ArtCenter College of Design
IF: Journal of Interactive + Inclusive Futures

The Speculative Future of Global Identification

Melody Abolian, Tim Kim, John Ma, Anthony Palileo

The Speculative Future of Global Identification

How can we interpret and design based on insights and observations of our society in its current state to project how life will shift in the future?

Our digital identities contain bodies of information regarding who we are, and what we think, feel and do. This augments our ability to interact with tools, environments and the people around us through different touch points in the ever-increasing number of interfaces.

Current Timeframe

With new modes of sensory interaction, platforms that reach distant people, and a new range of emotional plurality, we’re seeking to simplify how people can make ends meet and fulfill our needs and wants. Old methodologies in the way technology and business interprets how to profile consumers fail to capture the growing plurality of how we identify and characterize ourselves for ourselves and the people and world around us.

Technology

Advances will be a major driver in the potential for the digital ID. Current developments in digital ID, implantable technology and DNA data storage will set the stage for a solution through morphological analyses.

Economy

In this age of technology and hyper-connectivity, paradigms are shifting in the way we do business. Intangible and sustainable goods are becoming commonplace.

Infrastructure

New constructs and protocols are surfacing in governments and international policies.

Health

Access to healthcare and medical records are currently heavily centralized and guarded by the monolithic “healthcare provider” architecture. Opportunities for decentralization are being explored.

Environment

Greater awareness and sensitivity to ecological effects are prompting a reframing of how we produce and consume, including the decline and rise of various sectors in manufacturing.

Current Causal Layered Analysis

Litany

Government/state-based identities, Digital identifiers (usernames, passwords), Digital memberships.

Systems

SOCIAL: Things that were supposed to bring us together have driven us apart both by time and distance.

TECHNOLOGICAL: Tech is not cohesive, but we’re also increasingly literate and comfortable living in a digital existence.

ENVIRONMENTAL: Climate change cake with land-misuse filling and Covid-19 icing.

ECONOMIC: Disruptive emerging technologies force companies to become increasingly transparent in order to gain user trust.

POLITICAL: Be on the edge of digital self-defense worldwide.

Discourse

Tech has penetrated our daily languages (Google it, Ask Siri).

I don't even know anyone's phone number anymore.

Cancel Culture.

Following is now the way to make connections

Social media platforms serve as central authorities of identity/playground.

Mythos

Fear of missing out (FOMO)

Our natural desire to stay connected

Our social curiosity matrix scores

Shared experiences

Desire for belonging

Narcissism

Self-actualization

Future Timeframe

Following Moore’s Law, the rapid evolution of our capabilities in computing, processing and near/far positioning have enabled interactive systems to align disparate perspectives and experiences across the globe to a solidified stance that humanity falls behind. The drivers and influences of our identity have expanded to include the plurality and new recombination of human experience and innovation across all sectors.

The Speculative Future of Global Identification

World Events

A broad look at the next 20 years include the effects of climate change, advancements in aerospace, healthcare and computing technology, and global population growth. We looked deeper into several of these world events to theorize their implications with a common thread of globalized digital ID.

Impetus

Key scenarios prospect the idea of our future governance, where our cyber-oriented society reins in technology advancement to work cooperatively and collaboratively with humanity. Our digital identities are endemic access points to interfacing with the techno-centric infrastructure of society.

Future Prospecting

Based on our research, we mapped trends in a STEEP format to create a glimpse of the events and technologies that would lay the foundation for the global digital ID.

Future Causal Layered Analysis

Litany

Global Digital Identities

Systems

SOCIAL: Digitally-dependent social relationships. Hybridized roles, new ways of living.

TECHNOLOGICAL: High fidelity data exchange and seamless retrieval and transmission.

ENVIRONMENTAL: Ever-present, albeit delayed, response to climate change. Redistribution of populations.

ECONOMIC: Internationalization, ease of asset management, and investment drives global-centered companies. Proliferation of k3.

POLITICAL: Hybridization and decentralization of land-based and digital policy and lawmaking.

Discourse

Technology has advanced faster than predicted a decade prior.

The digital ID “makes life easier.”

Shift of “digital landscape” to “quantum landscape.”

