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Is trust an endangered species?

Posted By Robin Jourdan, Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Robin Jourdan examines the contemporary status of trust in her fifth blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

Globally, self-serving politicians undermine trust in government. Is trust on the decline today? For a long time, trust has been imparted to CEOs, experts, academics, economists and the like. Now that’s being turned sideways, extending instead to individuals, “friends,” and peers. As children, we’re told to avoid strangers, yet today Uber, Airbnb rentals flourish.

 

By 2012, on average only four out of ten people in OECD member countries expressed confidence in their national government. Populism versus progressivism in any of their flavors is merely insufficient to the anti-politics conversations. Both rely on the fantasy of public interests’ importance. Broadly speaking, trust in government requires both: 1) social cohesion, citizens’ confidence in their communities and 2) political confidence, citizens’ rankings of government and its institutions.

 

The following is a series of mock interviews with representatives of three government systems. The question: “why should we trust you?”

 

Interview with Technocracy: why should we trust you?

Technocracy is essentially when political outsiders, technically skilled, become the leadership for society. It protects the interests of priorities in service of the many. In a true technocracy, the leadership is unelected. Still, it determines the path for the society to take, like a board of directors. Its best quality is competence to decide. Technical expertise becomes essential as our lives become increasingly joined with technology. Technology has nearly always improved the lives of humans throughout history. Why slow that progression?

 

Interview with Autocracy: why should we trust you?

What societies hunger for is security in this volatile and chaotic world. Maintaining order and stability are an efficient means to remain committed to custom and tradition. During the 20th century, autocratic leadership was often the norm in most administrations. Autocracy optimizes efficiency. Here, culture is often homogenous. Changing away from this system can be unpredictable. However, this governance model is very appealing when it builds inner confidence and serves its people. The deeper worry for trust is in countries where autocrats silence opponents, damaging cohesion. When an autocracy reinvents its future and governing persona with trust concerns safeguarded, its long-term success increases as is evidenced by Singapore today.

 

Interview with democracy: why should we trust you?

Accountability and growth are the hallmarks of this system. Here, leadership represents and works for the interests of the many. Society honors the rule of law, unambiguous and impartial. No one, including government, is above the law, where laws protect fundamental rights, and justice is accessible to all. Society can be either homogenous or heterogeneous by culture, creed, religion or other measures. Political leadership and stability are maintained mostly on an appeal to reason and experience. As of the end of 2016, a majority of nations were democracies, a post-World War II record. 

 

Besides freedom of speech, other human rights are no safer in democratic countries than they are in autocratic countries. The rights one enjoys in any country depends on several factors, but most importantly whatever rights a person has is at the mercy of the government in power at the time. There are very few if any pure democracies at this time in the world. As is often the case in our history - perfect democracy is an ideal.  In the cases where a government calls itself representative and simultaneously it does not serve its people, that condition speaks to a failure of the leadership not a breakdown of the governing methodology.

 

Finally, at the local level, trust in any government refers to its impact on people’s daily lives. Is trust an endangered species? It’s a complicated question. Confidence in governance reinforces the social contract between people and the state. As importantly, trust is like energy; it changes form rather than be destroyed. Like energy, it also means people have more influence in the trust pact than they may realize.

 

© Robin Jourdan 2019

Tags:  confidence  rights  trust 

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Is faith in democracy in crisis?

Posted By Administration, Friday, March 15, 2019

Robin Jourdan examines trust in democracy in her third blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

 Is trust in democracy in crisis today? No, and yes. The Pew Research Center (2017) reported that nearly 60 percent of countries worldwide are operating democracies; an all-time high. But, fewer than 20 are in practice “fully democratic” governments.

 

Conversely, economic-governance policies like the democracy-connected Washington Consensus are in decline today, some wonder if “faith” in democracy is endangered. Of course, what is meant is “trust”. Democracy can creep into despotism and dictatorship in response to distrust of leaders and growing inequality, both seemingly abundant today. News sources tell us that young people worldwide are increasingly disillusioned with democracy. This disillusion grows out of feelings of betrayal from political gridlock and ineffective governance. Globally, they are less partisan rather than less democratic in their leanings.

