Building trust in the connected economy will have important economic and moral benefits. This graph maps trust against GDP per capita and is from a 1996 study that asked “generally speaking would you say that most people can be trusted” (Zac P J 2003 Trust. The Journal of Financial Transformations CAPCO Institute 17-24)
High trust leads to economic co-operation, which leads to prosperity, which enhances trust in a virtuous circle. Low trust leads to low co-operation leading to poverty and further eroding trust – a vicious circle.
Distrustful economies in the lower left are in contrast to the successful economies in the top right. We should all be very afraid if the online world is moving us down to the lower left corner; low trust and lower GDP per capita. It doesn’t have to be this way. To protect our economy we must seriously question the fundamental lack of trust inherent in the World Wide Web. I accept that there is a place on the Web for anonymity, freedom of movement, freedom of speech and freedom of association but with the World Wide Web becoming the very foundation of our connected economy there is an essential need for identity and reputation, we need to retain the trust that has been fundamental to economic success.
Trust and Collaboration
The striking patterns in most social networking sites are they are built on how humans communicate and behave. Social networks can use social technologies to magnify communications and behaviours. Some people nit the people around them together to become friends others do not.
One pattern of carbon atoms creates graphite and another diamonds, graphite being soft and dark and diamonds clear and hard. The differences being created by the way they are linked together. Similarly the way people are linked together in social networks will produce radically different outcomes. It is the ties between people that makes the whole greater than the sum of the parts.
Social networking sites have the potential to use social technologies to establish reliable identities and reputations for collaboration within groups. But groups are not better at everything. Would you want everything in your world to be designed by a committee? Too often today we give tasks to individuals when groups would achieve more and we give tasks to groups where individuals would do better. There is a mantra in much of the online culture that collectives make the best stuff, but that is just patently not true. When you have everyone collaborating on everything, you generate a dull, average outcome in all things. You don’t get innovation and you never get accountability.
Do you really think that a crowd could have painted the Mona Lisa? Or composed Rhapsody in Blue? Jazz bands benefit from individual solo performances and group collaboration. Individuals like Lennon and McCartney, Rogers and Hammerstein worked better in pairs. The ubiquitous, massively connected web gives us choice and we need to get better at making these choices. When all creative things are subject to mass collaboration there is no accountability and no greatness. Isolation can starve ideas. With the dictatorship of the majority there is horror.