How to Prove You Are Not a Bot With Polygon ID
“The world is run by robots,” comedian John Mulaney says in a recent standup special, “and we spend most of our day telling them that we’re not a robot just to log on and look at our own stuff.”
The experience is common and ranges from the tedious (“Find all the stop signs”) to the slightly creepy ("I'm Not a Robot" professions of humanity). Online reverse Turing tests such as these have managed to hold the bot hoards at bay, at least for now.
But these tests don’t solve a related problem: how to prove uniqueness.
With advances in large language models like the one that powers ChatGPT, neural nets with super-human level image recognition abilities and linguistic verisimilitude are making already difficult problems even harder to solve. Holding back the bots feels more and more like putting band-aids on a crack in a dam.
Luckily, there is a different approach to these problems–and one that can not only help you prove your humanity, but also that can help demonstrate that you are unique, the one and only you.
Polygon ID tools can be used to build solutions for proving uniqueness with profound consequences.
Proving Uniqueness Is Different than Proving Humanity
By using bleeding-edge zero-knowledge (ZK) cryptography, Polygon ID offers developers tools that enable them to build solutions that keep their users’ personal identifying information private, even as they prove (to third parties, to apps, to dApps) that they are, uniquely, who they say they are.
There is a difference between proving uniqueness and proving humanity.
One person, or a human-like AI, may be able to demonstrate that they are human across multiple different accounts by passing reverse Turing tests and signing up for new accounts. In other words, a single entity might crop up as many different identities, like when a famous basketball player accidentally reveals his alt. In many contexts, this isn’t a problem.
But in blockchain, it can introduce a vector for a Sybil attack.
A Sybil attack is when one entity operates multiple different identities, and uses the influence of these multiple identities to their advantage. Proving uniqueness becomes not only important in principle, but practically necessary for a number of use cases across Web2 and Web3, from e-voting to DAOs to various forms of Web2 banking KYC processes.
The fix, in the past, has been to submit forms of personal documents or credentials to a centralized entity like a bank, to prove your identity. But is there a way to prove uniqueness without giving away troves of extremely private information?
Enter Verifiable Credentials
Polygon ID brings the broadly adopted Verifiable Credentials format, sources of information about your identity, into a Web3 space. And it does so using ZK proofs, to help keep private information private. Polygon ID is open source and permissionless, so anyone can use the Polygon ID tools to serve as an issuer (e.g., KYC providers, DAOs, etc.), a verifier (Web2 apps and Web3 dApps), or a holder (users) of a Web3 identity that corresponds to the real world.
What does this mean? Off-chain data can be used for trustless on-chain verifications–and this can be done without necessarily revealing the data an issuer has credentialed.
This is meaningful for proving uniqueness because it means developers have the option to make systems where users will not have to submit massive amounts of sensitive personal data or documents for verifications. Instead, using Polygon ID, developers can build solutions that provide the ability for a user to simply supply a proof that they are unique.
Developers building with Polygon ID can help you prove not only that you’re not a robot, but also that you are you.
The consequences for this are enormous, especially for a bunch of other, real-world information that many dApps may need to know about you. For instance: imagine a DAO where each member is allowed a single vote. An issuer can supply credentials proving uniqueness, but do so without releasing identifying information. For e-voting, Polygon ID tools can be used by developers to help prove that you’re older than 18–and therefore, eligible to vote in the United States–and do this without requiring you to reveal your exact date of birth, or who you voted for. It can further help you prove you live in a certain country, without revealing your address.
We are at the beginning of fending off an AI future by introducing the ability for claims of uniqueness.
Polygon ID helps developers build solutions that may help sidestep the need for their users to necessarily upload private, hackable documents to centralized entities in order to access a service, and allows users to take their identity wherever they go online. Like in the real world, your identity becomes fully three-dimensional.
The power of Polygon ID is precisely this: a technology that makes you more human, in a world that’s increasingly saturated by bots.
Proof Is in the ZK Pudding
The architecture that enables Polygon ID relies on issuers, identity holders, and verifiers. In this triangulation, in theory everything from CAPTCHA to KYC can be tackled, and the replication takeover vanquished.
How? ZK proofs. Claims about identity and uniqueness can be proved within the toolset provided by Polygon ID, meaning developers in Web2 and Web3 can open up new design spaces that foster identity-based apps, like one-to-one voting, without sacrificing user privacy.
And none of this is magic. It’s just ZK.
Polygon ID helps developers unlock a future where you will no longer have to spend “most of your day telling a robot that you're not a robot,” in the words of John Mulaney. Instead, spend time online as the one thing you uniquely are: you.
Together, we can build an equitable future for all through mass adoption of Web3!