I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Who you are is a function of:
- what you stand for
- what you belong to (both blood as well as thunder)
- what you like (and what you dislike)
- what you’ve done (and what you’d like to do)
Sure there are many other things. Ways to contact you. The size of your wallet. All kinds of things that other people use to “define” you: your age, gender, marital status, number of dependents, address.
Interestingly, these mattered when “socio-economic groupings” meant something, when “marketing” could predict your propensity to buy something based on all the boxes they put you into. [If you’re interested in hearing a worthwhile rant on this subject, try and spend some time with Professor Richard Scase, “Futurescase” as he gets called. I’ve relished the privilege.]
Today, the marketers are in trouble. Socio-economic groupings mean jack when it comes to predicting purchase propensity. Long tails weave their equalising ways across class and gender and hirsuteness, or lack of.
In the meantime, everyone else (bar the marketers) is into biometrics. And maybe that’s acceptable. Was a shibboleth an early form of biometric identification? Well, at least the shibboleth identified someone as a member of a group (or not, as the case may be). You see, one of the problems we face with modern definitions of privacy and confidentiality is deeply connected to this need for a protected need for individuality.
We are going to have villages and towns and cities where the computing device is communal. Where that communal device uses opensource software and open standards and open platforms and open open open.
And we’re going to have to work out what identity means there. Not identity from a narrow financial-transaction point of view. But identity in the context of sharing information. Digital information. Letters. Photographs. Films. Music. Books. Whatever.
Communal devices. Communal devices that work when the local power grid goes down. Communal devices that don’t go obsolescent in 18 months. Communal devices that do their bit about global warming.
Hey, let’s be careful out there. This is why I am so concerned about the garbage that gets one in the name of DRM and IPR. Have you really tried to use a “family” PC after Windows 95? One that three or four people use regularly, who are happy to share their files. If only they could.
An aside, still about identity. When I look at startups, one of the things that I check out very carefully is how the core team got together. Did they grow up in the same neighbourhood? Hang out in the same places? Know the same people? Go to the same university?
I’ve always felt this is important. Unless the core has some independent grounding, some reason to be together, they’re going to come apart when trouble comes their way. And every startup will hit trouble sometime in the early years.
In similar vein, I tend to check out what makes a group come together. Take America. The folk rock band, I mean, the ones who gave us Don’t Cross The River and Ventura Highway. [And Horse With No Name and Sandman, but those are not my favourites…].
Do you know how they got together? They were all sons of US GIs stationed west of London, in Ruislip, Middlesex. Their mothers were all British. They attended the same school. They broke up before they really got started, in 1969. And then came together in time to savour their success.
Just goes to show.