The algorithm for trust is human #futureofwork

We don’t need more algorithms to help us manage trust. The human brain is a finely tuned trust algorithm. Let’s focus on building trust, not proxies for trust.

The proxy for trust

Global connection and scale are routinely proposed as a rationale for new services to help us manage trust. Inspired by the success of rating systems in EBay, Uber and similar services, entrepreneurs continually propose new universal solutions to help manage trust.

Humans are actually very good in managing trust. Our built-in systems for assessing trustworthiness are pretty good. We can assess the trust worthiness of a person in their available social data pretty quickly. We can adapt that assessment in real time based on the actions of others. We use this trust assessment to determine our decisions.

The human trust algorithm isn’t perfect. Psychology, economics, manipulators, and criminals all can describe the flaws, but they are far more subtle and accurate than any five point scale. We don’t need a rating to discount an email from a Nigerian prince we’ve never met.

Rating systems are only a proxy.

The value of the ratings in EBay, Uber and other systems is that they act as a proxy for trust in otherwise low information frictionless systems. They don’t prevent issues, but they reduce recurrence because there are penalties within that system.

Rating systems that aren’t tied to a process or system are popularity contests and distorted by the best and worst of human social behaviour like social proof, bandwagon effects, abuse, etc. They don’t relate to human experiences of trustworthiness through interactions. The failure of Linkedin’s endorsements feature is an example of how ratings without consequences produce junk.

Even if an entrepreneur develops an elaborate effective trust system, few humans will cede their decision making to that rating. The trust rating will just be one proxy in a human decision using the human algorithm. Anyone who ceded their decisions to an algorithm would be exposed to exploitation by a simple hack of that algorithm.

Stop rating. Start Building Trust.

Trust is critical to the pace and effectiveness of modern commerce and organisations. However few organisations focus explicitly on how to build deeper trust within and outside their organisations. Let’s focus our investment there and not on 5 point systems. That investment will take human actions, interactions and decisions. This is one critical way we can help make the future of work more human.

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