformation and foreign forces. Who controls the registry becomes a very important question. Facebook is more or less controlling the registry as a centralized advertising company.

Why do we care about centralization? Identities in the digital realm are being stolen. Some 1.5 billion identities actually accessible. There is an 89% chance that your identity has been compromised.

To prove identity, we need to know who is human

Knowing that the one who controls the registry controls democracy. We need a consensus mechanism for human participants that can keep out non-human participants. We need to formalize humans on the blockchain in a way we can trust our communities.

The keys to proving identity are that people need to prove that they are:

  • Human / not a robot, not AI
  • Singular not a sybil / not a person in control of multiple keys
  • Free from coercion

Proving identity on the blockchain

The first person to have her identity recorded on the blockchain was the daughter of the Democracy Earth founder, Santiago Siri. To prove his daughter is a person, Santiago hashed videos of his daughter and witnesses, and her birth certificate to the blockchain.


Democracy Earth has developed a system of formalizing people in blockchains which key to unleashing governance that is democratic and to building inclusive networks.

  1. They use Turing Impossible Proofs and private information
  2. They create a reputation-based Trust Graph that allows people to affirm one another on a peer-to-peer level as members of the community
  3. They issue an ERC725 token to affirm the identity of a non-sybil human

Benefits of identity on the blockchain

This process is a way for people to have identity that’s not dependent on a nation/state’s certification. The ERC725 token acts as a decentralized version of a passport. Anyone on the network will have passed the first question: are you human? This can be used where people are being denied identity including the 65 M refugees and the 1.1B citizens that lack a formal identity.

The token signifies your legitimate identity without revealing your actual identity This is especially important for communities living under authoritarianism.

The most radical possibility of Democracy Earth and its protocol is that someday we might be worthy of not having governments any more. That’s what blockchain could offer us.

Blockchain communities are a social movement

Blockchain technology is really exciting. It’s a social movement. It makes the possibility of creating a global communities to address climate change, terrorism, refugees and other social problems.

Stephen Jay Gould said that “I don’t see any problem with religion and science co-existing. The two comprise non overlapping magisteria.” Every community you are a part of is overlapping magisteria. In the future, we will break away from centralized definitions of how we become members of the communities.

Blockchain identity can be used to maintain privacy

The best use for this technology in democracy and governance — outside of crypto — is for failing nation/states. Movements have reached out to Democracy Earth from existing nation/states in a state of failure. Argentina — where almost everyone has access to the Internet and smartphones — was the cauldron.

To hold a secret vote in Venezuela or Nicaragua is very dangerous. Movements could leverage the Democracy Earth platform because the identity token protects who people are, while affirming that they are real.

“… Through the creation of an independent international forum, isolated from the influence of nationalist governments spreading hate through propaganda, ordinary people in the Arab world would be able to address the structural problems their societies face.”

Jamal Khashoggi

October 17, 2018


Community is powerful. Harness it to grow your organization.

@Judy Gordon

Written by



Community is powerful. Harness it to grow your organization.

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