One of my crawlings re: InfoCard et al wound up at the blog of a guy called Bob Blakley. He has some rather interesting ideas on what identity is and how that interacts with the previously mentioned ‘Laws of Identity’. I happen to disagree with just about everything he said in those articles. I was going to put a couple of comments on his blog, but he’s turned off anonymous comments and as I’m not a Blogspot man I’m out in the cold.
So I’m writing my comment here instead!
The first disagreement pretty much leads to the others. That first disagreement is on what an identity is (indeed I’m not so sure identity is truly a noun). BB says that “An Identity is a Story”.
BB speaks of the axioms of identity. I’m of the opinon that identity *itself* is an axiom. Identity in it’s purest form identifies – it differentiates me from you and always does so in an absolute sense – although it does not require us to necessarily be able to discern that differentiation. Our problem is that we perform identification by means of informational cues (someone learns of our identity through our story) and so we confuse the means of identification with the identity itself. BB said that he doesn’t believe in a philosophical “core identity” and so I assume he’d disagree with the idea of identity as an axiom.
So for me, an indentity is not a story, rather it has one. Sometimes it apparently has more than one, but in order to do so, one or all must be a) incomplete, or b) partially/totally false. It is the true, complete narrative that the identity owns, but in some circumstances you don’t need that narrative to differentiate between people. Look in a room with two people in it and you know that the person on the left is not the person on the right regardless of how much or how little you know about their stories or how much they may look alike (mirrors notwithstanding 🙂 ).
This goes against BB’s later mentioned axioms of identity. First, Identity is not subjective because what I am does not ultimately depend on what you (or even I) think I am. Reputation may alter the flow of the story, but it does not alter the identity that bears that story. Identities also do not change. I do not randomly become someone else. My attributes may change, my personality, my story may change, but they do not transfer.
And yes I realise that this is a rather abstract argument, but that’s because identity is abstract. It is not merely an aggregate of information. It is also independent.
BB challenges the first ‘Law of Identity’ with the idea that the information contained in your story cannot be controlled. That’s true but that’s not your identity. A story is just random bits unless it can also act as an identifier. It’s the identifier part that matters and that’s the subject of a ‘technical identity system’ and thus the first law. The actual information is secondary as it may be the same as that of other identities and thus it cannot differentiate between those identities. The identifier is the keystone and what the first law seeks to protect by consent. Once that information+identifier combination is transferred is it then outside the scope of the technical identity system and is governed by whatever agreement was made at the time of the transaction.
Most of BB’s examples don’t actually involve the technical identity system and so I’m slightly confused as to what he’s talking about.