Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Belief History

Finally a way to prove who you really are and weed out fakes
  [vote for,

For years we have been writing away under pseudonyms. This constitutes a confessional of sorts, where we share our thoughts without the filters required in non-anonymous communication. This does result in some noise of its own, but it also results in an accumulation of our values and beliefs which cannot be easily evidenced outside this setting.

In cryptography, there is the concept of public and private keys. Central to this scheme is the idea of identity. If people cannot prove who they are, the whole scheme falls apart. In this scheme trust relies mostly on individuals vouching for each other. The idea is that if a few people I trust can vouch for you, that means I can trust you as well, and there is a whole infrastructure built for automating this process. The way really committed people have gone about this is by meeting in public and personally exchanging IDs and keys. This works if you can spot a fake ID, or if you have the resources to conduct background checks, but what if you don't have the resources? What if they don't have a fake ID? What if they are just a mole trying to gain access to your network so that they can pass off your information to another agency seeking to monitor your activity? How can you prove who anyone is? How can you prove who you really are? What constitutes who you are?

That last question is different depending upon the application. When you are applying for credit, they look at your credit history. When you are getting a job, they look at your job history. But what if you are joining an organization which wants to verify your beliefs? Can you demonstrate a history of commitment to a certain set of core beliefs?

What I propose is a system of consensual surveillance.

When you meet, you exchange essay questions, and you each spend an hour writing answers to the essay questions under each other's supervision. You then part ways. The writing samples are then compared against links to writing examples on the Internet going back as far as possible which you will also provide each other with. You may choose to use some writing analysis software for this purpose, in the interest of time. This exchange of links to writing examples is done 1-for-1 basis. If what you see in the first link is compelling both in terms of content and date, you ask for another link, and you give them another of yours. This is to protect both participants against parties just looking for loads of private info. After enough writing examples going back far enough have been gleaned, you have hundreds of pages of text spanning decades which are certifiably written by the person you met with. This text will show a certain evolution in writing style, vocabulary, belief and thought. Explanations of any dramatic about-faces on one issue or another will be easily evaluated since it will be concerning the narrow set of common interest you are interested in.

Suppose this is a Rick Astley music fan club. You might find that the person spent the previous 20 years posting to boy-band websites and fan page message boards. You might find that they simply did not demonstrate enough enthusiasm for Rick Astley, or defend his talent tooth and nail against dismissive criticism of smug music snobs. In short, you might find this applicant simply does not make the cut. You will simply not certify that person as a Rick Astley Fan.

Now I know what you are thinking. What if someone is a legitimate convert? It is unfair and short-sighted to exclude them. I am not proposing to be able to solve the problem in all cases. There may be other ways to certify people in those cases, but there is no reason a Rick Astley fanclub should leave themselves open to interlopers. They can still be on the press office mailing list, but they cannot enter the inner sanctum of the cult.

fishboner, Nov 02 2012

Sorry, I had to. http://www.youtube....watch?v=NN75im_us4k
[2 fries shy of a happy meal, Nov 02 2012]

Philosophical scepticism http://en.wikipedia...sophical_skepticism
There's no need to believe... [spidermother, Nov 05 2012]

Electric Monk http://www.technove...ntent.asp?bnum=1298
... especially with one of these! [spidermother, Nov 05 2012]


       But I know that [8th] hates cats, and I like him anyway, without reading his essay.
People who are fake stand out like a sore thumb!
xandram, Nov 02 2012

       The older version of myself could hold a long, detailed, thoughtful argument with my younger self over a great many issues. Converts happen every day.
RayfordSteele, Nov 02 2012

       But what if I really am a fake?
pocmloc, Nov 02 2012

       Well, at least everybody already knows I'm fake. That will save me a lot of time.
Alterother, Nov 02 2012

       You get to choose what you do with what you find out, but at least there is some way for real rick Astley fans to prove they are real to other rick Astley fans. True, it is unfair to converts, but so is credit and job history.
fishboner, Nov 02 2012

       "People who are fake stand out like a sore thumb!"   

       Not if they're good at it. They could have an excuse like that they have been living in the Alaskan tundra for the last 10 years. They can also gloss over their fakeness by offering lots of support to the Rick Astley Fan Club.
fishboner, Nov 02 2012

       Bun for the name "fishboner".
doctorremulac3, Nov 02 2012

       //Can you demonstrate a history of commitment to a certain set of core beliefs?// "Belief" is a strong concept, and commitment to any beliefs could be seen as voluntary self delusion, and not necessarily a good thing. Just sayin'.
spidermother, Nov 02 2012

       This system can also be used to demonstrate a history of exceptionally flighty belief, or non-belief.
fishboner, Nov 05 2012

       Thank you, I was feeling left out ;-) (link).
spidermother, Nov 05 2012

       And what happens when you get a schismatic break in the Rick Astley fan club? You'll have two, or more, groups claiming to be the legitimate lovers of all things Astley and refusing to acknowledge the legitimacy of any other group.
DrBob, Nov 05 2012

       Dr Bob,   

       This is precisely the kind of problem this system is good for. Schisms are caused by a specific bone of contention.   

       You can make sure they are the "real kind" of fan.
fishboner, Nov 06 2012


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