Decentralization of interpersonal communication/networking constructs.

Ownership of personal data transitioned to the individual.

AI assistant as a staple of daily life, fostering a new digital literacy.

Membership and access fall under one identifier.

Mythos

Our digital identities are part of our existence.

My genome is immutable and secure.

Life is optimized by quantum computing and AI assistants.

Embracing exploratory thinking.

“Born identity” is temporary. “Be who I want to be.”

Delphi Method

The Speculative Future of Global Identification

Credibility & Filial Data within the digital ID

EVENT

2030-2035, devastating hurricanes and typhoons impact various global locations.

TYPICAL USE

In the case of catastrophic loss of housing and possessions.

HOW IT WORKS

Collects, stores and backs up all experiential data associated with the unique individual. Refugees and other displaced citizens are able to provide digital records or support familial identification data sets where hard copies or physical belongings are lost.

Further Delphi Exploration

In addition to the event of catastrophic loss, we explored other areas of feasibility of the digital ID including:

  • The sharing/sending of physiological data from within a user's digital ID for purposes of healthcare and immunization.

  • The application of the digital ID as a unique user verification system for various secure access points in their daily life.

  • As a platform for housing information such as financial records, credit scores, and employment history.

  • As a framework for identification in the future of off-Earth migration.

Inverse Method

The Speculative Future of Global Identification

Undocumented Refugees

Most undocumented people have become refugees. Many of them are trafficked for labor exploitation and illegal business trade because they are difficult to track.

HOW WOULD IT BE DONE?

Since so much has become transparent (such as carbon footprint), undocumented identity is often traded through the black market for economic benefit. A huge gap has developed between digitally documented people and undocumented people.

HOW WOULD WE PREVENT IT?

Make digital ID easily accessible and make sure everyone gets it.

Further Inversion Exploration

Other concepts in our "Dr. Evil" methodology for uncovering worst-case scenarios and possible preventions included:

  • A potential "black market" for digital ID's or the use of falsified documents to compile a digital ID.

  • The exploitation of the digital ID's GPS systems to track individuals with the intention of manipulation or solicitation.

  • The calculation of high density gatherings of users of the digital ID being leveraged for terrorist threat.

  • Misuse of the digital ID as a means to "change identity" (e.g. escaping criminal records)

Future Scenario Development

The Speculative Future of Global Identification

Research into the current state of various sectors provided grounds for extrapolating future scenarios which served as reference use cases for the digital ID concept. Each of these explorations were evaluated for best, middle, and worst case scenarios in the future.

Additional Scenario Explorations

Infrastructure

BEST: Governments participate in global ID with their own unique but internationally compatible protocols, with support through contracts in the private sector, creating multiple redundancies.

MIDDLE: Governments are fractured and digital ID is governed by privatized organizations profiting from the disparity of citizens who would benefit from having global ID.

WORST: Deep rifts in the acceptance and use of the global digital ID. Benefits of adoption are never realized and numerous undocumented citizens remain incapable of fulfilling their basic human needs.

Economic

BEST: Several B-corps become a dominating percentage of the global marketplace, with the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. A global ID serves as a form of accountability for all citizens.

MIDDLE: Greater variety of corporations, offsetting for-profits, accelerating a global culture shift to redefine success in business and build a more inclusive and sustainable economy. Global digital ID provides a means for citizens to conduct business and expand across borders.

WORST: Decades of company buyouts and mergers result in a few mega-corporations dominating the economic landscape. Global digital ID becomes an avenue for exploitation and monetization of the citizenry. Economic collapse becomes inevitable.

Environment

BEST: Digital ID paired with increased eco-consciousness leads to effective solutions for production and refuse management by holding citizens accountable.

MIDDLE: Slow adoption of digital ID eventually leads to greater accountability and eco-responsibility. Tackling climate change finally becomes a global effort.

WORST: Climate change leads to catastrophic global events, leading to refugee crisis with non-adopters of digital ID being displaced during times of mass exodus. Undocumented citizens reach unprecedented levels across the globe.

Future Personas and Scenarios

The Speculative Future of Global Identification

Mosi, 28

Mosi is a highly qualified manufacturing engineer in Tanzania, Africa, who has found himself, among millions of others, stateless after conflicts rose in the early 2030s beyond the UN's capabilities to address the underlying causes. As a result, the plant that Mosi works in has shut down and he is forced to seek new employment to continue to provide for himself and his parents.

Although Mosi has years of training and experience in his field, he faces terrible setbacks finding work due to his invalidated identification and lack of support from the remnants of his government. His only resort is leaving the country and family via back roads and long treks on foot beyond the border, south into Mozambique. In the mass departure, he (like many others) left behind important documents needed for establishing a new foundation in a neighboring country. Mosi is unable to secure legitimate employment, or proper compensation and recognition for his skillset. He finds work in a small manufacturing facility, but the pay is significantly diminished, with employers exploiting his desperation. Working under the table, Mosi is paid via

Mosi enters a secure registration booth at the local government office to provide information and biometric data.

Mosi enters a secure registration booth at the local government office to provide information and biometric data.

credits to an antiquated debit card and can only afford the most basic means of telecommunication. Through various networks, he reads news of a global digital ID launch and is excited at the prospect of having legitimized credentials available to him once again.

His device is not properly encrypted for accessing the secure network for digital ID registration, so he must make his way to the capital where the first registration sites have been established. On site, he provides the limited information he has in reference to his original identification and provides biometric proof to link this information to him. With the current state of Tanzania’s government, he is only provided a provisional digital ID until all of his credentials can be properly verified.

In the meantime, Mosi is given a digital ID tab that he is able to use for basic access. He is able to secure a much better device, albeit a few generations behind, to access, review and share his information using the tab. In the coming years, as tensions settle in Tanzania, the government, with help from the UN, is slowly brought into the global ID network and begins populating the database with the information of all of its citizens. Mosi receives notification that his ID has been fully activated, and bits and pieces of information previously lost begin to stream in.

Using applets of the digital ID, Mosi is able to find employment and financial information from his life left behind. Through the growing network, he discovers the plant he worked at for many years has reopened, joined and is able to verify the years he worked, positions he had worked in, and the pay range he qualified for. Mosi seeks out new employment using his digital ID and finds a position in another facility, and several of his peers also leave the plant that had previously exploited them.

Obtaining a global digital ID will finally allow Mosi to hold a valid form of identification. With this digital ID, Mosi is able to provide proof of employment, employment history and skills. It also allows him to apply for improved healthcare, housing and other necessities that he was not able to access before. As Tanzania recovers from the turmoil, citizens within its borders are slowly brought into the digital ID network, and Mosi’s parents soon join, allowing him easier means of sending funds home to better support them.

In coming years, Mosi intends on moving back home to reunite with his family after years of separation, confident that he will be better equipped to secure work and provide for his parents and for his own family in the future.

The Speculative Future of Global Identification

Danlea, 45

Danlea is a business owner that has invested the last 17 years of her life to growing her successful B Corporation. Her firm specializes in the use of sustainable materials in home-furnishing solutions for low-income housing. After Amsterdam met its goals of reducing CO2 by drastically reducing coal burning and enforcing zero emission transportation regulations in 2030, Danlea has shifted her attention to reducing the manufacturing emissions of her company.

Danlea looks to her global network to discover cleaner manufacturing processes and equipment, to find distributors, and to possibly establish satellite offices to serve as remote hubs in other nations. Her B-corp’s headquarters are in her home of Amsterdam, but Danlea is constantly traveling for work, as much as 5 times a month, meeting with prospective partners and investors. Long hours of travel and going from city to city can be exhausting, not to mention stressful and chaotic. Danlea is very familiar with the protocols and guidelines when traveling in and out of the Netherlands between the nations she frequents, but inconsistencies and sometimes lack of interconnected data make it a hassle for Danlea to travel to nations she is new to.

Danlea is an early tech adopter, always staying up-to-date with current advancements to stay on top of her game. News of the Netherlands adopting the global digital ID network reaches her and she makes the effort to register straight away. The portal on the network is quick to verify the information she provides with the government’s database and she arranges a biometric scan appointment for final verification and opts to purchase the digital ID earpiece which houses greater functionality.

Danlea uses her Digital ID earpiece to verify her travel credentials and to gather information on potential investors and partners she will be meeting at her destination.

