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Re: First pass at CG naming goals and restrictions google doc

From: Christopher Allen <ChristopherA@blockstream.com>
Date: Wed, 31 May 2017 22:57:57 -0700
Message-ID: <CA+HTxFcWP0vKaGvpuSU6k7v8fvjvSpdqUa5mdCjbivs-hd9h=Q@mail.gmail.com>
To: Timothy Holborn <timothy.holborn@gmail.com>
Cc: Philip Sheldrake <philip@eulerpartners.com>, Adrian Gropper <agropper@healthurl.com>, Kim Hamilton <kimdhamilton@gmail.com>, Credentials CG <public-credentials@w3.org>
I worked very hard reviewing various terminology alternatives before
deciding to use the term “self-sovereign identity” for our technology — I
wrote about the decision process as well about 10 initial principles of
self-sovereign identity at
which was also republished by Coindesk.

A key point about the choice of the word “sovereign” is that in the legal
history of the term, sovereign always has edges — a nation is sovereign to
its borders, but not further. For individuals, “the right to swing your arm
ends just where the other man’s nose begins” is also a very old concept.
(That, and some other choice quotes is at
) Natalie Smolenski wrote about this a bit in
where she talks about sovereignty on the high seas. I personally believe we
currently are in a major historical age of renegotiation of what
sovereignty means — in the past this has been from war leaders to barons,
barons to feudalism, cities to nations, multi-nationals, toward today where
everything is being re-thought (EU -> Brexit -> Scottish Independence ->
Gloucester’s worries about Edinburgh is a great example).

The biggest objection to the term was that there are some conservative
protesters and kooks that object to the sovereignty of nation states
entirely, which is called the “sovereign citizen movement” ( see
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sovereign_citizen_movement ) — the arguments
against that particular corruption of the word were compelling, however, in
the end I decided, partly on the basis of the suggestion in a podcast by a
professional comic that said lean into the emotions of words, to use
“self-sovereign identity”. This proved to work quite well, starting at the
ID2020 conference at the United Nations, where they were quite compelled by
the name because in the UN’s POV, identity is a human right, not a
nation-state process. Today google reports that are over 11,000 references
to the phrase “self-sovereign identity”.

Some of the better links:


There are many other terms in the past (see my original article) but my
hope is that self-sovereign is less corruptible than terms like
“user-centric identity” were in the past.

— Christopher Allen
Received on Thursday, 1 June 2017 05:59:03 UTC

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