Evolving notions of trust

Historically, when I put my trust in someone, I did it because I believed they would do good by me.

I put my trust in a family member or friend because I believed they cared about me and therefore would do good by me. I put my trust in a business because I believed they had a vested interest in doing good by me (they would benefit from what I had to offer – my talents or my money). I put my trust in institutions (academic or non-profits) because I believed they would do good by everyone. These notions of trust have been developed over centuries and passed down from generation to generation.

In a Web 2.0 world, it seems like my notions of trust have expanded – I’m beginning to trust people using a whole new basis. I’m trusting them because I believe our interests are very well aligned. I have no other basis – I’ve never met these people nor am I ever likely to meet them.

For example, when I use an open source package, I trust the developers and others in the community because I think we all care deeply about the shared asset – the code. As another example, I trust my fellow consumers when they write reviews of products because I think we are all watching out for each other. Sure, there are examples of fraud and abuse of this trust, but they are far and few – they exist even in the traditional models of trust described above (backstabbing friends, businesses that defraud and non-profits that squander).

At first glance, this may seem like simple co-operation; however, I think there are subtle differences. Co-operation involves well-defined upfront expectation of rewards for pursuing a cause. In the Web 2.0 world, there isn’t such an upfront expectation, there is simply a blind trust that everyone who cares about a cause will make a positive contribution …

One Response to “Evolving notions of trust”

  1. S.RAMASWAMY says:

    I enjoyed reading.

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