2011-07-28 11:04 pm
Entry tags:

On Identities

I've been thinking about identities a bit lately, mostly catalyzed by friends of mine engaging me in discussion about the difference between pseudonyms and identities. As I see it, pseudonyms are separate names for the same underlying identity, whereas identities are actually separate _people_ somehow. Under this set of definitions, I go to some pains to maintain multiple separate _identities_, with each identity being more or less a logically separate person. In my head, identities are mapped one-to-one onto PGP keys, more or less; as a consequence, my work persona (and corresponding work public key) is literally a separate persona from my private personae (and their public keys).

I think that this is how all identities should work everywhere (including meatspace): identity is keypair, with new identities able to be conjured at will. Cryptography makes identities unforgeable (more or less) and non-repudiable, while still allowing different identities for different contexts. I think sometimes about what it would be like to have a coprocessor in my head that could do cryptographic operations and secure key storage for me - if I could store a few keypairs and various other cryptographic information in my head, I'd definitely do it.

Actually, that's sort of an interesting question: if you had a coprocessor in your head with reasonable amounts of storage and computational power (bearing in mind that you are dissipating heat into your own body, and drawing power from it or something), what would you do? I'd store keys first of all (identity keys, probably a half-dozen or so of the most important/regularly-used ones, then some symmetric keys for backup tarballs in well-known places), then probably an indexed, searchable survival manual (personal preservation :)) and a dump of as much of civilization's total knowledge as possible (how much *is* that, anyway?). Being able to write code without any external hardware would be _extremely_ neat.

To come back to my point, the idea I like here is voluntary, free, durable pseudonymity, backed up by a petname system (i.e., my key can have attached metadata saying "I desire to be known as redgirl", to be presented to a recipient for local name<->key binding, or overruled). Really, I think this is the way social interaction should be done.