‘Do not ask who I am and do not ask me to remain the same: Leave it to our bureaucrats and our police to see that our papers are in order. At least spare us their morality when we write.’—Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge & the Discourse on Language
I am going to take liberal liberty with Foucault’s quote. This is another take on Heraclites’ ‘never the same man, never the same river’ quote. It can be taken as a commentary on identity and impermanence. Effectively, he is taking the position that the concept of identity is a silly question, so don’t bother asking about it. Then he defers to people who insist on it anyway.
To be fair, creating a sort of contiguous identity does simplify things and creates categorical conveniences.
Vendor: ‘Wasn’t it you who purchased that from me and promised to pay with future payments?‘
Zen: ‘There is no future. There is only now. And I am not the same person who purchased your car.‘
Perhaps this is where the saying, ‘Possession is 9/10 of the law‘, a nod to temporal presentism.
In any case, some systems are predicated on their being identity, so a person benefiting from that system will insist on the notion of identity.
Clearly, I’m rambling in a stream of consciousness, and it occurs to me that Blockchain offers a solution to identity, at least conceptually. In the case of Blockchain, one can always audit the contents of the past in the moment. And so it carries the past into the now.
If one were able to capture into an archive every possible historical interaction down to the smallest unit of space-time—neutral incident recording, indexing and retrieval challenges notwithstanding—, one could necessarily attribute the record with the person, so long as they are otherwise inseparable. (We’re all well-aware of the science fiction narrative where a person’s history or memory is disassociated, so there is that.)
Anyway, I’ve got other matters to tend to, but now this is a matter of historical record…