I've been trying to be intentional about using generative AI for more and more tasks in my life. For example, the image above is generated by DALL-E. I think generative AI is going to upend almost everything we do online, and I'm not alone. One of the places it will have the greatest impact is its use in personal agents, determining whether or not these agents enable people to lead effective online lives.
Jamie Smith recently wrote a great article in Customer Futures about the kind of AI-enabled personal agents we should be building. As Jamie points out: "Digital identity [is how we] prove who we are to others." This statement is particularly resonant as we consider not just the role of digital identities in enhancing personal agents, but also their crucial function in asserting ownership of our creations in an AI-dominated landscape.
Personal agents, empowered by AI, will be integral to our digital interactions, managing tasks and providing personalized experiences. As Bill Gates says, AI is about to completely change how you use computers. The key to the effectiveness of these personal agents lies in the robust digital identities they leverage. These identities are not just tools for authentication; they're pivotal in distinguishing our human-generated creations from those produced by AI.
In creative fields, for instance, the ability to prove ownership of one's work becomes increasingly vital as AI-generated content proliferates. A strong digital identity enables creators to unequivocally claim their work, ensuring that the nuances of human creativity are not lost in the tide of AI efficiency. Moreover, in sectors like healthcare and finance, where personal agents are entrusted with sensitive tasks, a trustworthy, robust, self-sovereign identity ensures that these agents act in harmony with our real-world selves, maintaining the integrity and privacy of our personal data.
In this AI-centric era, proving authorship through digital identity becomes not just a matter of pride but a shield against the rising tide of AI-generated fakes. As artificial intelligence becomes more adept at creating content—from written articles to artwork—the line between human-generated and AI-generated creations blurs. A robust, owner-controlled digital identity acts as a bastion, enabling creators to assert their authorship and differentiate their genuine work from AI-generated counterparts. This is crucial in combating the proliferation of deepfakes and other AI-generated misinformation, ensuring the authenticity of content and safeguarding the integrity of our digital interactions. In essence, our digital identity becomes a critical tool in maintaining the authenticity and trustworthiness of the digital ecosystem, protecting not just our intellectual property but the very fabric of truth in our digital world.
A good place to start is with our "humanness." On an earlier version of this post, Timo Hotti commented that the most important use of verifiable credentials might be to prove that you're human. There are a number of ways to do this. Proof that I have a driver's license, at least for now, proves that I'm human. Bank credentials could also be used to prove humanness because of know-your-customer (KYC) regulations. I suggested something like this a year or so ago as a way of cutting down on bots on Twitter.
As we embrace this new digital frontier, the focus must not only be on the convenience and capabilities of AI-driven agents but also on fortifying our digital identities so that your personal agent is controlled by you. Jamie ends his post with five key questions that we shouldn't lose sight of:
- Who does the digital assistant belong to?
- How will our personal agents be funded?
- What will personal agents do tomorrow that we can’t already do today?
- Will my personal agent do things WITH me and FOR me, or TO me?
- Which brands will be trusted to offer personal agents?
Your digital identity is your anchor in the digital realm, asserting our ownership, preserving our uniqueness, and fostering trust in an increasingly automated world, helping you operationalize your digital relationships. The future beckons with the promise of AI, but it's our digital identity that will define our place in it.