 

Social intelligence signals that when party affiliation becomes a religious, tribal-like identity, the odds stack against compromise as is evidenced today. Some put the blame on information glut, wars, and lack of credibility. How might this impact a world leaning more on technologies that are increasingly connected and autonomously sensing for a command-triggering fact?

 

Facts aren’t the problem. They are uncomfortable, sometimes inconvenient, and a free society must allow for them. The phrase “post-fact” is a coping mechanism for those reacting to facts that cause them to question their belief systems. Politics and politicians spin and lie. Always it has been the case. When prominent voices in the room change the facts to fit their view of the world, it’s concerning.  Note that people over age 50 are worse than younger people at distinguishing falsified facts.

 

The public has faced railroading before. Minstrels and magicians did this as a show. Playing this out to the later-half of this century means an intensification of today’s overwhelming news flow; to game the system and grow distraction. Without efforts to also raise our collective social intelligence, the most vulnerable will live in a dystopia. Incremental improvements do little if polarization grows. Fact-checking costs to businesses may become financially unsustainable. Mountains of data and a further breakdown in public trust poses a potent risk.

 

If technology isn’t the provider of trust in the second half of this century, it must rest with us. For example, if 100% of birth certificates are issued; this has the potential to shift society in a transformative manner. Birth certificates document the birth of a person. Once supplied, the contractual obligations with the government begins; i.e., access to the rights, privileges, and consumption of citizenship. Shockingly, millions today don’t have this vital record.

 

When a consumer doesn’t trust a brand to deliver on its promises; if afforded choices, they vote with their wallets. Every brand has to build trust, i.e., faith, even if that brand is governance.

 

When we feel the system is rigged against us, disillusionment grows. Intelligence must evolve to stay ahead of the magicians. Not to learn how the trick is done, but know that it is a trick. Democracy isn’t a given: it is messy. Democracy isn’t an economic system. Consumers of democracy win so long as they have trusted options available. This is not true in systems that limit choices and access to them. Faith in a democracy means to believe in the people to decide; and if flawed, trust to choose again. 

 

© Robin Jourdan 2019

Tags:  democracy  politics  trust 

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Swift trust in virtual reality

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Updated: Sunday, February 24, 2019

Nichola Cooper is one of our Emerging Fellows. She and our other Emerging Fellows will be posting throughout the year. Her first article discusses the importance of trust and when implementing mixed reality technologies.

Is 2018 the year you advise on the business impact of mixed reality (MR) technology?

The enterprise potential for alternate reality products is growing, with an increasing number of use cases from technology companies that create immersive scenarios in gaming, social media and team collaboration that can potentially transform how we share culture, communicate and collaborate.

It is important we also consider the inherent risks in implementing MR into a business environment – one such risk is trust. As we design environments with a projected self, how do we not just protect the data within the environment, but also the outcome of the collaborative process too? Trust is a functional lubricant that enables effective feedback loops between people and systems. As our communication is advanced to include a non-human projection of ourselves, are there impacts to the psyche and the subsequent development of the trust process that might undermine the business impact of MR technology?

Social networking sites indicate our digital persona is a narrated composition of our authentic identity and our ideal self, customised for each channel. The narrated self is a defence mechanism the self-employs to manage the risk involved in issuing a faceless communication. Humans have evolved to instinctively discern from non-verbal cues whether someone is trustworthy or not; communicating online introduces uncertainty, which we manage by controlling the trust process. Unless digital communications are supported by offline personal relationships we distrust the other until evidence proves otherwise. Strategic mistrust is efficient, rational and functional, it may not, however, be the best way to organise our affairs.

The success of mixed reality for industry and educational use is predicated on creating trust in the virtual environment and the persons present to make the most of the technology. While cyber-security and risk practitioners concentrate on delivering trust in data integrity, it is incumbent on business to instil trust in the virtual space. Using principles of human-centred design and swift trust, business can customise existing operating principles to recognise the short-term nature of virtual engagement.

Establishing traditional forms of trust take time. Trust involves cognitive, behavioural and emotional factors in the assessment of another’s trustworthiness and the decision to make oneself vulnerable in commencing trusting relations. Interpersonal trust also assumes longevity: we trust to build relationships over time.

