Re: The "self-sovereign" problem (was: The SSI protocols challenge)

I am inclined to think it does matter how one sells the technology to
policymakers since they will most likely ignore what you say and look for
evidence of bottom up adoption, so as to gain reassurance the thing works.

As such, I'm inclined to agree that the mixing of politics and technology
within this space needs unmixing. Whether futurists, poets or engineers,
hopefully we all want our work to be coherent and elegant.

The VC standard effectively describes a messaging format -- and IMO does
that job well. As such it, and associated matters of VC adoption, should be
aimed squarely at developers. Such a decision should be invisible to policy

In the scenario where policymakers must agree on a specific format, such as
VCs, to achieve wider interoperability, they will surely look for
reassurance that the thing works and works in a wide array of business
cases, etc. Such questions are often answered by looking at what
development teams are doing.

It is for this reason I think there needs to be a much greater focus within
the VC community on appealing to developers. That might expose one
elephant, for example, which is that JSON-LD is still poorly supported and
has redundant complexity in comparison with the elegance of RDF and JSON on
which it also depends. That is not a criticism of the work to date, which I
think is excellent. It's more that turning focus away from whether
blockchain can cure world poverty or SSI can defeat facebook and towards
whether VC can be incorporated into your project tomorrow will better help
to take the technology to the next level. That would drive adoption and
help in discussions with policymakers.

On Mon, 22 Mar 2021 at 18:37, Heather Vescent <>

> I know folks on this list love to be precise in their language... ah,
> gotta love the engineer's mind. But I want to provide a futurist/poet's
> perspective.
> As Manu wrote, and many of us know first-hand, there are socio-cultural
> issues with the term "self-sovereign." It has baggage specifically from a
> western individualist libertarian perspective. Some people use
> "self-sovereign" with these assumptions attached, others fight against
> those assumptions. The general business consensus is that that term
> (self-sovereign) is too charged, and the interpretations people bring to
> it, get in the way of communicating the benefits. (See Microsoft's first
> whitepaper using Decentralized Identity & aside: I would have changed the
> title of the Comprehensive Guide to SSI but it was already out there in the
> world.)
> "Decentralized identity" is a *better* choice. Others use "self-asserted,"
> I think this has some of the same socio-cultural issues that
> "Self-sovereign" has. (I did a survey asking specifically this question
> about a year ago, but I have not done a detailed data analysis, so these
> are off the cuff comments.) IMHO, the term that will describe the
> technology we are creating (SSI/DI/SA/DIDs/VCs) hasn't been coined yet. And
> even more controversial, I doubt it will be coined by anyone in this
> community or an early adopter.
> Why? Because we are swimming in a world of biases - biases because we are
> co-creators of the vision and technology of SSI. And we are hyper technical
> in this community, which is not reflective of society at large.
> I don't think this is really a big deal. Use whichever term you like with
> the appropriate caveats until the defining term comes along. Maybe take a
> moment to get real with yourself on why you like that particular term. A
> lot of people like the unconscious/challenging authority attributions of
> "self sovereign."
> IMHO, making what we are doing/creating in this community more accessible
> to outsiders, with their fresh view unadulterated by our years of
> philosophical discussion is what will give us clarity on the potential
> impact of our work here - which may lead to a better socio-cultural verbal
> identifier.
> -H
> On Mon, Mar 22, 2021 at 9:22 AM victorsyntez <>
> wrote:
>> +100  to this perspective, especially #3. Many Asian countries and a
>> number of European countries consider community stability more important
>> than individual freedoms. We can't expect them to agree with the notion
>> that privacy and self-sovereignity of the digital identity is more
>> important that government oversight of the digital identity.
>> Victor.
>> Sent from my Galaxy
>> -------- Original message --------
>> From: Manu Sporny <>
>> Date: 2021-03-22 6:32 a.m. (GMT-08:00)
>> To:
>> Subject: The "self-sovereign" problem (was: The SSI protocols challenge)
>> On 3/21/21 11:57 PM, Adrian Gropper wrote:
>> > Are we, as a community, being shy in using self-sovereign to describe
>> our
>> > perspective?
>> My response below is for people that feel like the question above has an
>> easy
>> answer. I expect the following to be misconstrued or quoted out of
>> context,
>> which is sad, but here goes; everything below is said without any value
>> judgements.
>> Remember that not all nations and people of the world view
>> "self-sovereign" as
>> a purely positive thing. I'm not shy about using it, just very careful,
>> and
>> tend to avoid it as it tends to distract focused conversations.
>> To speak to at least three overly-broad categories, self-sovereign is not
>> viewed as an entirely positive thing among:
>> 1. Authoritarian-leaning groups.
>> 2. Non-authoritarian sovereign governments.
>> 3. Non-western societies where the importance of the
>>    individual is not placed above the importance
>>    of the community.
>> I don't think that anyone is here to support #1 above. #2 and #3 are why I
>> tend to be careful about using the word "self-sovereign". It's useful when
>> speaking to others that understand the nuance. It can be thoroughly
>> confusing
>> or shut down conversations with those that don't... and even when educated
>> about the nuances, the message doesn't land well with the latter two
>> groups.
>> I end up doing far more damage control when the word "self-sovereign" is
>> included than if I just stick to "verifiable credentials and decentralized
>> identifiers".
>> -- manu
>> --
>> Manu Sporny -
>> Founder/CEO - Digital Bazaar, Inc.
>> blog: Veres One Decentralized Identifier Blockchain Launches
> --
> Heather Vescent <>
> Co-Chair, Credentials Community Group @W3C
> <>
> President, The Purple Tornado, Inc <>
> Author, The Secret of Spies <> (Available Oct 2020)
> Author, The Cyber Attack Survival Manual
> <> (revised,
> Dec 2020)
> Author, A Comprehensive Guide to Self Sovereign Identity
> <>
> @heathervescent <> | Film Futures
> <> | Medium
> <> | LinkedIn
> <> | Future of Security Updates
> <>

Received on Monday, 22 March 2021 20:33:49 UTC