Facing the Dragon of Identity

To manage our planetary assets equitably we must be known

by Mike Meyer ~ Honolulu ~ October 12, 2020

Its time to face the dragon. Since we have a surfeit of dragons and need to deal with them all, we must determine the sequence. For those of us in America, that choice is overwhelmed by our slide into failed state status, albeit still a rich one. But the cause of the immediate US collapse is not the most frightening dragon out there.

We need to pick the most critical and dangerous dragons to fight. Although noisy, smelly, and dangerous, Donald Trump is still mostly a localized US problem. However, the disastrous election on November 3 ends; the US will continue its rapid decline. The only distinction is whether a mildly reformist and legitimate government attempts to slow the slide by rearranging the deck chairs or an insane version of pseudo fascism steals the election, and the nation implodes.

The sad reality is that the planet has already learned it does not need the US anymore. Four years of incompetence and absurdity has devastated the market for all things American. The exceptions are high-end digital services that are dominant planetwide, higher education, and entertainment.

The rogue nation-state level of autonomy may be short-lived for the US megacorporations as the planet bands together to force them into competition. The future is China, India, and Africa, with China heavily invested in Africa and India courting a neo-fascist collapse. While the digital megacorps swallow up all remaining smaller businesses in the pandemic distortion of the extreme capitalist economy, the endless growth economies cannot survive more than five more years without risk of critical collapse.

Higher education has finally hit full digital disruption courtesy of the pandemic. The most successful research universities will complete the takeover of online education just as giant digital corporations are scooping up smaller businesses as they succumb to the economic collapse. The emerging online research universities can survive in the new order as they are corrupt but not inherently capitalist monsters. They will remain independent. The example will be Ox-bridge surviving the death of the British empire.

Entertainment is a hybrid digital industry, but the US dominant form has been a product of the planet’s lead lifestyle. The destruction of that brand by Trump and the Trump Party accelerates entertainment diversification to the southern hemisphere, Europe, China, and Africa. America does not have anything that people want to see, and that includes the majority of Americans. The hope is VR as entertainment, and the dominance of gaming as more extensive than the old video and film industry is international.

The American military empire’s loss will go slowly and unremarked, just as Rome’s western legions tended to disappear into their respective assigned regions. Coming home may not be much to wish for, and their assignment locations may be a better choice. This breakup will leave vast military equipment and facilities in some eighty-five countries.

Still, the iron fist empowering US-led capitalist domination will be gone, and China is hard at work already replacing it without the vast military waste. Until militarism is controlled, there will continue to be an enormous market for US military products and a secondary market for its global waste. The importance of this iron fist for capitalist domination will hasten the US megacorporations decline.

All of this will clean itself up once the neofascist idiocy self destructs in the infected regional nation-states. These are all small dragons of acceptance and adjustment, although large for affected empires. These culminating changes are part of the old colonial and newer imperial breakup that began in the 20th century.

Our climate catastrophe is the overarching disaster, but it is many dragons attacking us. That is what makes it so frightening, like a cave full of poisonous snakes. We know it requires a complete restructuring of our cultures, societies, economies, and political systems to create a planetary level administrative structure and rights judiciary.

Making those changes and removing failed governments who ignore this requirement is the most massive political and economic battle we, as a species, will ever have. The majority of the human population understands this, but how much effort are we willing to make? How much are we ready to change?

Identity Management

That brings us to the slippery dragon at the foundation of all the social changes. That dragon is identity management and social credit.

This is the dragon of facial recognition, credit ratings, social credit rewards, authoritarian controls, and voter suppression. It is also the means of reestablishing trust in large, networked, mobile societies, removing barriers to population movement, and assurance of shared planetary assets and all services.

The condition desired by the forces of authoritarianism and feudal warlordism is chaos. The fear of chaos allows opportunists to frighten people and gain control by offering protection and security in exchange for exploitation at an ever-increasing scale. Authoritarian feudalism inevitably includes racism and bigotry to allow infinite creation of chaotic threats. It builds walls and isolates people into exploitable groups.

Identity is only allowed to those who support the power structure. All others are faceless and illegitimate and justifiably denied rights and services. This ancient system of control grew from human tribalism and reached its modern form in 19th-century nationalism. Both of these are now diseases that will destroy our planet and our species unless we eliminate them.

This dragon’s slipperiness comes from fear of allowing society to know who we are. That holds us responsible for our actions while making us subject to potential unjust government exploitation. Dependent on cultural traditions, anonymity is freedom or outlawry or both — the weighting of that opposition is the key to our future.

