By: Stephen Scott
As we move into an election year, the data is clear: the public has lost trust in the government and, indeed, in a majority of our key social institutions.
The history of the last two centuries is one that features the establishment of institutions which served to create the basis of trust among strangers, at scale, as a presumed norm.
I may not know or trust you, nor you me, but if we have a contract and we both have faith in the courts to keep one another honest, we can do business together. But if either or both of us believe the judge to be corrupt…? Then the fabric of our “trust infrastructure” is rent. And when that happens, we return to a norm of dealing only with those whom we know well. Trust at scale is lost, along with the economics of scale.
As the public’s faith in our shared trust infrastructure has eroded over the last decade, we see everywhere a tendency to place trust only in “a person like me.” However, the technologies of the day have enabled us to identify and connect with peers in new ways. It is, therefore, not an accident of history that we’ve witnessed the birth of the “peer to peer” business model quite recently. More on that here.
New, digital platforms are allowing “peers” to self-identify, self-organize, and collaborate at scale, courtesy of the “digital trust infrastructure” established by companies like Airbnb. Let me say a bit more about all of this and then close with a few thoughts about what it implies going forward.