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Natalie Smolenski is an anthropologist who leads business development for Learning Machine, a blockchain technology firm specializing in self-sovereign digital identity. As an author and public speaker, she focuses on the intersections of identity, technology, and government. By bringing a scientific perspective to distributed digital technologies and social transformation, she helps audiences from all backgrounds understand how individuals connect to form communities and build the infrastructures of the future.
This presentation reflects the first installment of a wider project examining the origins and potential of self-sovereign identity. While the term “self-sovereign identity” has become commonplace within digital identity circles and in the media, what it means in theory and in practice is hotly contested. In this project, Natalie examines various cultural, legal, and technical approaches to both sovereignty in general and self-sovereignty in particular in order to better understand what is being contested and why–and what the stakes are. This presentation kicks off the project with a historical overview of some of the approaches to and questions about sovereignty within the European (theologico-) political tradition and sets the stage for the next installment, which more closely examines the connection between sovereignty and value.