In a Nutshell
– Identity is based on our neural system, and consists of Nature and Personality. At a more abstract level, it can also be described by Dilts’ pyramid: Environment, Behaviour, Skills & Knowledge, Value & Beliefs, Mission;
– Virtual Reality will allow people to change their appearance, and this will greatly influence how people conceive Identity. People will probably demand one stable appearance to be recalled every now and then;
– Self-Definition will grant people a total degree of freedom by defining even Personality and Nature. Identity will be a continuosly dynamic entity, and everyone will be allowed to experience everything life can offer.
Someone said that ethics derives from the model of our current society. While I only partially agree to this statement, let’s have a closer look to what do we usually mean the concept of “Identity”, and how this concept will probably change after the discovery and development of the forthcoming technological advancements.
Making things simple and straight, Identity is what makes us say “I”. The question is: “What do we mean with this word? What is our image of the self?”
An Introduction to Identity
According to Robert B. Dilts, NLP author, Identity is somewhere in between our Mission and our Values, or, we could say, where our Mission and Values meet. We can see identity in a broader way as the entire Dilts’ Pyramid, which includes (from the top):
- Values and Beliefs
- Skills and Knowledge
It’s quite interesting to intuitively assess that the top and the bottom of the Pyramid change is faster than the mid-level one. We can take a step further, and see Identity as something that change with time, and has Skills and Knowledge as its stable part. We’re defined by our story, which builds knowledge, and experiences, which train skills. Experiences come from Environment, while our story depends mostly on the Mission we (actively or passively) chose as a driver.
Moving our first step from abstract to concrete models, we find personality and Nature. Personality makes things interesting, while Nature make them simple. Personality shapes mostly Mission, Values and Beliefs, while Nature defines Behaviour and Skills.
The last step towards concreteness is our brain model, which is where Personality and Nature are “coded”.
Technology and Identity: what it’s going to change
Now we share all the terminology, concepts and tools to speculate on what could – and probably will – happen in the mid- and long-term.
The first technological advancement we’re going to examine is Virtual Reality, intended as a 5-senses-pervasive experience of a parallel, virtual world.
First of all, people will be granted to define their appearance. Our body is our interface with the outer world, and deeply influence other people’s perspective on our Identity. What if we decide to make use of more than one phisical appearance? This could be somewhat confusing to others, because our brain tries to associate a univocal phisical description of the entity which is related to our Identity. What is going to happen if we decide to change appearance every day? Ahh, that would be tough! I foresee that people will demand a fairly stable appearance to which people can switch if asked. This will preserve the 1-to-1 association between psychological and physical description of a person, which is, again, Identity.
A major twist will also impact Mission: lots of experiences will be immediately available through virtual definition, hence long-term desires (i. e. Mission) will heavily change, because lots of them will be immediately satisfied. Here speculating is difficult: people could be satisfacted with high-definition virtual experiences, or decide to make life challenging through seeking Beauty in its closely infinite declinations. I also see these as two trends, where the first is going to start absurdely high (80-90% of the Virtual Reality users), and slowly decrease, while the second will accordingly raise. This is because of habit: habit is based on survival, and determines a “consumption rate” on activities: if you do something every day, you’ll get bored even if it’s exciting. This is true on (mostly) everything, from art (Maslow’s Pyramid top) to sex (Maslow’s Pyramid bottom).
Oh, well, this boredom/excitement mechanics will drive things, until…
…until it’ll be possible to change even the way we are (alongside appearance and environment). Science will eventually discover how to define a complex, biological system, and which are the properties that define its behaviour. This won’t happen if and only if resources will be insufficient – which mainly means: computational time. I don’t think the definition of a mature biological system has some exponential-time subproblems, therefore I think this will happen in the long term.
We’ll be free to choose what to choose. That is somewhat overwhelming. What is going to happen? Who are we going to be? What will “Identity”, “Choice”, “Free-Will” mean?
My optimistic speculation is that the world will tend to global optimum. A sort of “enlightenment”, in which everyone will be able to live the widest variety of experience he can ever imagine, with imagination itself and the biological system which perceives the experience as the only limits. In this kind of world, Identity is circumstantial, because people tend to try every kind of (positive?) experience and can do this without harming anyone. This perspective leads to a life which is similar to a book without margin, and everyone is a writer with a wide imagination.
Self-Definition will make Identity as a totally dynamic flux which change through time and can have two or more parallel sub-branches.
While Identity today is seen as a fairly stable set of properties a person has, in the future it will be allowed to continuosly change, as it happens when you read books from different genres and same author: people will choose what to write in the great slate of the world, and their stories will cross and overlap as in a untold, unfold tale.
If you’re still asking yourself why the year in title is 2045, it was inspired by this ambitious project.