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Re: Problems with anonymous escrow 2--response

[email protected] (James A. Donald) writes:

>Hal writes
>> What is this stuff, reputation capital?  What does it look like?  How can
>> it be measured?  How much is it really worth? 

>Obviously none of these questions are answerable:  So what?

>If you are arguing that intangibles do not exist, and therefore
>cannot affect real things, then this is obviously false.

No, my questions were not rhetorical at all.  I do think that various
people have come up with ideas for what they call reputation capital that
are much more formalized and structured than what you are referring to.
This doesn't mean that they are right and you wrong, just that there are
a lot of different concepts floating around under this umbrella of a

As one example, consider how signed endorsements could be used to
create and validate a reputation.  We already see that today with
celebrity endorsements in advertising.  I once sold a product where the
main competitor had (years ago) collected a favorable comment by
Dvorak, the well-known computer columnist.  I'll bet a lot of people
had never heard of that company but when they saw Dvorak's quote the
image of that company was improved a great deal.  This endorsement
could be called reputation capital.  In a very real sense, it was one
of the principal assets of that company.  I believe many conceptions of
reputation capital consist of collections of such endorsements, along
with an infrastructure to support them (similar perhaps to the PGP web of

>> I think this concept needs
>> to be clarified and examined if it is to serve as one of the principle
>> foundations of pseudonymous commerce.

>No it should not be "clarified and examined" or you will wind up 
>with the supreme court declaring that such and such an act should
>dock your reputation thirty points, and that it is cruel and unusual
>punishment for people to have their reputations docked for acts
>committed more than seven years ago.

There is always the danger of legislative interference in any action but
I really don't think our discussions here are likely to bring disaster
down on us.

>We already know what reputations are.  "Defining" them is going
>to make them into meaningless nominalist hot air.

On the contrary, I think that a pseudonymous/anonymous world calls for
a re-examination of the concept of reputations.  Today there is no
implementation of a transferrable credential, where I could for example
prove that company XYZ considers me a good credit risk, without XYZ
linking my present nom de guerre with the one I used when with them.
Today there is no use made of blind signatures.  A few years ago
public-key encryption was almost unknown in the private sector.  All of
these technologies could have significant impact on business
relationships.  Things are changing, and we on this list are some of
the few people who are interested in talking about the effects of these

>> If pseudonym credentials are untransferrable
>> we have a problem where information builds up about a pseudonym that is
>> very nearly as bad as a completely identified system.  It is true that at
>> least the ultimate linkage between pseudonym and physical body is broken,
>> but to the extent that your on-line activities _are_ your pseudonym, it
>> is no more desirable to allow dossiers to be built up about your on-line
>> personality than your off-line life.

>If your on line personality is selling something, it would seem highly
>desirable to have dossiers built up about it.

Right, I did discuss this point.  This helps prevent people from
certain kinds of cheating.  But the down side is that sellers have to
give up some (all?) privacy.  And, after all, practically everyone is
selling something, even if just their labor.  Is the solution that we
have privacy as consumers but not as sellers?  I don't think this is
the only possible answer.  It is worth considering whether privacy can
be provided to sellers as well.

As another example, consider the case of someone applying for credit.
Here the bank is, in a sense, selling money.  OTOH the applicant is
selling something, too - his ability to pay.  Do we just say that "of
course" dossiers of people's credit history and banks' lending history
are the desirable and correct way to solve this problem, as we have
today?  I would prefer to see whether solutions could be derived in which
more privacy is provided to the participants.  Obviously total anonymity
would make such lending virtually impossible, but perhaps there is some
middle ground between that and a system of total identification.  This is
where Chaum is coming from with his credentials.  His solutions have
problems, granted, but I don't think it is necessarily time to give up
and say that the kinds of dossiers we have today are the best way things
can work.