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intelligence and responsibility

January 9, 2006

I was thinking about the excellent identity 2.0 presentation and the problem of identity and privacy on the internet. It seems to me that Dick Hardt (who gave the presentation) is on the right path with providing multiple sources of identity confirmation, and granting choice to the user on which source he or she wishes to use for validation. In the case of identity, Dick proposes that a user could have several “authoritative” identity records, much like a driver’s license or birth certificate in the “real world”. These records could then be accepted at many different web sites and so forth for logging in or paying for goods.

This got me thinking… what else could serve as an affirmation of your identity? In the real world, these sources are often other people, who can vouch for you, and who may have known you for a long time. So… the thought is, if the computers in everyday items and devices get smarter and smarter, why can’t they vouch for me as well?

For example, say I’m at the bank around 11AM making a withdrawal. I give my code, or pass my card, or somehow indicate I am who I say I am to the teller. I’ve allowed the bank access to some of my internet enabled items to vouch for my identity. The bank sends a request to my home. The microwave, being the first to receive the request, knows that it warmed some popt-tarts for me around 9:30AM, but after that it’s not sure, so it asks the front door. The front door knows that it was not used this morning, so it checks the garage. The garage knows that I used it around 10AM, and that the car left with me…. so the next check made is with the car. The car knows that it’s parked right outside the bank in question, and that I had left it exactly 10 minutes prior… so the car gives the bank the answer “Most likely”. The bank, receiving these simple replies from my appliances, authorizes me for my withdrawal of $140 for my Starbucks (ca 2020) coffee.

There is very little private information divulged to the bank, only the device’s assessment of the likelihood that I could be where I was, requesting the service that I was requesting… so my privacy is not really an issue. Someone could steal my identity card/code, and compromise my devices in a way to indicate that he was me. However, this is a highly unlikely occurence, especially for a large number of appliances and vehicles. Furthermore, if I had been compromised, I’m sure that one of my appliances could notify me, and accomodations could be made for a new code/card. Finally, devices such as vehicles and appliances can be online, and therefore available for affirmation requests nearly 24 hours a day, something another human acquaintance can not do.

My main question is: Once computerized devices such as cars and microwaves achieve a certain level of intelligence, can they take on more human like responsibilities in society, such as affirmation of identity? If so, what kinds of legal/ethical issues can arise from this? For instance, if a car knows that I’ve had too much to drink, can it be required to provide testimony in court that I was inebriated the night I caused a bad wreck?

Ah well… back to sleep.

From → HCI

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