February 19, 2024

Holochain and generative identity

Sharing perspectives and insights towards a healthy web, naturally.

Blurry photo of woman's head, and promotion image for the #HolochainChat

Holochain is one of the most promising projects leading the way to a (re)decentralized web. To be more accurate and indeed more expansive, it's one of a stable of interrelating projects aiming to approach the digitalization of human societies ecologically, i.e. as living ecosystems. You'll appreciate immediately then that the Holochain team's vision and values align very closely with our motivations here for generative identity.

Nevertheless there are differences and so opportunities for mutual learning. I'm thinking of the concepts of money and identity.

For my part I remain a student of money, specifically what it is / what they are, and how we might recover from its current dominant instantiation. Money is both medium and outcome of the practices, rules, and resources it organizes, and that makes any status quo stubborn. Despite Michael Linton's patience with me during many a good conversation (for 'the problem of money' see Whole Earth Review No 55 Summer 1987) , I have an appreciation for how money might work very differently, but not how to effect a transition. The Holochain team on the other hand has its roots in value flows, specifically the Metacurrency project, and I'm left with the impression that they sense what might be done.

In the realm of identity, the Holochain team appreciates the fallacy of individualism, or more precisely the fallacy of considering individualism a dualism (separate, either/or) with collectivism. Individualism and collectivism are a duality (interdependent), and indeed a duality that benefits from any and all effort to avoid them being mistaken for a dualism, e.g. culturalism. And yet when any project emerges unavoidably with the dominant conceptualizations and structures of computer science, it is tricky to park the concepts, lay down the tools, and actually make progress! We're all in the probe-sense-response mode of operation.

Human identity is informational, cognitive, multiple, relational, and dynamic, and not corporeal, bureaucratic, singular, absolute, and static, and any digitalization that does not or cannot recognise as much is inevitably dehumanizing.

By my reading, while the Holochain project's regard for digital identity does not yet set it up generatively, there are many hints that it has the potential to move qualitatively in the right direction. Having said that, its comparatively recent emphasis on binding web3 wallets to Holochain apps is ripe with the possibility that it will be affected and indeed infected by the considerably more reductionist concepts of identity informing and attached to the likes of Ethereum et al.

I hope then that we collaborate all the more going forward, presaged by a couple of blog posts: