Trust and Bandwidth

The future is bright

Why do I think so? Snapchat. Video and image messaging apps are a way that we can extend our social circles by reducing anxiety.

Snapchat allows you to share pictures, which as they say "are worth a thousand words", you compress more meaning into your messages. By using the visual cortex the receiver is using more brain mass to decode the image than it could use for text allowing for more informational bandwidth.

This also has the side effect of making forgeries cost more to create because there is more information to be faked. Where in a text it is much easier to falsify your current experience, lying is a few keystrokes away. Faking an image takes planning and extra effort. Same reason you only keep fruit in the house if you can't control your eating habits, there is extra work involved to make bad choices.

This can give people less low-level anxiety that the person might not be telling the truth, seeing is believing. So while it might not be enough to become perceptibly anxious it works reduce uncertainty. Uncertainty registers at lower levels of the brain as risk or fear which release stress hormones, making us feel anxious. In terms of evidence, there are studies showing that as we increase internet bandwidth we increase the size of our social circles. If your social network is not a network of trust I'm not sure what is.

Determined Liars

While increased bandwidth won't stop determined liars, on a statistical basis this system would result in less falsity. However, adding an authenticated immutable time-stamping mechanism it can allow for a higher level of certainty on the truth of statements. If there are multiple stakeholders viewing the same event in the physical world a time-stamp mechanism would allow for real-time consensus on the facts of the world. Since the facts are corroborated as they happen and locked into an immutable database only if all witnesses tried to rewrite that history the same way would they be able to change history. This is further complicated if each actor checkpoints its history with other actors.

If it is a heterogeneous group of stakeholders which have different incentives to falsify facts it is unlikely that such a group would collaborate. Even if a group with diverse goals could agree to falsify something to their mutual advantage, whoever they are taking an advantage of by doing so could gather their own facts. These facts are added to the consensus and add another stakeholder to the mix, a stakeholder who being deceived must have different goal/incentives to the rest of stakeholders. This can make determining the trustworthiness of any fact simpler to determine when there is disagreement look to who has advantages to lying commensurate to the risk of being caught. If the cost of falsehood is high enough it amplifies the size of the advantage needed to make it worth ruining an identity's reputation. This amplification means that ulterior motives have to be larger and thus more obvious easier to spot. Outside observers could then make a determination on how much to weight each identities truthfulness when there is a dispute.

Pseudonyms make this task a bit harder but at the same time, darknet markets have shown that you still can have reputation without identity. While there are some problems like suppliers running sales and then running off with the money. These differing risk profiles will present themselves in differing levels of trust. Younger identities that aren't linked to a human are going to be less trusted because there is less cost to that identity's creation. Over a long enough period of time of being in line with the consensus, it will become more and more trusted.

The effect is that trust becomes more science than art. Just as scientific theories can be destroyed by one piece of countervailing evidence, a facade of truthfulness can be brought down by one piece of evidence of falsehood. Like in science, there is the relativity of wrong, which allows theories to be wrong and amended until eventually converging on truth so too will an identity's reputation. Reputations can become as robust as scientific theories in that new facts only further their descriptive abilities.

The beauty of having a real-time consensus locked into an immutable data structure is that all witnesses don't have a clear view of the future so the ability to influence the "truth" is limited an actor's view of the future. The less clear the future the more limited in the range of lies you are able to tell to your advantage. The uncertainty risk becomes too high it's not worth the possible gain. This much the same way that while it might be advantageous to kill someone who is a rival in whatever, the near certainty of being caught for it eliminates that as an option, setting morals a side.