The Future of Work is Pseudonymous
On the internet, no one knows if you’re a cat. This might be its most useful feature.
We believe that in the near future, most people (and some cats) will work and earn a living under a name that is not their own.
Pseudonyms Protect the Vulnerable
A pseudonym protects you from potential discrimination tied to your identity, nationality, or really any personal characteristic. Perhaps you’re a member of a vulnerable minority. Maybe you work for a company that restricts the activities of its employees, or you live in a country that persecutes your group. Pseudonyms provide a buffer between you and the world, and thus, safety.
In the past, those who spoke out against the church, even though they spoke the truth, were labelled heretics and burnt at the stake. But acting under another name empowers an individual to speak, act, and work for the ideas they believe in without fear.
Pseudonymity is not Anonymity
Our friend Balaji Srinivasan has spoken about the power of pseudonymity for years. It’s important to note that pseudonymity is not shirking responsibility, nor a license to behave badly online. “Pseudonymity provides accountability,” he says. “But it’s also a shield against character assassination.”
People use their real names on Facebook but fake ones for Reddit. Teens will have their “official” Instagram account and a private Finsta (often, these “fake” accounts are the more honest ones). On Twitter, you see a bit of both. Even top government officials like Mitt Romney and James Comey have been caught using fake names online. It’s not about committing crimes, Balaji says, it’s about discussing ideas without fear of retaliation.
Much like you may use one credit card for personal purchases and another for business ones, you’d use your real name for official matters, another for professional purposes, and perhaps a third strictly for online discourse.
Pseudonyms Protect Ideas
Nobody knows the true identity of Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of Bitcoin. This is one reason Bitcoin thrived despite regulatory oversight.
Satoshi could be any gender, nationality, or race. They could be an individual, a group, maybe an AI.
But because nobody knows who Satoshi is, they can’t tear down the person. And because Bitcoin is decentralized, they can’t destroy the network. “They can’t attack the man or the ball,” Balaji says. Ideas, especially good ones, are much more resilient than any individual.
By Any Other Name
Pseudonymity is not new to the Internet age. The Founding Fathers lived in a decentralized news ecosystem (one we’re rapidly returning to), a disconnected network of small, regional publications pushing different stories and perspectives. Many of them owned multiple outlets themselves and published editorials in them under a slew of pen names. They had to, to effectively spread their ideas as far and wide as they could. Had they not, America might be a very different place today.
Pseudonyms unshackle people to pursue their wildest goals free of judgement or fear of harm. They cultivate discourse and build a buffer between people and their ideas.
How do you account for trust in pseudonymous interactions? We’re working on that, too. Read about Freehold’s HODL Score and how it separates identity and reputation, here.
When identity is no longer a barrier, more voices rise and ideas flourish. We can’t wait for the age of pseudonymous work to set those voices free.