Initial thoughts and assumptions about identity and this blog

As a well-trained social scientist of the late 20th Century in Western traditions, one must always begin with assumptions and values.

The importance of context is one of my most valued college takeaways. Educated in the social sciences while working as a reporter at the college newspaper, I was intrigued and quickly became an advocate of understanding the context behind personal and social behaviors. A full discussion of why quickly becomes an autobiography beyond the scope of this article. Suffice to say that I believe it is important to start from the reason why I am doing this and the basic assumptions that will guide my endeavors.

I like to write. The written word has always been important to me, and writing about things that I consider being important is on my personal bliss list.

In startup mode. Beyond personal satisfaction, there is an economic motive as well. As I write this, I am in the process of raising funds for a startup in what I call the digital identity space. The company is currently called and you will hear more about it in the days to come.

Tinfoil hat. Robert Heinlein once wrote something to the effect that once a planet becomes so crowded that identity cards are required, it is time to leave that planet. I agree with him. Privacy has been a key concept in protecting individual rights against the potential and real abuses of power by government and other socially constructed organizations that gather power within their bureaucratic bosom. But as you peel this onion back, you run into an assumption (also used by John Locke on private property) that people have options. So while philosophically I am a libertarian, if not an anarchist, in the day-to-day practice of living, I will trade rights for convenience in some situations. I do, however, believe that we have gone too far without really thinking about what we are doing and how we are doing it. This one is a large stinky onion that we will peel back constantly.

Results matter. I am an empiricist. So was my dad. He had me helping him with his research by hand calculating ANOVAs when I was in grade school. The world and its human and ecological systems are complex, and the only way we can make this place better is by watching what works and what doesn’t work and deciding based on results.

Psych training. I got my bachelor’s degree in social psychology and came to New York City to study environmental psychology. I knew who Stanley Milgram was when I was in junior high school. So if I get a little jargony, let me know and I’ll try to explain myself. Some really amazing things have happened in the past decades as we come to understand how and why people do the things they do.

Online advertising. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time during the past decade in the online advertising world. So, I know about cookies and behavioral tracking and how and why the advertising industry collects and uses information. I get why some people are concerned about the this as an “invasion of privacy”. Frankly I am more concerned with the Patriot Act and what that means to me than I am that an ad network is going to identify me as a DINK and target Volvo ads to the web pages I am reading. But I do believe in transparency and choice and hope we can develop some options in this area.

Future Shock. I read this book by the Tofflers back in the middle 1970’s. And I’ve reread it recently. We are in a period of rapid social change driven by rapid technological change. Frankly, we are not coping well.

Among other things, modern information technology has the potential to do good things. We have seen some of them, but I believe that we need to focus on making more of them happen. To date, we have really just allowed things to roll out and sometimes have dealt with the consequences.

Summary. I am sure there is more. I will modify this entry as they occur to me. Let me close with a list of people that I would like to have a drink with. In order of me thinking of them. Two-minute time limit.

  • John Locke
  • Socrates
  • Jane Jacobs
  • Albert Einstein
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • whoever was running the Catholic Church when Mohammed left the church
  • Alvin and Heidi Toffler
  • J.C.R. Licklider
  • whoever created The WELL
  • Stanley Milgram
  • Philip Zimbardo
  • Leon Festinger
  • Jeannette Rankin
  • Jane Goodall
  • Washoe

Okay. That is two minutes.

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