Do you think those living in the bronze age ran around calling it the bronze age? Metal tools made of bronze radically changed warfare, cooking, even commerce. The core element that changed that world (CuSn) drove everything. The idea of the age of enlightenment says it all. Again, it’s unlikely that people ran around talking about how enlightened they were every day. The act of naming actually allows us to reflect with laser like clarity and also to project out with some sense of accuracy what that future could look like.

The same is true for the age we live in now. We live in an internet centric world and calling the ages of the internet Web 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 does nothing to describe the experiences we are having, or the radical shifts that are occurring and will occur around us. However, to just give the web a series of numbers severely underestimates the enormous changes we have experienced and the ones we are about to experience.

Data travelling through time

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Now imagine being able to partly predict what the next era, the next era of the web could be about. This would drive where you invested capital, ideas energy for success. Seeing the future over the horizon is a key asset for successful leadership at any level. Being able to define those patterns ahead of competitors often needs a simple compass, or metaphor for it.

The age of instant access:

The first wave of the internet was about accessing information in an almost exponential way. It started with very esoteric chat boards and ended with Google. At the end of the age of infinite access we you could find, see and purchase anything, literally anything in an instant. That combined statement of find, see and purchase anything in an instant is remarkable in its absoluteness. E-commerce was a natural consequence of access, and the secret was not the website, but the ability to manage very complex, living supply chains. Supply chains exponentially more complex than millions of retailers had managed for hundreds of years before. Welcome to an Amazon world, kicked off by everything from Alta Vista to eventually Google’s dominance. Sorry Bing, Yahoo, and Lycos.

We could also see very early on how we were increasingly defining ourselves by our internet presence in this age of instant access and where it would lead next. What had once been very particular social gatherings online about niche areas or interests that were incredibly well managed by their user groups community administrators became too large to really get managed by a human. What once had consequences (ones ID needed verifying) and was also being community monitored suddenly became at best anonymous and well meaning and at worst maybe fake and filled with negative or conspiratorial opinion, fake news and almost infinite amplification.

298996 02: Jeff Bezos, Founder & Ceo Of Amazon.Com, Poses For Portrait January 1, 1997 In Seattle, … [+] Wa. (Photo By Paul Souders/Getty Images)

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Imagine if you could have seen those patterns before the market acted on them to create value. Would you have tried to take your company online or would you have tried to invent yourself as whole new supply chain company with an online presence. Would you really have bet on Yahoo with its “community” like management model or the wild west openness of Google. Knowing these simple north star truths drives success. Welcome to the net age. The age of infinite expression.

The age of infinite expression:

The age of instant access quickly became the age of mass self-expression. Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and on and on are all platforms for 24/7/365 un-fettered, self-expression. The vast majority of this was incredibly creative, positive, and lifted up the human condition. For every bad thing this age created, thousands of wonderful things happened. The magnitude of self expression (many people had multiple identities) birthed new social and political sub strata almost at will. Welcome to the Facebook world. For example, you might love Z gauge trains and also support LBGT rights at the shift of a key stroke. That ability to express ourselves in extreme and exotic combinations was really about the idea of infinite expression.

MILAN, ITALY – DECEMBER 14: (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been converted to black and white)Khaby Lame … [+] attends the “TikTok – Un Racconto Italiano” event at Spazio Manin on December 14, 2021 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images)

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Our identity may have been as one, but our expressions of what we cared about, thought about and acted on were infinite. We are seeing though a tension about who we are in the physical world where we live, and the world we live in that is virtual, and the almost infinite way we express ourselves in that virtual world. At some point our expressions and thoughts about these two worlds would collide. Ask yourself a simple question. Do you know Kim Kardashian? Ten years ago your answer would be no. Today you can interact with her (Twitter), buy her clothes, see her on the Daily Mail living her celebrity life. This is the age of infinite expression (see it, be it, witness others). Her identity is increasingly defined by the millions of digital pieces and experiences she offers or has been open to be part of. In the age of infinite expression are the burning embers of the vital components of success in the next age.

If you could have captured this simple idea of infinite expression, would you have changed the way you did political polling because the old methods failed to pick up the nuances of how people think in an age of infinite expressions? Would you have bet on a tethered platform like Reddit or a completely open platform like Facebook? Behind the next age, the age of meta identity is a very vibrant and different business model for success. Quite simply it is fractions of identity, blockchain.

