Archive for January, 2010

In this post I will try to demonstrate  the semantics of identity in the context of “identity theft” –explaining why “identity theft” exists and why it is so absurd.  The reason is not very complex, so the understanding of it is within anyone’s capacity.  There are at least three perspectives considered below.

There is of course the personal and victimized perspective.  I shall refer to this as the victim’s perspective for the people are undoubtedly victimized by “identity theft”.  And there is another perspective mainly shared by political, banking and lending institutions, and big business.  The perspective of these stakeholders is the institutional perspective and it is shared by these establishments.  The third perspective is that of the skeptic and the critical thinker –not that all skeptics are critical thinkers and vice-versa.

To understand  the semantics of identity one must first understand that thinking is inseparable from doing.

In addition to the fact that there are at least two perspectives to any identity there are at least two ways of intersecting these active perspectives.   To understand the semantics, we can look at a static state of affairs –as we often must– and to do so, we freeze a situation for retrospective analysis.

There is also a way of seeing what is happening as a dynamic interrelated set of entities, objects and processes, because, as a matter of fact, everything is always moving and in motion.  One side is not independent of the other, each is an aspect of a single object or entity.   There is then, a static aspect to identity and a dynamic aspect to identity.

I am sure most readers would take all that as rather abstract so let’s try to make it more concrete at the risk of sounding a little absurd in the face of reality.  Recall now that the institutional establishments have invented the phrase “identity theft”, and that such establishments have a stake in controlling one’s identity.  Now theft of course, means that something, usually property, is stolen by somebody else, so we can dispense with further discussion of that part of the phrase.  The rest of the phrase implies that it is one’s own identity being stolen.

Let’s examine that; beginning with personal identity as this is the case we all know best.  For all our intents and purposes, the proper name of an identity is one such (relatively) static aspect of identity. A proper name has its own semantics.  A proper name is a label and sometimes a handle for an identity.

A label is meaningful for separating things, for calling people and for tracking, that is; a proper name is meaningful in the context of labeling things for distribution, segregation, control and similar purposes.  Now, notice that we are no longer talking about identity. Here, now, we are talking about the utility of proper names.  Now this fact –a seemingly innocuous switch of subject– seems very important to me. Particularly as many people are victims of “identity theft” these days.

It is here that the skeptic might be thinking that all this is absurd and that it matters not what name is used for any purpose. Identity theft, for example, does not have to mean that one’s identity is being stolen some skeptic may say.  To that I would respond that words and names are often convenient labels but it does not make them true or correct labels.  For the labels to be determined to be true, one must be able to examine the case and its implications in order to come to an agreement as to whether it is a true or correct application of the label.

If you are following me, you will resolve after due consideration, that “identity theft” is not a true description of what is happening in such a state of affairs and within the surrounding cloud of circumstances.  If you are a victim of so-called “identity theft” What is being stolen is not your identity or even your proper name –because many people share the same proper name– what is being stolen is data or “information” linked to your occupational being here (and all about your participation in an economy).

Now, it matters only whether some property of the victim is being stolen or whether property of the establishment is being stolen or otherwise  misappropriated.

Your credit cards and wallet and bank account numbers and passwords in your possession are your property, but your credit history files are not your property.  The data in your credit history file is stored on computers that are not your own. The files and computers belong to the bureaucratic and institutional establishments. The data inside these files are fully intended and designed to provide information about you and to further segregate and classify you.

Now almost everyone has heard of the situation referred to by calling it “identity theft”. That actually means that someone has broken into your credit history and related files and is illegally using the information there to impersonate you.

By calling it “identity theft” instead a high-tech crime of “data hacking” and theft of “information”, bankers and big business retailers and other lenders are able to make it your problem. e.g., as if your “identity” is being stolen. Though it is not your identity being stolen. Why is their data and systems being hacked your problem and not their problem?  Shouldn’t they be held accountable?  Is it because “they have the power” and you do not?  If that is what you think; that answers why it is your problem.

Understand that it is the actual digital files and information that they –the institutional establishment– created about you that is being misappropriated.  The files and information are not your property. Because they are not your property, why should you be required to ensure the safety and security of these files? Why aren’t they held accountable for their own property and for the damage they do to your reputation?  The answer is simple.  You do not realize your own power and you do not exercise your will to object and to push back against the establishment when it goes wrong-headed.

Therefore your elected officials with legal power over the institutional establishment allow them to do it. Electing new politicians cannot help you, if you are not thinking correctly.  The new politicians will allow it too. For one, they will say: It has always been that way.  The real or true reason though, is: It is allowed because the semantics are unclear.  The semantics are unclear because the labels are being used in a confusing way.  The consequence of confusion is more confusion.  A consequence is the effect of taking an action, so that is to say that wrong-headed actions are taken.  In the wake of confusion, lucrative deals come more readily than when things are more settled.

The semantics of identity is assignment.  Assignment is an elementary semantic process.  What does it take to make an assignment?  What are you doing when you make an assignment?  Creating theories and concepts about the way things appear and their implications is a part of critical thinking.

In the case that I tried to frame above, the issue is identify theft.  So, we must question our assumptions about identity and what it is.  Without semantics –that is, without basic symbolic knowledge of the original cause and the interrelationship of identity to the wholesome and unified awareness, one might accept that an identity is only a name, label, or some nomenclature that we use in language and in talking about people and other things.

Critical thinking requires one to be clear and precise about their concepts.

So my concept of identity converges to the assignment of a name or label in order to identify the object or process occurring to the awareness.  The semantics of identity is assignment.  This is to say, quite objectively, that an occurrence that appears to have an identity (such as the appearance of the computer before you) is such identity only because we have assigned it the name “computer”.  Identity is a symptom of the assignment we make.  What does it take to make an assignment?  What are you doing when you make an assignment?  You are using your authority and free will to do something.  Framing and answering such questions is a part of critical thinking.

If you are a parent, ask yourself, who or what gave you the authority to assign your child a name –their identity.  No kingdom or government regulates such a thing.  If you are not a parent , ask yourself, what gives you the authority to call something good or bad — to pass judgement by association –by naming or referring to something substantive of a thing.  What power or right gives you, or me for that matter, the authority to call the computer a computer and not a calculator or some other name?

The semantics of identity is assignment.  An assignment confers rights to being.  When you make an assignment, what you are doing, is that you are conferring rights.  Thinking is inseparable from doing.

Whether it is done subconsciously, preconsciously or consciously, because it  is a matter of implication and consequence, and because it is held almost entirely within the realm of the mind and within the “processes of thinking”, until it becomes a matter of fact or consequence, most people tend not to even notice that they are exercising their own personal authority.  You exercise your authority to make an assignment while making any decision that is involved in creating or affirming any identity. This is done by conferring upon it, its right to identity.   Think of it… what power! What Grace?

Your right to identity along with your proper name — was conferred upon you by your parents. No one can take that away.  In fact, if you want to change your name, you need a judge to grant that right for good reason.  Why do you give into the ruse that your identity is being stolen –so easily?  Because the bankers and lenders say so?

Your parents give you your name, but your own self-identity arises from that perfect union and nurture from which your being here unfolds. Your rights to the pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is a birthright.  Does it make you happy that the institutional establishment has taking over control of your life and liberty and that they have abrogated your own power and property of self-identity and used it for their own profit?

If you do not like that reasoning, try this:  If you are a victim of so-called identity theft, then you have apparently nothing more to lose.  Why not go to court and point out to the judge that your identity is quite intact and that it was the lender’s data files that were hacked and stolen and that has created havoc in your life along with financial ruin.  Now of course, you cannot do this if you are careless with your own property:  your files, data and information.  In this, case you must suffer the consequences of being careless, unthinking and out of touch with what is happening around you.

