Blockchain and self-sovereign ID: We can build a better world with software

People throw snow toward riot police as they demonstrate in front of Romanian government headquartersDaniel Mihailescu/AFP

A sovereignist agenda is building a new world order. The dialectical opposition to this will drive advancement towards a synthesis of self-sovereign identity, decentralised reputation, digital currency and ultimately new forms of governance.

The election of a new and unmeasured type of regime in the US, and the UK voting to stop the flow of people from the EU, have caused hundreds of thousands of people to take to the streets in recent weeks, and also in protest at foul and corrupt governments in Romania, South Korea and Brazil.

Meanwhile, people in India flocked to Bitcoin late last year after its government shocked and dismayed citizens when they announced the demonetisation of the 500 and 1000 rupee notes.

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The foundation for a potentially better new world will be the next internet generation, and the cornerstone of this will be digital identity. Identity on the internet is currently both centralised and balkanised: identities are piecemeal, differing from one internet domain to another. Systems like blockchain could bring a kind of ontological parsimony to digital identity, because in a digital context, where things can be copied and distributed easily at no cost at all, the Bitcoin blockchain solved the problem of ensuring that one thing (a coin) could be only one place at any time.

In the world of identity, similar systems could be used to allow any person, organisation or thing to have an identity claim or relationship with any other. Using these identities and resulting relationships, without some intervening authority, is known as self-sovereign identity.

Extreme circumstances call for extreme measures. During the refugee crisis which is still happening in Europe, a blockchain startup called Bitnation announced that it would issue digital IDs on a blockchain ledger to refugees. This would at least allow them to receive funds in Bitcoin from the family and friends they had left behind.

Bitnation has partnered with the government of Estonia to work on blockchain identity, and it also offers marriage on the blockchain anywhere for any combination of creed, gender or religion. Bitnation's ultimate goal is grand indeed: the establishment of entire jurisdictions on a blockchain with new governance models and their own decentralised currencies – in other words new "nations".

In a YouTube video just uploaded, a young Romanian software developer called Gabi, who has been out on the streets protesting against his corrupt government, explains how he has registered a new digital nation in his hometown of Iashi.

Some 300,000 protestors took to the streets following an unconstitutional decree to decriminalise certain corruption offenses. The decree, which is now being withdrawn, would have decriminalised abuse of power offences when sums of less than €44,000 (£38,000; $47,500) are involved. One immediate beneficiary would have been Liviu Dragnea, who leads the ruling PSD party and faces charges of defrauding the state of €24,000.

"He was making a law for himself, by his party," said Gabi. "It made me decide to register the bitnation.ro domain and start establishing a digital city in my home town of Iashi. Hopefully other cities in Romania will follow."

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Susanne Templehof, founder of Bitnation, said: "We have seen a lot more people joining Bitnation and creating their own local versions of it during the protests in Brazil and South Korea. It's an interesting development. People are not satisfied with the status quo. Why should we have to choose in each jurisdiction just one government service provider that lasts for four years?"

Bitnation's 'governance 2.0' system works alongside the powerful Ethereum public blockchain community. Templehof provides practical advice on starting a nation. "Start by looking at governance service agreements. People normally start a nation with a flag and a national anthem. I would say do that last."

Bitnation is not alone. The recent London Blockchain Week saw much time devoted to 'blockchain for good' applications, such as DonorCoin, which is linked to UNICEF, and is looking to tokenise aid in places like Africa so it can't be misappropriated by corrupt officials.

Another entrant is the Awakening Sovereignty Collective (ASC), which is a blockchain-based "modular, replicable, infinitely expansive system of cooperative governance and value distribution".

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ASC's statement of intent reads: "Our structure allows for any number of organisations and individuals to come together as SOVEREIGN entities and share resources, tools and knowledge in a way that synergistically uplifts every member collaborating by multiplicatively creating and sharing value.

"We build communities, facilitate cooperative businesses, fund humanitarian causes, grow gardens and forests, engineer advanced political and environmental solutions, create and distribute high quality media experiences, connect people to knowledge, products and services ​that empower complete freedom and enlightened states of being."

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