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Social Trust Networks (was: RE: <nettime> Rhizome's revenge)
Jim Carrico on Sat, 1 Feb 2003 15:08:50 +0100 (CET)


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Social Trust Networks (was: RE: <nettime> Rhizome's revenge)


a couple of points...

it doesn't mean anything to say I "trust" someone unless I define in what
way I trust them - I may trust someone's taste in movies or restaurants,
but not trust them with the keys to my house.  And this is in fact the
reef that the 'advogato trust metric' seems to be foundering on: see
http://www.advogato.org/article/599.html (short version:  the original
certification scheme was based on members abilities and accomplishments as
developers of free software, but it appears that people have been
certifying one another using other criteria, like how much sense they make
in the discussion forum, which isn't "bad"  necessarily, it just
demonstrates that social/semantic processes are slippery and don't map
well onto neat mathematical models.)

similarly, security - of computers or anything else - depends on a threat
model: it doesn't make any sense to say a system is secure unless you
define what it is secure against - and it is also relative to the
'cost-benefit' calculations of both the target and the attacker.  eg. a
safe with a thousand dollars in it is "secure" if it would cost ten
thousand to crack it.  Nothing is ever perfectly secure, so it becomes a
matter of making judgements about the likelihood of various scenarios, and
the degree to which you are willing to accept various risks.  (see Bruce
Schneier's 'Secrets and Lies' for more on this.)

centralized trust systems are dubious because they present a very juicy
prize for an attacker - all eggs in one basket.

de-centralized trust systems are in their infancy, in one sense, and old
as the hills in another - individuals need to be at the center of their
own "trust graphs".  we do this in our day-to-day lives already - we just
have to establish standard ways of representing these real-world
assessments of one another.  admittedly, this is lot to expect.  it's very
much a chicken-and-egg problem - it can't be architected globally but must
be grown from the bottom up in an emergent manner.  for this to happen,
the small-scale, local behaviour must be of obvious and immediate benefit
. it's possible that an exchange network, whether designed for barter,
"gifts" or more conventional payments, may be a 'killer app', but only if
it's easier and cheaper than what we have now.

-JC



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