Identity as a Process

Part Two


A new way of looking at, or reading, an identity

While identity is modeled as a noun in the old paradigm, in the new paradigm it is modeled as an active process. It’s more akin to a set of complete sentences with a complete grammar — a story.

When identity is modeled through Proof of Process (PoP), the identity of the user is reflected in real time through her actions. This is the new paradigm of identity, as established in the first part of this series.

In the old paradigm, identity is modeled in an isolated way with through a unique user id, which is then included in transaction logs for reference and authentication with access control systems.

The old paradigm is a classic example of confusing identity with a proper name. A user id is a remnant of the old way of modeling identity. A proper name is just a convenient reference to refer to a person. It is not a unique representation of the full picture of an identity, as identity covers the whole span of events, ideas and opinions of a person throughout a lifetime.

While identity is modeled as a noun in the old paradigm, in the new paradigm it is modeled as an active process, so it is more akin to a set of complete sentences with a complete grammar — a story.

Instead of modeling the identity of Alice as a noun with her user id, swe can picture digital identity process as an ever unfolding story, ‘Alice who lives in the 10th district of Paris as confirmed by EDF Utility Bill, las week transferred $100 to Bob who lives in Berlin…’

Stories modeled as information systems can be represented as graphs of processes.

A simple linear chain, as modeled with blockchains, is a good starting point for modeling processes. However they fall short whenever we need to split a process into two, merge many into few or when processes cross paths. We need process graphs in order to model identity using stories, because graph data structures allow branching, merging and intersecting.

In a story-based identity, nouns and verbs are interrelated to build meaningful and contextualized models of digital identity. And the process graph keeps evolving automatically with every new event in the life of the user.

In fact each episode of the life of a user or enterprise could be modeled as a separate story or a group of stories. This story model of identity allows multiple users to be correlated on points of intersection within the context of an episode.

The verification of any identity data can be based around life episodes, making it a contextualized verification. An example could be the question: ‘Did Alice ever live in Paris when she gave $100 to Bob?’ This question could be framed within the context of the episode of Alice’s life when she was earning a regular salary and living in Paris.

Some of the source information in the identity stories could even come from fixed points of data (nouns) from other systems, as long as they are trusted and can be integrated into the existing stories describing Alice’s life.

With PoP, modeling identity as a process lends itself to contextualized verification and data analytics. Furthermore, PoP tokens allow for a shorthand way of referencing the consolidated life of the user while being able to locate and prove each individual life event. As PoP is built on cryptography, proof systems and blockchains, it ensures that the integrity of this process, or the truthfulness of the story, is always XFintact.

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Anuj Das Gupta is a researcher and technologist.

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