A quick look at two examples illustrates this nicely. The US’s current political collapse is the product of many things, but the primary battle is voter registration for the November 3, 2020 election. The conflict should not exist as all US citizens have the right to vote. But the increasingly fascist minority regime has held power for decades only by suppressing minority citizen votes. This effort to suppress voting relies on creating artificial threats to hide the actual danger to voter suppression and manipulation. The US expectation is that the election will fail due to fabricated illegal voting claims to force the decision away from the election result and into a politically loaded court.

What is the basis of these claims? Identity as citizens. There is no standard identity method for people in the US because technically sophisticated identity documentation is used increasingly but is not allowed in national voting. There is no biometrically, certified resident identity system. Instead, as managers of elections, states use various documents to prove identity, and these are often difficult to produce for the poor, the informally employed, or those without property ownership.

The majority of the US employed population are subject to biometric identity checks daily at their employment. But this is not allowed for claiming citizen rights. We now use biometric identity, fingerprint, retinal scan, or face recognition to access our financial accounts and services throughout the day, but this is not valid for voting or accessing our share of national assets. This use of arbitrary identity management decisions to deny rights is ridiculous and allows the long history of vote suppression and manipulation.

In America, the ideal is the outlaw who can hide from responsibility and recognition or fake identity as needed. Equating this with freedom in human society is suspicious as it only benefits an authoritarian form of rule to suppress rights for parts of the citizen population. This problem could be corrected by digital identity management for everyone, but this is rejected as an infringement on freedom or privacy. However, authenticated identity is a fact in a crowded networked world.

The steady rise of the US as a militarized police state is happening anyway. The need for proof of identity to use air transportation has quietly forced extensive background documentation to convert state drivers licenses into pseudo national, digital identity cards for travel. Note that this continues the policy of limiting identity to those who can afford automobiles and travel. Note that control of travel is a traditional means of population oppression in police states. Security against illegitimate people is an easy justification.

A different approach is in development in China and many other countries. Social credit systems combine national biometric identity with digital and biometric tracking in public locations such as streets, train stations, and public services. The social tracking aspect uses confirmed biometric identity to assign responsibility for dangerous, individual disruptive actions that infringe on others’ rights. Rewards in services result from favored activities and limitations on travel, plus fines result from discouraged acts such as jaywalking.

For Chinese, 80% of the population supports and encourages this combined biometric identification and social credit system for security and restores trust in their society. This strong support in China suggests that simplistic attitudes toward social credit systems with robust identity management are far more complex than we think.

Robust identity management is both a threat and a tool for improved social trust. How can we achieve the benefits of that trust while removing the evil of oppression and political exploitation? What is the actual risk of robust identity management at the social administration level?

The US population has little accurate information on this system and almost none on its goals. The emphasis is the assumed loss of anonymity and ‘freedom.’ part of this is understandable as China’s government is openly authoritarian and the social credit system, there are many in development by different areas, oppresses minority populations. But these are also used to suppress public display of religion that is discouraged in China. Eliminating intrusive displays of religion is something that many people would accept if it did not punish personal choice and action. How can that be done?

Rethinking Identity

The critical reorganization of human societies to meet the planetary threat requires removing identity management from arbitrary governmental entities of dubious legitimacy. Human rights and planetary assets allocation need biometric identity and active tracking in public areas for security and service provisioning. There is no way around this. Humanities days of easy outlawry are over.

Problems come from illegitimate governments abusing the systems that give them control over people. This problem is not an inherent fault of digital administrative systems but the abuse of humans in positions of authority shaping those systems to selfish ends.

Specifically, this is a question of ownership and control of information. The growing problems in contemporary societies struggling to begin a massive change for survival are dealing with a failed economic and political structure built on greed, profit, and exploitation as legitimate. It is no longer so and must be changed.

Much work has been done over the last century or so on creating a just and sustainable administrative system. Much of this has focused on social credit and economic democracy, including in the US. My goal here is not to solve the enormous problem and slay a formidable dragon but to begin rethinking and exploring options.

Using AI and networked technology is the only means open to us to avoid past disasters caused by incompetent management. It may be that humans are not suited to this process due to the inability to prevent bigotry and self-interest. But we need to define the rules and protections and set the goals for a fair and sustainable planetary culture.

Here are some links to work that has been done and seems right to reconsider with contemporary technology:

The complicated truth about China’s social credit system …

Economic Democracy*

Social Credit*

The dragons that we face in the climate crisis will require complete social reorganization to eliminate waste and unsustainable actions. These must be handles equitably with educational consistency. Whether we wish it or not, Social Credit systems are the future. If we manage, then we have hope of preventing an authoritarian disaster.

*Thanks to Liam Allone for references to Economic Democracy and Credit history

Educator, CIO, retired entrepreneur, grandfather with occasional fits of humor in the midst of disaster. . .

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