A Crowd of One

The Future of Individual Identity


By John Clippinger

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Great leaps forward in scientific understanding have, throughout history, engendered similar leaps forward in how we understand ourselves. Now, the new hybrid disciplines of evolutionary biology and social physics are making the next leap possible — and fundamentally altering our notions of individual identity. If identity is a fact not derived from within the individual, but conferred on an individual by a group, or network, a host of assumptions about how governments work, how conflicts arise and are resolved, and how societies can be coaxed toward good are overturned.

John Clippinger brilliantly illuminates how the Enlightenment itself — the high point of individual assertiveness — was a product not just of a few moments of individual inspiration and creativity, but rather of a societal shift that allowed innovation and creativity to flourish. Michelangelo owes quite as much to the circumstances of the Renaissance as the Renaissance does to the work of Michelangelo.

Now, the digitalization of society, which affects all of us already, allows new insight into these questions: What does it require for societies, organizations and individuals, to thrive? Who decides who you are? How can happiness be shared and spread? Who can you trust?
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On Sale
Aug 5, 2007
Page Count
272 pages

John Clippinger

About the Author

John Henry Clippinger is a Senior Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society where he directs a program on open security and digital identity which under the social physics project (www. socialphysics.org) supported the development of an open source, interoperability identity framework called Higgins to and to give people control over their personal information. John also conducts multi-disciplinary research and workshops with the Gruter Institute (www.gruterinstitute.org) and the Aspen Institute (www.aspeninstitute.org) on the impact of trust, reciprocity, reputation, social signaling on the formation of digital institutions.

John has consulted on networked organizations to the Command and Control Research Program (CCRP) in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Networks, Information and Integration). Previously, he was CEO of Context Media LLC, a knowledge management software and services company and Director, Intellectual Capital, at Coopers & Lybrand (now Price Waterhouse Coopers). Prior to joining Coopers & Lybrand, he was CEO of Brattle Research Corporation, which developed artificial intelligence, language processing and search software. He is author/editor of the book, The Biology of Business: Decoding the Natural Laws of Enterprise (Jossey-Bass, 1999) and the author of Meaning and Discourse: A Computational Model of Psychoanalytic Discourse (Johns Hopkins, 1977).

John is a graduate of Yale University and holds a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. He is a member and regular participant of the Pentagon sponsored Highland Forum, The Aspen Institute, CEO Leadership Institute of Yale University School of Management, and The Santa Fe Institute Business Network.

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