We've stopped trusting institutions and started trusting strangers | Rachel Botsman


Something profound is changing our concept of trust, says Rachel Botsman. While we used to place our trust in institutions like governments and banks, today we increasingly rely on others, often strangers, on platforms like Airbnb and Uber and through technologies like the blockchain. This new era of trust could bring with it a more transparent, inclusive and accountable society — if we get it right. Who do you trust?

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  1. The thing that's kind of freaky about algorithms is that I would have never thought to look this up and the Serendipity of finding it is a rather mysterious thing to me as well, and makes me question a lot of things

  2. Because the government sucks at everything, something libertarians and conservatives have been saying for decades.

  3. Your mom let you live like a pig. That’s why your spoiled brat self doesn’t hang towel in a hotel. Sad that only when you believe you’ll be “caught” that you’ll behave like a respectful grown up.

    Then you think it’s funny to laugh at a politician who has better things to attend to than Uber ? What a sad, sad waste of a human.

  4. Reputation systems based on ★ ratings and unstructured text reviews are a bottleneck here. For discoverability and trust in general. Technologists slapped it together and gave up on more rigorous approaches thinking you couldn't get people to deliver better quality than that. The cutting edge seems to be that slideshow of questions about app features that you get on Google Play Store. It produces structured, semantic data that's more machine-readable, but isn't so much of a chore for users to input that it doesn't get done. These sometimes turn out comical, but nevertheless that's the direction we need. We need another go at the Semantic Web, the original vision for the WWW.

    But this time imagine if us consumers took more proactive approach. Radically more. Imagine if we joined forces and collaboratively edited a Wikipedia of human needs and problems. Solutions providers would then (voluntarily) fill our existing, real and pressing needs. And when we organically discover a product that's the most likely fit for our problems all that's left is to try it and confirm if it really was. This cuts through the fog of conspicuous consumption. And the machine filtering made possible would be truly amazing. Forget finding the best deals, machines could point out start-ups in need of founding, directions for design refinements, suggest certifications and – in the more speculative sci-fi arena – estimates of how naturelike a solution is (See Adrian Bejan's constructal law and Dmitry Orlov's Harm-benefit Analysis )

  5. The accountability part is great, but this anti-elitist veneer of "trust within the people" are the solution to the "corporate/institutional greedsters" is just naive populism; like the people are any better when they get the power and are not controlled…or as if the corporate/institutional representatives are not also humans in the first place. Power corrupts everyone.

    Facebook was also great and democratic, until Cambridge Analytics..

  6. I treat towels the same in both hotels and AirBnB because I know a human being has to deal with cleaning the room, in both contexts, after I leave. If anything, I have empathy for the 'unknown person' who, like me, is just trying to make a living in life, and I respect other people's property. If digital makes us more accountable because we will be rated on our actions, does this not also point to greater selfishness of individuals? The person who does the AirBnB towel but not the hotel towel may want to 'look good online' and therefore treat the towel in a way that secures their positive individual profile. They might trust that their action will garner them a positive review, but they are still only thinking about themselves.

  7. If my brother hit me across the head with a tennis racket when I was five, splitting my left eyebrow, I would make the study of trust central to my career as well.People have lost faith in institutions because they understand the people behind those institutions are not trustworthy. It is similar to an adult realizing their parent(s) are corrupt and no good. It goes against the grain of what people want to believe so takes a bit of courage and the acceptance of a certain amount of cynicism toward the world. Idealism kept people happy but also blind to the harsher truths of the world. When a person feels empowered they are willing to take risks and blind trust is attractive to risk adverse people. To see life as it is and still want to be a part of life takes a strong mind.

  8. I thought this talk was going to be about how people trust Facebook posts and celebrities more than the scientific body on topics like the safety of vaccines and climate change and whatnot.

  9. It seems the country's big companies with centralized management win the competition and decentralized tribes and small market traders but as we learn no ruler how much money he does not concentrate himself has not lived forever. Consequently, they all lost the competitive struggle to decentralized bacteria and molecules. Mathematically, we can conclude that the centralized structure is the local maximum in which we are now. Do not you think that the structure of decentralization to add to this communication everything with everything that the tribes did not have (you did not know anything about the other person) is much more effective. And such applications as Uber, Airbnb show it. The next stage of development is to decentralize these companies using blockchain and free software.

  10. The accountability factor she refers to a few times is key. No one trusts that corporations are accountable, or even interested in being accountable for their actions anywhere ever. The sole exclusion is when the company will either a) lose more by not being accountable or b) gain more- or worse, profit more and then coo-pt it as a marketing strategy- by being accountable. A perfect example of the latter is the sudden transition from high fructose corn syrup in everything to food companies proudly announcing "no high fructose corn syrup!" in their marketing as if they invented the idea, but only after they were losing enough sales due to the presence of the hated substance, and only for that reason.

  11. That was cute.. At exactly what point in time did 'we' have trust in banks, government, or any other system? Was it the 80's, 60's, 1860's? No.. Trust in any system wanes as your knowledge of that system increases. In other words, the less you know, the more you trust. One day the speaker will be amused by what she's said here..

  12. Being able to hold people accountable on a global scale, is one thing that is connecting this global society. Also, if this shift is valid, how will it affect government institutions?—–Holding government officials accountable, is an element of democracy. Will countries be more democratic?

  13. It's a shift away from large faceless business who we know value profit more than our needs, and towards a more personal connection between our needs and the provider. Accountability over anonymity.

  14. In this engaging talk, Rachel Botsman, writer, scholar and thinker fascinatingly explains about how the technologies like Blockchain is profoundly changing human behaviour in a way we never imagine. Citing examples from Uber, Airbnb she indicates how the concept of trust shifting from institutions to strangers. Highly recommended to all.

  15. The problem with the AirBnB example (that you'd never leave the towels on the floor because you get a negative review) has an insidious problem. There's also pressure never to leave a bad review for an apartment you rented because your reputation will be "the renter that leaves bad reviews". It's easy to leave bad reviews for a hotel because other hotels are generally not in a position to deny renting to you in the future (it's all automated, lots of 3rd parties making the bookings, and there are laws). Not so with AirBnB. In general, each landlord can easily look at your previous reviews. All else being equal they're going to choose the renter that's never left a bad review over the renters that have left bad reviews. Why risk getting a bad review? And so in this very scary way that would seem to lead to this dystopia where you're powerless. Either that or you need some deep learning to figure out the true rating of a site based on if all the positive reviews are truly positive reviews or "wanted to leave a negative review but couldn't risk reputation" positive reviews.

    I suppose this could be solved if reviews were anonymous. AirBnB, Uber etc… only let real customers leave reviews but if those reviews were anonymous to everyone else then maybe that would solve it? So a landlord could see the reviews of you by other landlords but not the reviews you've left. And visa versa renters could see reviews of landlords but not who left the reviews.

    AirBnb gets one thing right. Your reviews aren't posted until you've both (tenant and landlord) written your reviews. That way one is not retribution for the other.

    Another problem with AirBnB like reviews is people not reviewing truthfully because you see the other person as a person instead of a business. Maybe some people think that's a good thing to "be nicer" but the problem is it leads to people that should get bad reviews not getting them. That means others are not warned of bad service. It also means the person providing the service has no feedback to fix their issues. Uber, which just asks for a 1-5 rating only makes it easier to leave a bad rating since it's instant and you don't have to write anything. On the other hand it makes it harder to give good feedback.


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