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20180617 – Who can you trust



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The main idea of this book is to demonstrate importance of trust in all relationships between people, especially in business, which is pretty much not possible without at least some measure of trust. This is based on analysis of the processes that lead to trust with multitude of examples, mainly from real live business. It is also intended to present author’s vision of the future development of trust that in her opinion would eventually substitute many existing mechanisms of supporting trust with some kind of blockchain based infrastructure that would bring it to much higher level than ever before.



Author starts the introduction with reminiscence of her wedding that happen to be on the day of crisis of 2008 so a few of her friends – big financial bosses left the event in emergency. She uses it to discuss various events when trust of people in institutions and leasers was undermined and states that it is very troubling symptom of massive change when trust shifts “from the monolithic to individualized”. Author refer as the cause of this massive change to new technology that made it possible to record events, conversations, videos, and communicate to the world for everybody without anybody’s control and approval, something that was not possible even a few years ago. Author defines the new reality as “distributed trust” and believes that it would bring huge changes to the society.

1 Trust Leaps

From eleventh century traders to Alibaba: how trust works to cross barriers, calm fears and revolutionize what’s possible.

This starts with the Chinese company Alibaba going public on Wall Street. She retells a bit of her experience in China as consultant and then goes into live story of Jack Ma, but more important into how he managed to build some trust in society that builds human interactions on distrust. She provides a pictorial presentation of her understanding of the role of trust:

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  1. Losing Faith

Behind the devastating crisis in institutional trust-and why we’re now more likely phone a friend

Here author moves to the loss of trust in society that she believes had much stronger history of relationship based on trust – American society. She starts it with the story of Tuskegee experiment when black patients where used as subjects of medical research without their knowledge or agreement. Author believes that it resulted in irreparable damage to attitudes of this population to medical profession. The next case author reviews in this chapter is the story of Panama papers that undermined trust of people in many countries in their leaders. From here she goes into discussion of general decrease in trust for all institutions from very old like government, army, or marriage to very new like Facebook or Reddit.

  1. Strangely Familiar

From sushi to self-driving cars-some surprising lessons in persuading people to trust new ideas.

Here author discusses how trust is build by using the story of French company BlaBlaCar, which is kind of Uber for long distance travelers. She introduces the idea of trust stack demonstrated in this picture:

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It followes by a number of examples from Airbnb to Vaccination and self-driving cars of how it had happened in the real live. From here she moves to interesting interpretation of “Wisdom of Crowds” via idea of social proof. She describes an iteresting experiment of loking at the sky on busy street: individuals get no respect, small group – 5 people ignite 4 times more interest interest, and, finally, large group 15 people made 45% of passerbies to join.  Author also discusses What in it for me (WIIFME) as nethod of trust building.

  1. Where Does the Buck Stop?

When trust crashes in the self-managed digital world, who is accountable?

This starts with the story of Uber driver who become mass killer of his passengers. Author raises question of Uber’s responsibility for lack of checks and then moves to discussing changes of relative reliability of trust in small village, then brand name company when it became centralized, and then to Internet where it become decentralized once again and where companies search for a new form of building trust between people for which they become intermediaries. These new forms generally include reporting of people who participate in exchange on each other performance. As example author discusses Airbnb, Facebook, News, and experiment with mass manipulation of emotions. Author puts her understanding of trust hierarchy in the graph:

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  1. But She Looked the Part

A cautionary, tale about deceptive appearances, and the technology that could unmask fakers and frauds

Here author retells story from her childhood when her nanny, who turned out to be a criminal well versed in obtaining trust from unsuspecting people. From here she moves to appearance of trustworthiness and experiments when psychologists try identifying how it works and applications of this research by companies such as baby sitter services provider. The last part of the chapter is about Internet’s ability to provide anonymity and correspondingly increase opportunity for cheating.

  1. Reputation is Everything, Even in the Dark

What drug dealers on the darknet can teach us about great customer service

This is about dark net and value of reputation for everybody and especially for all kinds of criminals who literally live or die by reputation. The inference here is that reputation is precursor for trust or distrust and as such is important in proportion to value and risks of transactions.

  1. Rated: Would Your Life Get a Good Trust Score?

When dystopian sci-fi turns into a reality and every little move you make is ranked, who wins and who loses?

This is about Chinese moving to create “Social Credit System” – something clearly dystopian from Western point of view, but in actuality nothing more than an attempt to bring old fashioned totalitarian vigilance and control to the new technological basis. Interestingly enough it is modelled on American Credit score system only instead of tracing financial behavior it would trace general and political behavior of population.

  1. In Bots We Trust

But should we… and how do we make them ethical?

This is basically about believes in technology and specifically in robots and AI. Here is graphic presentation of the issue:

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The chapter retells a charming story of the Chatbot Tay that was supposed to represent a young girl. It crashes spectacularly when the bot quickly learned from humans to spit out all king of nasty staff.

  1. Blockchain Part I: The Digital Gold Rush

From fei to bitcoin, the long road to setting money free. What win it mean for the City?

This chapter starts with the story of island Yap where money represented by huge stones making them absolutely symbolic when all transactions are conducted using human witnesses and their memory, so they could be considered based purely on trust. After that author goes into brief history of contemporary monetary systems and explains blockchain and distributed ledger:

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Author also discusses bitcoin and its technology as the first digital currency not controlled by any government.

  1. Blockchain Part II: The Truth Machine

The golden promises of the blockchain: overhyped or the trustworthy key to our digital future?

The final chapter is about hacking of digital currencies and various problems that occur at intersection of computers and human trust.


This author starts with reference to Stiglitz: “Trust more than money moves world around” and then talks about microloans, which are eventually based on trust. Then she moves to conclude the narrative with discussion of distributer trust based on digital technology as the wave of the future.


I find the discussion of trust really important and I think that it had to be of key interest for everybody who thinks about current and future conditions of society. I personally believe that trust is bases on mental habits developed by every person since practically beginning of their lives. Depending on how much person’s trust was justified or misused such mental habits solidify and by adulthood become basis of all interactions with people. The deviation into either side makes people suffer either from becoming victims of cheating or from losing some great opportunities because of lack of trust in others. I believe that expansion of data collection systems from e-mail history, to body cameras for police, to video recording of meetings and other interaction greatly increases human ability to verify and consequently greatly increases area of interactions when this ability could decrease risks of loss due to cheating or misrepresentation. Obviously the technology of blockchain, understood simply as simultaneous and contemporary record of an event in multiple instances too loosely connected making the later correction impossible, will help a lot to assure validity of such records. From economic and even human side it would mean decrease in cost of transactions and reliability of transaction records resulting in prosperity both materially and psychologically.

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