Balaji Srinivasan on Building a “Pseudonymous Economy”
We live in a world where we have freedom of speech but not freedom AFTER speech. There can be serious consequences if you make a misstep in today's social media climate - one wrong tweet and a Twitter mob will come and descend on you.
Negative press could literally ruin you. Even sharing an article with controversial views can have unforeseen repercussions. But if all of your opinions are shared under a pseudonym, the stakes are different.
So What Exactly is Pseudonymity?
Balajis explained it best by comparing 3 forms of online identity today:
- Real name, used on platforms like Facebook
- Pseudonym, used on sites like Reddit and Twitter
- Anonym, used on sites like 4chan that are designed to be anonymous
- In essence, pseudonymity is not anonymity. They are not your real name but they are persistent, meaning you can build up a reputation on them e.g. you can build up Twitter followers or Reddit reputation
- One way to measure pseudonymity is the concept of 33 Bits. The idea is that there are 7 billion people in the world and 2^33 is about 8 billion. So with 33 independent bits of information, you can fully de-anonymize somebody.
Why Do We Care?
- Social shaming has always existed but we now live in the era of social media and these technologies have network effects that will amplify the shaming
- Every day there is one main character being shamed and he'll be The Worst Person To Exist for a period of 24-48 hours. The goal is to never be It
- The interesting thing about Pseudonymity is that as important as Bitcoin's decentralization. Because the Bitcoin network was decentralized, nobody can shut it down; because Satoshi was also pseudonymous, nobody can identify him and shut him down
How Would a Pseudonymous Economy Work?
- If your bank account is your stored wealth, then your real name is your stored reputation. And while you need a PIN to debit from your bank account, anybody can debit from your reputation by just targeting you on social media
- Like how you diversify your wealth, you can also safeguard your reputation by diversifying it
- Earn under one name, speak under another, use your real name only on official documents
I know that Malaysians are really frustrated with their government but most people don't have the luxury of migrating to other countries. The good news is, you don't have to. That's why I often advocate being a sovereign individual - pseudonymity plays a big role in it.
Because the internet is breaking geography, we can be closer to people 3000km away than our next-door neighbours. The underlying premises of the nation-state are being invalidated and therefore the assumption that people in a shared geography will share the same law will no longer be applicable. As a result, these cloud communities will eventually migrate and start materialising into the physical world and form cloud cities.