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eSSIF-Lab World Model

eSSIF-Lab World Model

The eSSIF-Lab World Model consists of

  • the set of concepts, as listed in the Glossary,
  • relations between these concepts, as explained in the various concept-descriptions, and in the various patterns, as listed in the Patterns List, and
  • a set of Principles that we take as starting points for our thinking.
George E.P. Box: All models are wrong, but some are useful

We emphasize that the world model we propose is also 'wrong' (in the sense of G. Box). However, we did make a serious effort for it to be useful: it is meant to serve as a sound basis for designing, implementing and deploying architectures, processes and technologies that aim to support (autonomous, self-sovereign) parties as they negotiate and execute electronic transactions with one another.

Our model contains several ways of thinking that may seem somewhat 'alien', in the sense that they do not appear to follow common thought patterns. Where you notice that, you will need to choose which way of thinking you want to follow. We suggest you temporarily suspend the common ways of thinking (you can always go back to your own ways of thinking), and give this 'alien' eSSIF-Lab way of thinking a serious try. By 'serious' we mean that you make an effort to actually understand what we're trying to say and do. We certainly made an effort to make this as easy as we could, e.g. by being very precise in our definitions, and changing texts according to what we have heard people say.

Here, we only introduce/summarize the most fundamental concepts (and their properties) of the eSSIF-Lab world model. You are encouraged to browse on, clicking on the terms you want to know more about, or reading up on the mental models that provide the coherence between them.

The Universe consists of Entities

eSSIF-Lab sees the world (universe) as being filled with entities, i.e. things (people and animals included) that exist. Our world view is shaped by the distinctions that eSSIF-Lab makes as it classifies such entities into well-defined categories, each of which having specific characteristics.

Parties: Entities that manage and use a Knowledge autonomously

One of the most fundamental of such categories is called party. A party is defined as an entity that manages and uses its own knowledge autonomously. It is its own sovereign, i.e. within its scope of control, everything is guided by its own, subjective knowledge. This includes all decision making, execution of actions, risks, governance, etc., etc. Typical examples include organizations (governments, enterprises) and individual human beings. Note that while parties cannot be assumed to be capable of doing things (e.g. organizations). However, they, as any other party, can employ actors to work for them, i.e. execute actions on their behalf.

We postulate that every party has objectives that it pursues. A large part of its knowledge revolves about governing and/or managing these objectives (which includes risk management) and making sure they get realized.

While parties are their own (self-)sovereigns and in principle can do as they please, they live in a universe with many other parties, that are also 'self-sovereigns'. This means that they need to come to terms with one another as they have interactions with one another that may influence the knowledge of the participating parties, and have other consequences as well. Such transactions between parties is not only one of the focal points of this framework: it is the reason we created it.

You can learn more about parties from the parties, actors and action pattern.

Actors: Entities that can act (do things)

Another fundamental category is called actor, which is defined as an entity that can act (do things). It is important to note that while some entity classes (e.g. human beings) qualify as both actors and parties, other entity classes do not (e.g. organizations, or robots). As an actor does something (executing an action), it uses the knowledge of one specific party as the main/dominant guidance for executing that action, yet it may also use knowledge of other parties when such is necessary to properly execute the action. We say that the actor is executing that action on behalf of that party. Actors may execute different actions on behalf of different parties. It is a particular contribution of this framework that using it allows one to determine which actor executes what action on behalf of what party. This is particularly relevant in the context of two interacting/transacting parties.

You can learn more about actors from the parties, actors and action pattern.

Jurisdiction: Authority with mechanisms for defining rules, enforcing them, and resolving disputes

A third fundamental category is called jurisdiction, which is a foundational concept for organizing collaborations between parties, e.g. in communities or ecosystems. Basically, a jurisdiction is an authority that has mechanisms for defining and maintaining rules, enforcement thereof, and a mechanism for resolving conflicts within its scope of control.

You can learn more about jurisdictions from the jurisdictions pattern.

Transactions: the exchange of goods, services, funds, or data between parties

The last fundamental category is the transaction, i.e. the exchange of goods, services, funds, or data between parties.

We follow the DEMO transactions pattern, which divides transactions in three phases:

  • a negotiation phase, in which one or more (agents of each) participant exchange data for the purpose of establishing a contract that specifies what the transaction entails. This phase results either in a commitment decision of all participants, or the termination of the transaction because one of them quits.
  • an execution phase, in which (agents of) the same principals work (execute actions) to fulfill the obligations of the agreement. This phase results in them stating that they have completed that work (or that they gave up).
  • the acceptance phase, in which one or more (agents of the) participants exchange data that leads to a decision to accept the results, or to escalate (e.g. start a lawsuit against the other participant).

The relevance of SSI shows e.g. in the negotiation phase, where participants request and collect data that they need in order to make the commitment decision. In the eSSIF-Lab way of thinking, each participant will collect data to serve any of the following purposes:

  • to know what each of the participants (including itself) will commit itself to produce/deliver/...;
  • to ensure that the value of what the participant gets exceeds the value of what it produces/delivers/...;
  • to ensure that the magnitude of the risks it perceives to run upon committing to the transaction, remain at an acceptable level.

Every participant is assumed to be autonomous, which means that the assessment of the value of what it gets/produces is subjective, and so is the perception of risks, and the assessment of their magnitude. Hence, the need for specific kinds of data and associated assurances, all of which can be provided through SSI technologies, are quite subjective. It is part of the governance of parties to define their information needs for specific kinds of transactions, which is expected to lead to the policies that provide the primary guidance that actors (people as well as systems) need to conduct such transactions on their behalf. Such policies would state the kinds of data needed, the parties that it trusts for truthfully issuing credentials that hold such data, etc.