SSI Orbit Podcast
Non-binary Thinking will Accelerate Digital Sovereignty (with Rouven Heck)
By Mathieu Glaude
October 31, 2021

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Progress is often slowed down because of binary thinking. Binary thinking happens when complex concepts, ideas, and problems are overly simplified into being one side or another.

It doesn’t take me more than 30 seconds to scroll through my Twitter feed to see this type of behaviour in live action. Things get categorized as 100% good or 100% without any conversation around it, leading to divisiveness. We see examples of this very frequently when it comes to political conversations.

I’ve also noticed this type of behaviour within the self-sovereign identity world as well: “Such protocol is good, such protocol is bad”; “Such community is good, such community is bad.”

Now, if we take two communities within the SSI space – the Decentralized Identity Foundation (DIF) and the Trust over IP Foundation (ToIP). I will sometimes hear people talking positively about one and negatively about the other. But why is this happening? Don’t we all have the same underlying values? Aren’t we all looking to better our lives through digital sovereignty?

I think the answer to this is clear and we need to get away from thinking in a binary manner about anything in our space. And if you really look at the overlap between both these communities: they are quite large.

(Full blog post here)

Even within certain communities I sometimes see examples of non-binary thinking: “Bottom-up approaches are good”, “Top-down approaches are bad”. I can confidently say that there is value in both top-down and bottom-up approaches.

If we all agree that there is value in regulated systems that we all participate in every day, then there is likely value in using digital versions of Government-issued IDs. This explains why Governments are taking current physical world trust models and putting them into the digital world. 

I think we can also all agree that Identity is more than a Government-issued ID.  This means there are plentiful of opportunities of re-thinking existing trust models and deploying bottom-up approaches that use community or reputational-driven credentials. Getting Discord credentials issued to me because I’m a good developer or a good marketing person is a valuable thing.

There’s a world where both of these co-exist. Nothing is ever completely good or bad.

Non-binary thinking will accelerate digital sovereignty.

About Episode
During this conversation, we discuss:

  • Digital Sovereignty – operating in the digital world (or metaverse), with an emphasis on Government’s role in the digital world.
  • Why organizations such as Mozilla, Google, Apple recently objected to the W3C decentralized identifiers standards – does this go against the independence of people? Does it have to do with energy consumption of proof-of-work blockchains?
  • Deciphering Interoperability – there’s a need to focus more of the conversations around portability. Rouven provides some easy to understand examples.
  • What’s happening in the DIF and what are some of the cross-community collaborations
  • Overviewing Top-down and Bottom-up approaches – the differences in governance,  the importance of reputation, opening up portable reputations from siloed spaces.
  • What to control and what not to? Where do I fit into a Decentralized ID ecosystem? Some examples of services offerings, including how financial institutions can create new value offerings.
  • Verified vs Verifiable – why these two words are fundamentally different and how they sometimes wrongly used.

About Guest

Rouven Heck is the Identity Lead @ ConsenSys Mesh and the Executive Director @ Decentralized Identity Foundation

Prior to joining ConsenSys, Rouven had a number of positions at Deutsche Bank working as a Blockchain Expert, COO, Program Manager, and Service manager.


You can find Rouven on Twitter here:; and on LinkedIn here:


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