Danlea uses her Digital ID earpiece to verify her travel credentials and to gather information on potential investors and partners she will be meeting at her destination.

Danlea confirms her fingerprint and establishes her voice recognition library on site. The digital ID earpiece further secures itself to her via vein scan of the surrounding area of her ear when put in during the onboarding and verification process. In a brief info session with the earpiece’s A.I. assistant, she discovers several features that can potentially make conducting business easier as well as significantly reduce her travel issues.

This little earpiece makes it easy for Danlea to check guidelines and requirements ahead of time, check in to flights with ease, and boarding airplanes is much more efficient. Danlea no longer has to scan a physical passport or provide identification. As long as Danlea is wearing her earpiece, all she has to do is a quick body and luggage scan and she’s good to go. The earpiece can be scanned by the airline worker which holds her travel information, ID, and credentials. They see she travels often for work and offer her a discounted rate for future purchases for flight tickets.

On a flight to Sweden, Danlea has a couple of hours to review the credentials of the people she will be meeting with for her business trip. Using one of the several applets offered by the digital ID ecosystem, she finds a growing professional network of digital ID holders through which she may find new prospects for the continued growth of her company. She can view their resumes, accomplishments, and current projects. She finds the parties she will be meeting have joined and their shared information proves to be more robust than the basic documents that were furnished to her. This speeds up the process for her business meeting, as she won’t have to spend extra time questioning the other party.

Once she arrives for her business meeting, she has all the information ready to go and is feeling confident to land this new partnership with these potential clients. As she enters the building, her earpiece is scanned, her information is checked and she is directed to the room where the meeting will be held. Traveling has never been more efficient, streamlined, and pleasant for Danlea and she’s excited for future business ventures.

The Speculative Future of Global Identification

William, 39

William is married, with a young child, and recently moved out of the metropolitan Seattle area to just outside Vancouver, BC, Canada. As a telehealth systems engineer, he has the luxury of working from home, which has allowed him to keep his job, despite having relocated outside of the city in which he works.

His family is very important to him and was a major deciding factor for moving out of the dense, fast-paced metropolitan center. With the fight against climate change happening at a very slow pace, these cities find themselves to be not well suited for raising young children. His first hand experience with framing telehealth systems makes him abundantly aware of the volume of medical attention requests for children in the city center.

In the late 2020’s William took up a more eco-conscious lifestyle which includes consumption of recycled, recaptured, and repurposed goods. One major factor of William’s participation as an eco citizen is his active recycling and proper disposal of refuse. While living in Seattle, he had become very familiar with the sites and processes involved in responsible disposal, but his move requires him to adjust to the new situation.

William accesses the secure Digital ID registration portal to get himself and his family into the network.

William accesses the secure Digital ID registration portal to get himself and his family into the network.

When it comes to tech, William is not the quickest to adopt. In line with his eco-conscious behaviors, he prefers to use the tech he has currently, so long as it is fulfilling his needs. With the advent of the digital ID, he does not yet see the need to jump on board.

William begins to discover the benefits of adopting the digital ID. In the case of his family, they will all be able to access their complete medical history including all diagnoses and prognoses, and medical specialists would be able to better analyze and compare their data to a global database for accurate prescription of care.

In the eco-conscious efforts, the digital ID will connect William to the local infrastructure, providing him with access to the local refuse dropoff or pickup arrangements, and includes the added benefits of automated sorting that has monetary incentives for participation.

William is able to initiate the digital ID application process for himself, his wife, and children, from home through a secure portal. He confirms their existing information against government databases and is instructed for them to visit a biometric data verification site to finalize the process. In the initial rollout of the digital ID, these were only found in the major city hubs, but have been dispersed further out as the system has become further embraced, with retailers becoming capable of gathering biometrics for the network.

After adopting the digital ID, William is able to access medical attention whenever needed and find specialists for his childrens’ care should they ever need them, without the hassles of antiquated healthcare system protocols. Within weeks of adopting the digital ID, William is already seeing the financial benefits of participating in the city’s recycling and refuse programs, so he can feel better about the future of his family and the environment.

Iterative Modular Morphological Synthesis Method

The IMMS Method structure

The IMMS Method structure

The Iterative Modular Morphological Synthesis (IMMS) Method is a process of mixing and matching technologies of today and combining the results with potential technologies of the future and then repeating as necessary. Through this, three generations of access to the global digital ID system was ideated, with the intent to further, secure, and decentralize citizens’ information.

The Speculative Future of Global Identification

Generation 1

A wearable solution for carrying our credentials on us that is able to share data in face-to-face interactions (such as a doctor’s office).

  • IBM houses the digital ID platform (IBM Verify) supported with hyper-ledger blockchain technology.

  • The digital ID is registered to the ledger, and the wearable (e.g. AirTags) is the “wallet” to access/connect.

The Speculative Future of Global Identification

Generation 2

Our identity is now a part of us. No more forgetting it at home or losing it. The tech in Apple AirTags will miniaturize further and become integrated into implanted technology to power it.

  • IBM continues to be the central ledger and distributor of the digital lD.

  • Countries join the network to become redundancy centers (nodes/ledgers within the hyper-ledger blockchain network).

  • Implants are now available.

  • Geolocation is becoming more precise.

The Speculative Future of Global Identification

Generation 3

Self-Sovereign Identity (SSI) comes to life when we are connected to our data and tech. DNA data storage now houses the individual’s credentials and other sensitive and personal information. Implanted tech consumes the AirTags tech, has DNA read/write capability and remains for connectivity (data sharing).

  • DNA data recording is now possible.

  • Quantum computing enhances the global positioning network mesh.

  • The user is now a “ledger” and the network is incorporated.

  • IBM remains the central verification hub of the Digital ID network.

The Speculative Future of Global Identification

Generation 1 Access Point Ideation

The digital ID will be launched with a set of physical access points, with a basic "Tab" that may be worn as a bracelet or pendant, and optional wearables, such as a ring, or an earpiece that includes a voice A.I. assistant. All options include multi-factor biometric sensors to ensure that only the owner of the identifying data has the ability to review and share this sensitive information.

Service Blueprint

This final iteration of our service blueprint seeks to establish the high level structures that work together to build the foundation of the digital ID network. Adoption by governments as well as participation from various industries will serve to enable a robust, trustworthy, and decentralized data set for each and every citizen registered. The concept of self-sovereign identity is possible through digital ID.

The Speculative Future of Global Identification

User Flow

In the early years following the launch of the digital ID, the majority of digital ID holders will be adopters who seek to benefit from the ability to untether from their existing systems, or the ability to participate in society in ways they were incapable of due to various circumstances preventing them from having or attaining proper identification. The digital ID has the potential to significantly reduce the number of undocumented citizens globally.

The Speculative Future of Global Identification

Launching the Global Digital Identity

Advanced nations such as India, China, South Korea, Estonia, Finland, and the United Kingdom, whose digital infrastructures are best equipped for easier migration to the network and whose citizens are already hyperconnected, would be invited to pilot the system. The digital ID would be offered as a complementary component to their existing national identification with the benefit of ownership of data and decentralization of personal information. Governments would have greater access to their citizens for ensuring their security and wellbeing.

With the help of the United Nations and other international relief efforts, the network will be extended to smaller nations to bring their citizens into the ecosystem. Citizens who were incapable of attaining identification for any reason whatsoever would now be welcome into this new network.

Digital Identity Beyond 2035

After launching the first generation digital ID, our system will evolve alongside advancements in implant technology to shift what begins as a physical product that is worn or carried on us to a passive component that lives within us. We will no longer have to provide biometric confirmations for accessing our data, as the system will be tied directly into our biology, and would be rendered useless if separated, mitigating the threat of what would be the future of identity theft.

The third generation digital ID will advance the storage and security capability of the system in years beyond 2040, when DNA writing technology finally miniaturizes to the scale of implantable tech, and we have further unlocked the mysteries of the human mind. Our data will be written to encrypted genome strands, and predetermined thoughts would serve as our access keys.

With the Global Digital ID, you are your identity.

The Global Digital ID is a self-sovereign identification system that is backed by a secure and robust blockchain network, accessed through multi-factor biometric verification that provides each and every citizen a means of owning all of their personally identifying data.