How technology is changing our attitudes toward trust.
At a time when trust in institutions—Congress, the church, the media, etc.—is in great jeopardy, another form of trust is quickly becoming the glue that keeps society together. It is called distributed trust, and it involves “people trusting other people through technology,” writes business consultant Botsman (co-author: What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption, 2010). Later in the book, she continues, “the rise of multi-billion-dollar companies such as Airbnb and Uber, whose success depends on trust between strangers, is a clear illustration of how trust can now travel through networks and marketplaces.” In an absorbing, story-filled narrative that will leave readers with a new understanding of the phenomenon that drives life in our digital age, the author makes clear that distributed trust—a “confident relationship with the unknown”—now powers such disparate enterprises as Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites; social media platforms; peer-to-peer lending; online education courses; and Wikipedia and other information-sharing sites. In the case of self-driving cars, we now trust “our very lives to the unseen hand of technology.” Examining trust and its various types (local, institutional, distributed), Botsman explains that we have been making “trust leaps” of one kind or another for centuries; a current example is entering credit card details into an internet site for the first time. She details the mechanisms that encourage the popularity of these transactions and the stories behind the success of such companies as Jack Ma’s Alibaba, where 80 percent of all goods are bought and sold online in China, whose people demand proof of trustworthiness. Other sections cover trust and money, the risk of overtrusting robots, and the importance of reputation on the darknet. As the author notes, trust is “society’s most precious and fragile asset,” and we should all take a “trust pause” before deciding who to put faith in.
A sharp, thoughtful, sometimes-surprising account of how we build trust with strangers now.