Blockchain-ing the Future towards an Abundance of Trust. Part II
In the first part of this post series, we discussed how a prerequisite to collaboration is trust, which is a combination of identity, skill set, and reputation. In this second part, I will try to look at trust as a resource and see what are the different levels of trust that existed in communities with time and in the future.
Over the course of human history, there have been several trust paradigms depending on the structure and numbers of a community. It’s very interesting that at the beginning of our evolution trust was something that was quite abundant because we used to live in small tribes. And when we are dealing with a small community, we have the cognitive capability of mapping up the trustworthiness of all the members. When you are surrounded by the same limited number of people you know exactly who everyone is, the skills they possess and their reputation. So if you wanted to achieve a certain goal and you could not do it alone, you knew exactly who are the people that possess the specific skills needed for the project and you also knew if those people are compatible in working with you. This resulted in a very lucrative and nonhierarchical community, but we grew out of this phase.
With time, humans started organizing in communities that were significantly larger, but the more individuals the less trust between them. This started to be a period in which collaboration was not so easy, but people still needed to work together so we started organizing in smaller groups in order to keep a sufficient level of trust as to move things forward. And although everyone lived in the same community, most of the collaboration happened between people that had a history and knew something about one another. This limited the potential for development because people did no longer prefer the best person for the job, but the one that is in the same group, so relationship outweighed skills. This context of narrow collaboration severely limited innovation and societal progress, so things needed to change.
In this situation of several groups forming a community, it was just a matter of time until one group became more trustworthy, be it because they really deserved this status or because they wanted more power. Regardless of the reason, this paved the way to centralized organizations that play the role of trusted third parties, which create a system of incentives and punishments that facilitated a level of collaboration between people. These organization eventually became the gatekeepers of law and finance and as long as you play by their rules, collaboration was possible. But if you cheated people there were repercussions. This progression was able to break the scarcity patter of trust that was previously the norm, but it came with a price. On one hand, it facilitated larger scale collaboration but on the other, it created a framework of control which aims to protect the power of the centralized institutions.
Today we are at the level of nation-states and alliances between some of these states, but with a significant opening toward international collaboration. It seems that with time our tendency was to group ourselves into larger and larger communities, and trusted third parties are now embedded in the fabric of our society. Almost all aspects of human interaction are regulated by a framework of rules imposed from the top down. And realistically speaking, although the level of central control is higher than ever, this was able to create a present-day of unparalleled prosperity and innovation. We still have a long way to go in order to bring this to all the world, but trust as a resource is at its highest accessibility since we lived in tribes. And although this is real progress, it’s insufficient because the game is now abundance, not accessibility.
The abundance of decentralized, open, inclusive, participatory by choice communication and financial technologies bring us closer than ever to one global society, but for this to happen we also need a global trust solution. If we were to apply the same centralized paradigm of trust intermediation that exists today this would result in a global central authority that would create an international framework for trust. This is not a sustainable solution because of several reasons, the biggest one is that it would centralize a lot of power in the hands of that organization and when we have a global stake this could result in a disaster. The second major reason is that when we deal with different cultures and ways of doing things, just one authority that regulates the framework would not be able to take into consideration all the nuances and this would result in a significant stifling of innovation. So a centralized approach to global trust is out of the question.
We are at a point where we need to face a hard truth, all the wonderful technological possibilities of making the world better come with a lot of ways of messing it up. Technological innovation needs to be guided in the best possible direction in order to maximize the changes for it to be used towards progress, not control. And let’s face it, there is no centralized authority that will be able to do this, the responsibility rests in the hands of individuals to come together in order to create a culture of technological abundance and freedom. But for this, individuals need to be empowered, and the possibility of holding your own identity, skill set and reputation is part of that empowerment.
So, an abundance of decentralized digital trust solutions is crucial to the global collaborative effort we will be undertaking in the next decades. In the next part of this post series, I will try to bring into perspective how blockchain technology can be used in order to facilitate trust and how we can ergonomically structure it to fit humans and human behavior.