ABSTRACT: Self-Sovereign Computing is a transformative paradigm designed to empower individuals to take command of their digital journey and to uphold their dignity, human rights, and resilience online. It encourages proactive collaboration among individuals, collectives, and platforms to enhance digital autonomy and to mitigate vulnerabilities. Building on Christopher’s initial ideas of self-sovereign identity, self-sovereign computing introduces an allegory that revisits some foundational influences and recognizes self-sovereignty not just as a personal choice but as something that’s part of a larger ecosystem._
In 2016, Christopher Allen authored “The Path to Self-Sovereign Identity”, where he introduced the concept of “Self-Sovereignty” to the world, with its ten principles. Five years later, he offered an update on its progress. Today, the self-sovereign community continues to evolve, with recent successes including the ratification of DIDs and the passage of laws in Wyoming that recognized self-sovereignty. Given the time that had passed, Christopher also wrote an article talking about The Origins of Self-Sovereign Identity.
Christopher’s newest look at self-sovereignty is an allegory that again revisits some of its foundational influences, recognizing self-sovereignty not just as a personal choice, but something that’s part of a larger ecosystem.
Your Digital Journey
Consider the times when you’ve felt lost in the vast and unpredictable digital sea. You’ve set out in a small ship, but your course is uncertain.
Despite being the rightful owner of that ship, you are a mere passenger. Your ports of call and your choice of companion vessels are not under your command but dictated by corporate behemoths that lurk beneath the waves. These unseen gatekeepers exact a continuous “toll” from you, not always in gold, but often in the currency of your personal data or by compelling you to relinquish your rights. Those behemoths control not just your data, but also your actual digital identity.
Self-Sovereign Computing is about finding a better way: about giving you control over your digital vessel.
Claiming Command — From Passenger to Captain
Self-Sovereign Computing empowers you to claim command, to ascend from being a passenger to becoming the captain of your digital ship. This gives you the autonomy to plot your journey, to command your personal data, and to navigate digital exchanges without the burden of incessant tolls.
You become the rightful commander of your digital voyage and online experience.
Assembling Your Tools — Devices and Services
Your smartphone, your laptop, your smartwatch, and your digital wallet are the tools that you use to command your vessel, modern-day sextants and compasses. They help you to become a skilled navigator in the often treacherous marketplace of the digital ocean.
They are also powerful tools of communication that allow you to foster cooperation with other digital captains, opening up new possibilities when we self-sovereign sailors come together.
Tools that important must be reliable. Beyond that, they must meet our personal needs. This calls back to a time when ship makers would consult with captains about the individual needs of their vessels (just as we do in the modern day with Silicon Salons). This ensures that we can sail the digital seas safely and have control and trust in our tools.
Fostering Digital Cooperation — Unity on the High Seas
Self-Sovereign Computing envisions a cooperative digital ecosystem where individuals, as digital captains, can unite. Each ship, regardless of its size, contributes to the strength of our self-sovereign fleet, enhancing autonomy and rights for every individual. They can come together against the considerable adversaries of the digital landscape.
There are also promises of mutual aid: Self-Sovereign Computing seeks to protect the vulnerable. If a ship is in distress, others are obligated to give it support, which might mean helping to route messages to evade censorship or just lending some bandwidth to get around a digital traffic jam.
In essence, Self-Sovereign Computing steers us towards a cooperative digital ecosystem, where every digital captain’s strength is amplified through unity. The result is a digital seascape where collective strength is harnessed and where collective bargaining power is pooled, to negotiate better terms, services, and experiences for all.
The Inspiration of Self-Sovereign Computing
Self-Sovereign Computing stems from a blend of inspirations, some of which are shared with The Origins of Self-Sovereign Identity. Among the influences most important to understanding the idea of Self-Sovereign Computing are: the Ten Principles of Self-Sovereign Identity, Living Systems Theory, Agency Law, and Maritime Law, each of which contributed to its foundational ethos.
The Ten Principles of Self-Sovereign Identity play a crucial role in defining the paradigm of Self-Sovereign Computing. These principles emphasize user control and consent, the freedom of data interoperability, and the decentralization of identity authority, pushing the boundaries of individual digital autonomy.
Living Systems Theory speaks of inviduals having boundaries (“membranes”) that separate them from the rest of the world, but recognizes that communication occurs through that membrane. It was a foundational inspiration for Self-Sovereign Identity and is closely linked to the analogy of ships upon the sea.
Agency Law offers the concept of fiduciary duties that dictate a relationship of trust, responsibility, and user priority. Under this framework, digital tools and platforms are required to grant a duty of loyalty and care to their user: acting in their best interest, respecting privacy, protecting data, and ensuring users maintain control and authority over their digital identities and personal information.
Maritime Law contributes principles of mutual aid, freedom of navigation, and the doctrine of the high seas, reinforcing the importance of collective security, unrestricted access, and autonomy in the digital realm.
This blend of inspirations helps us envision a digital landscape that respects individual autonomy while also acknowledging our shared responsibility within the digital community. Collectively, these principles create the bedrock of Self-Sovereign Computing, guiding us towards a future where technology remembers its ultimate duty — to serve and protect the people.
The Self-Sovereign Computing Call to Action
Self-Sovereign Computing is more than a concept. It’s a beacon on the digital seas. It’s a movement and a rallying cry for individuals including: professionals in decentralized identity; digital human rights advocates; lawyers; and technologists alike. It’s a call for us to advocate for privacy-preserving tools, to demand transparency from platforms, and to assert control over personal data. It’s about supporting initiatives and platforms that align with the principles of Self-Sovereign Computing, fostering a culture of digital self-sovereignty in our communities.
Working collectively, we can form a fleet, to command respect and instigate change in the digital seas. By engaging in discussions, raising awareness, and actively advocating for change, we can reshape the digital world to prioritize people over corporations.
The Journey Ahead
Are you ready to seize control and chart your own course on this digital ocean? The era of Self-Sovereign Computing is upon us. It’s time to take the helm for your digital journey, shaping your route based on your choices and needs, not those of distant corporations.
Together, we can navigate toward a future where technology serves us unconditionally, and our devices, our data, and our digital experiences truly belong to us.
The helm is in your hands. The journey towards self-sovereignty begins now. Will you join us?