The quest to decentralized communication and social contracts.
You could say that the very first Universal ID was an individual’s home address. A home address had a unique property, a universally identifiable global location, lat and long demarcated by street name and number, which allowed us to “communicate” with each other via mail. Sure your packages got lost/stolen during transit from time to time, and yes, maybe someone else saw the contents (mom! dad!), but it was a decent start for your identity.
Then, with the invention of the telephone in 1876, your phone number became your new universal address. Landlines made communication almost instant and a bit communal. I am old enough to remember saying things like, “moommmm get off the phone, it’s for me!!”...
The arrival of cell phones was probably the first time we ever had a personalized Universal ID by mobilizing and individualizing the communication. This device created a direct line between your identity and the rest of the world. If someone needed to talk to you, they just dialed your number …... not your home, not your office but your own, personal seven digits.
The rise of web/mobile apps introduced quite a few more Universal IDs. Emails, IP addresses, Bank accounts, Face IDs, fingerprints, credit cards, domain names, and social accounts allowed you to connect other apps/websites as a single sign-on solution.
The convenience of governments taking care of the real estate ownership, paperwork, banks holding your wealth, companies giving you phone numbers, emails, and your phone keeping all your accounts safe and sound with just a scan of your face or your fingerprint came at a cost, namely ownership of your identity.
In this state of affairs, our identity and data belong to employers, landlords, companies, governments (or primarily to your smartphone). And they can erase your identity and your wealth just as quickly as they created it.
To us, the most mind-blowing aspect of a crypto wallet is that you can create one by just “simply” picking 24 words—nothing else. No one else needs to hear it; you don’t need to be online; you don’t need to register it to a central authority or pass a gatekeeper. It can never see the light of day, but it is uniquely yours.
To give more concrete examples, imagine being able to: