Professor Michael Mainelli of Z/Yen in Conversation with Mattereum CEO Vinay Gupta

Read full transcript in our blog.

Prof. Mainelli began with a brief introduction to modern notions of identity, starting with the pre-First World War passport issued personally by the British Foreign Secretary and moving on to the Nansen passport, an identity document issued to refugees as part of a private venture, which continued to be used into the early 1980s.


Mainelli then explained his enthusiasm for identity systems by referencing Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto’s thesis that granting the poor secure property rights could unlock tremendous value in the economy. Mainelli said that proof of identity is a prerequisite for claiming property rights, and estimated that 2.4 billion people lack proof of identity.


After a brief comparison of the US, EU, and Indian/Chinese approaches to identity, Mainelli concluded his talk by emphasizing the distinction between probabilistic and deterministic identity.

With Gupta, Mainelli explored Z/Yen’s distributed ledger-based identity management solution, IDChainZ, its subject-centric approach to handling personal transferable credentials and documents, and the underlying smart ledger infrastructure, ChainZy. Gupta observed that there is an incredible amount of stranded capital in the cryptocurrency space due to the lack of KYC/AML practices and the current regulatory uncertainty. Mainelli then explained the distinction between insurance and indemnity, which are often conflated. Mainelli concluded the discussion by presenting two possible approaches to developing identity solutions: a top-down, centralized, surveillance-based approach and a probabilistic approach that deals with the risk of misidentification by insurance or indemnity.