The age of meta identity and what it means:

We now express ourselves online and in the physical world with interconnected ease. From our fingerprints to voice (Alexa), hand (Amazon fresh), phone number and facial recognition and on and on. We do this in person and online. We do not need to show our whole identity to do this, we do this in tiny slices and it slides between physical and virtual identities in an instant. If this was just a human disposition it would be complex.

It’s not just humans in this world, it is also the billions of intelligent devices from cars to medical devices that work with each other and work with humans with different levels and types of identification and permissions, moving around at (literally) electric speeds. Identification becomes the new currency for permissions, control and access for people and the zettabytes of data that will be created and connected all the time.

A robot is pictured during the Expo 2020, in the Gulf emirate of Dubai, on November 10, 2021. (Photo … [+] by GIUSEPPE CACACE / AFP) (Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images)

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As we enter this age of meta identity there are four hot business models that will prevail. Much like Google and Amazon beforehand and then Facebook and YouTube channels afterwards these will be the winning business models managing, orchestrating and enabling meta identities. We have silly ideas like buying virtual clothing for your virtual Avatar in the metaverse (From Prada to Balenciaga).

  • Blockchains sustainable future is not crypto, but for identification and permissions that do not reveal the whole self, just enough of the self for a human and or device to do what it needs to. Solving how to give infinite and protected access to our new meta selves is the challenge Facebook should solve if it is serious about thriving in this next age. Companies that can protect every byte of information and encourage that byte to move in an infinite number of ways (protected, anonymous, etc) will win.
  • Data on us and our devices will be incredibly valuable if it can be managed in near real time and anonymously. Devices will be exponentially more able to make operational decisions with complete and transparent access to information that matters (fractional in nature compared to the whole identity). This is when AI, machine learning and endemic automation of a vast array of tasks will take over. Blockchain identification will be the currency that encourages that future to take off. Imagine how powerful health care data can become if slices of it can be shared on multiple levels, with many parties in the system. Only blockchain can do this and only when a sense of absolute control of how much of that identity is shown and shared is in the hands of the human or device.

Diagonal chain made of zeros and ones. Cryptocurrency and mining. A bitcoin metaphor. Gray … [+] background. A close up. 3d rendering mock up

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  • If your business is in AI, machine learning, cyber security for machines and data in motion then your company will be able to apply a huge power to the data it creates, works with and even shares. The power of artificial intelligence and machine learning will come from the free movement of data that can be protected as it passes to and through millions of systems. Imagine if a satellites maintenance issues could be simulated and even preemptively resolved on earth by sharing similar aspects of the issues through simple sets of anonymous data that comes willingly from other satellites of devices but is protected and highly specific. Identity drives all of this.
  • Open, open and more open. We cannot predict the future value of a piece of data, in fact a very tiny slice of data, not just in a data ledger to be pulled, but as it careens around the meta-sphere connecting and avoiding other sub atomic pieces of data. The ability to have permissions to capture that data from a device or person. New tools, frameworks and ideas will boom to tap into that arena. If your company cannot access those open tools because it has a locked software architecture, then this world will fly past you in the same way it did for companies that missed the last two ages. It is not just software, it is whole way of thinking about the constant pressure to innovate in an open, blockchain generated world. Take the auto industry as an example. Preemptive service (according to McKinsey) can save billions of dollars for the auto industry. Imagine sharing all the pieces of that data with the hundreds of suppliers that sit inside a car and how they could change their innovation processes, supply chain concerns and even profit models. To do it, you need blockchain. To make it work each supplier has to have an open architecture.

LONDON – OCTOBER 14: A 3D facial recognition program is demonstrated during the Biometrics 2004 … [+] exhibition and conference October 14, 2004 in London. The conference will examine the role of new technology such as facial recognition and retinal scans to determine identity to improve security. (Photo by Ian Waldie/Getty Images)

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The age of meta identity is ahead of us. We have barely experienced what it could mean for each of us, our machines and devices and what the power of these living data sets look like. Our ability to protect our identity, or at the very least only reveal small pieces of it that are relevant is going to be the new norm in our online expressions and our physical expressions.

Managing identification comes at the very heart of releasing the power of big data, AI and machine learning. We are about to enter the age of meta identity. It is the natural next step from the age of infinite access and infinite expression.