I am not a lawyer.   Perhaps one will comment. I believe if you are careful and the theft is not of your own property– i.e., your identity or your wallet or card or something else in your care and possession, then you have a case for judicial review.  If your judge concurs that it is indeed a credit or banking system or file being hacked, causing in its wake irreparable harm that you can document, the judge may rule that the banker or creditor is a fault for not protecting the information in the first place.

Disclosing one’s private information, whether intentionally or not, is a crime that should carry hefty penalties as a multiple of the damage that is inflicted on the victim. Now don’t you agree after all, that we should all think more carefully and critically about the way words are used?

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In an earlier post, I tried to answer the question: Why we  need semantics and why it is so important for computers.  I think that I touched on the problem of critical thinking and how hard it is for people to do.  That is a part of the semantics of critical thinking but it is not the whole story.

Critical thinking is thinking about your thinking –mainly examining your questions, assumptions, knowledge and beliefs before deciding an issue or a question. Many teachers or educators who teach critical thinking would emphasize the reflective and introspective activities and notions for which one should account in the process of critical thinking.  One might call such things the “elements” of critical thinking as in this wonderful model of critical thinking published by the Foundation for Critical Thinking:


A Model of Critical Thinking

For example,  if you are a thinking human being, then you will experience the need or desire to really think hard.  When you think about something very important to you, then you should try to use critical thinking to figure out your best options.  The model above tries to explain that “much of our thinking, left to itself, is biased, distorted, partial, uninformed, or downright prejudiced. If we want to think well, we must understand at least the rudiments of thought, the most basic structures out of which all thinking is made. We must learn how to take thinking apart.”

I do not agree that these are “the most basic structures out of which thinking is made”, though as the “elements” of this model of critical thinking, they address the several aspects of critical thinking, such as: getting information, evaluating assumptions and inferences, using a theory or concepts, and; standards for critical  thinking, such as: clarity, precision and relevance, for example. If you click on the image above, it will take you to the interactive model where you can get more information on how to apply critical thinking.

While you look over the model what you will come to realize, if you did not already, is that critical thinking is hard to do.  There is a lot of reflection and introspection, and there is some reasoning as well.  This explains why we need semantics for computers.  Semantics or semiotics is the foundation of critical thinking.  The concepts, theories, principles and axioms called for in the model above are necessary.  How many people have all the concepts, principles and theories?  How many who say they do can actually justify them and qualify them from their own assumptions or beliefs?  Such questions cannot be answered.  If seems quite enough to say: not many.

That is why we need a semantic theory for computers.  The concepts, theories, principles and axioms of critical thinking are semiotic concepts, theories, principles and axioms –without them we have little solid ground for processing symbolic thought.  That is what makes Adi’s semantic theory such an important breakthrough for the computer industry and for everyday people.

For this first time in history, we have a sound theory that provides the concepts and theory sufficient to dealing with four of the eight elements of critical thinking (of this model), that is:  processing the implications and consequences, the assumptions, interpretations and the inferences relevant to any of the other four elements: information, point of view, purpose and questioning a specific issue.

Further application of Adi’s semantic theory will lead to Computer-Assisted Critical Thinking (C-ACT) where we can rely on all the great functions of computers to apply acceptable standards to well-grounded critical thinking, namely: clarity, precision, accuracy, logic. completeness, validity and relevance, etc.  We all need to do some critical thinking. With a little luck, a few resources and some support, we will soon be able to have our computers help us do critical thinking about the questions we have, and the issues we want to resolve.

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The Semantics of Disconnect

Check out this ebook about what matters now (it is in pdf format).  I have added my meme below.  If you are touched by what matters most to you, you should post the ebook at your blog and add your meme to it.

My meme for what matters now is the

D i s c o n n e c t

in meaning and life that many people experience.

The Choice

It is your Choice.

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