Trust: the good and evil of the digital society

Have you ever thought about the importance of trust for the social relationships we have every day? We trust that public transport companies will take us to our jobs or colleges on time. We trust that the food of our favorite restaurant will not be poisoned, and so on. But why does it work so well?

Bruce Schneier, an expert in digital security and encryption, wrote an essay for New Scientist magazine that talks about just that. In the text, Schneier uses the example of the financial system to show that all our lives are based on the aforementioned “trust”. Want to know a bit more about this? Then follow this article here in the Mega Curious section.

What is trust?

Who do you trust? Would you trust a friend to save an amount of money in excess of ten thousand reais? Most people would say no, but it's also the same people who leave their money in bank accounts, establishments run by people they don't even know. It is logical that in this case we should analyze the credibility of the institution, but the relationship is almost the same.

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We deposit the salaries in bank accounts, believing that when the money is needed, it will be enough to go to some automatic withdrawal machine to redeem it - or use the debit card for the same action. In this second case, another moment comes when trust is needed: the companies we make purchases trust that the cardholder will pass the money on to them.

But you can imagine that this does not always happen implicitly. To protect all parts of the agreements, there are the contracts signed by those involved in the proceedings. In bank transactions, for example, they are formally signed, with a series of terms that protect people and institutions.

Some say that even paying for a bus ticket is part of formal contracts. After all, it is very clear what a transportation company offers people - getting them from place to place quickly and safely - as well as what they expect from the service provided.

Why does everyone cooperate?

Today we live in a world where cooperation is more than necessary. The vast majority work towards one goal: making profits to be able to buy new things. This is essential for system survival. "And what does trust have to do with it?" Well, we buy items from companies we trust, and once trusted their suppliers - it really works in huge cycles.

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Schneier points out that humans are driven by reputation. Since we have patterns and concepts of what is right and wrong, running away from them makes us negatively evaluated by our peers. And this leads to a point that few human beings can get used to: social exclusion - be it for mere lack of acceptance or imprisonment, which can happen in some cases.

As the author himself said: "If we can increase the benefits of cooperation or the costs of desertion, we can induce people to act for the benefit of the group." And this can be seen in the constant acclamations of benefactors, just as the opposite happens to those who break the law - which is a citizen contract with the state.

Parasites take advantage of others' trust

Although the vast majority adapt to the rules of conduct, there are those who decide to go for alternative methods - they are the "parasites, " as Scheiner states. It is the thieves, the counterfeiters and other criminals who take advantage of the trust others have in them and take advantage of certain situations.

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Let's continue with the example of bank transactions. Bank customers trust that they will insert their cards into the automated teller machines and leave the place with the expected cash. Malicious people can install fraud systems on equipment, causing damage to anyone who falls into the trap.

Another classic example is the “fake traffic blitz”. Bandits simulate a car enforcement operation, take advantage of the fact that drivers believe it is legal, and steal cars. Again, trust in a system was the key to harming someone.


It must be understood that technology plays a vital role in these relationships. This is where bank transactions have become easier - as have attacks and raids. We trust that everything will work out, opening gaps for other people to harm us. But if we don't trust anyone, much of society can collapse for lack of resources.

What would be the ideal solution for this? The truth is no one knows. Schneier argues that the simplest method of coping with this dilemma is by accepting that both sides of the coin ("good" and "evil", as it were) are equally necessary - the good ones for finding solutions and the bad ones for finding vulnerabilities. . What do you think about this?