Liars and Outliers: Enabling the Trust that Society Needs to Thrive by Bruce Schneier
Picked it up because of Schneier’s awesome columns in Wired and his generally great blog posts. Glad I did, though it wasn’t what I expected.
It turns out to be less of a book with new information and more of one that organizes the things we already know about trust from game theory, anthropology, and neuroscience. It’s well written, and focused on building a framework with which to understand problems of rule making and rule breaking in modern society.
Three connections I hadn’t made before:
- Corporations cannot be punished like individuals, which makes it harder to force them into compliance, and increases their tendency to defect. The harshest punishment any corporation undergoes is fines, converting a decision that should be affected by moral considerations into a simple question of dollars and cents (and turns the fine into just one more cost of doing business).
- One potential downside to increasing diversity in a neighborhood: as the number of different standards of what's fair and what's polite multiplies, your chances of unknowingly offending someone with your "normal" behavior increases; thus trust in general in the neighborhod declines.
- Facebook is becoming an institution, setting norms for social behavior, and yet it is a for-profit company, with conflicting interests between its profit motive and society as a whole.