Swift trust, however, is cognitive and normative in development; trust is assumed as a condition of the gathering and is verified in the actions undertaken by participants. It is best employed in conjunction with traditional team-building strategies, for it is fragile. Deviations from group norms in a swift trust environment can produce volatile reactions that are unmitigated by trusting relationships.

Therefore, swift trust is a tactical approach to team dynamics which needs to be supported by strengthening offline relational trust in order to enhance its impact. Companies considering integrating the use of MR technology into their operating practices from 2018 could consider an MR playbook that outlines the principles and practices of applied swift trust, and then integrate expectations for virtual environments into codes of conduct. It is quite probable that team members engaging in virtual environments have not met before. It is essential they understand the rules of the game.



© Nichola Cooper 2018

Tags:  technology  trust  virtual reality 

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Trust Beyond the Present

Posted By Administration, Monday, January 15, 2018
Updated: Sunday, February 24, 2019

Monica Porteanu is one of our Emerging Fellows. She and our other Emerging Fellows will be posting throughout the year. Her first article discusses the intersection of society and trust.

Trust is a social construct essential to economic and societal development. However, trust has issues that the passing of time has not only not yet solved but also blurred any futures orientation. Furthermore, while technology presents possible solutions, it also introduces new challenges. One would expect that science has resolved such issues, but science itself has undergone a trust crisis. A solution to re-establishing trust is designing the future with the society itself.

In 2017, trust in official institutions registered a collapse in the US and a significant drop in the UK, after a steady decline over time. Decades earlier, behind the Iron Curtain, the communist regime thrived through the propagation of mistrust.

Centuries ago, the victory or defeat in war was a question of how the communication amongst generals, stationed at various locations, was transmitted through trusted, non-forgeable links. The system, at that time, did not have any control or feedback loop to ensure traitors did not intercept and interfere with the message. Dubbed the Byzantine Generals’ problem in mathematics, in many ways similar to the Prisoners’ Dilemma in economics, the challenge might now be solved by blockchain technology, with its promise for a single record of fact between two parties involved in a transaction.

Even if blockchain succeeds, another technology facet raises trust questions: data. With staggering amounts of data available but a remarkably low percentage analyzed, and even smaller amounts validated, how do we know whether we can count on the truth of this content?

The belief that scientific research is a trusted leader is also challenged. Investigations show that less than 50% of psychology studies could be replicated, together with increasing instances of corruption, including priming effects, fake peer reviews, or proliferation of citation cartels.

Extending the question of trust to forward-looking settings enhances decision makers’ ability to anticipate possible futures and navigate risks and uncertainties, especially when trust molds into “the willingness to be vulnerable to another party’s actions.” Trust in futures thinking enhances the capacity to embrace opportunities presented by “actionable images of the future” while deflecting weaknesses and threats.

A solution to re-establishing trust is expanding its definition from being an ingredient that catalyses economic prosperity and social life for people, to envisioning futures of a society with people. This participatory approach is diametrically opposed to the communist doctrine as well as the hierarchical, patriarchal, belief, and value systems that underlie existing power structures. Participation not only increases the likelihood of trusting what could be developed but also the engagement to ignite futures and shape the preferred one.

The reciprocal relationship between participation and trust is self-explanatory: participation spawns trust through dialogue, transparency, and agency, while trusting beliefs and actions (e.g., ability, benevolence, integrity) strengthen participation through the willingness to engage, take action, and break various barriers such as personal, situational, functional, or psychological.

Such relationship alleviates the anxiety of unknown futures through mental training and careful orchestration of expert and participant involvement. For example, while futurists’ skill is critical in trend analysis to unearth blind spots and set the stage for grounded results, diversity and wide participation is more beneficial than competence during the next phase focused on opportunity prioritization. Further refining of selected opportunities is easily enabled by experimental prototyping of actionable future narratives, as a method to understand and handle the uncertainties and risks of unproven ideas about the future. The experts’ facilitation skills and toolkits, such as empathy maps, role-playing, or installations, contribute to establishing the need, desire, and feasibility of building the envisioned futures.
As a final note, participation to build trust is the opportunity to develop further the networked society in which the collaboration amongst creativity, ethnographic, foresight, and analytical approaches convert the unknown into a viable and promising future for society.

© Monica Porteanu 2018

Tags:  future  technology  trust 

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