There is so much trust that goes on in the modern economy, something of which I do not have a lot of. I just think it’s a bit outrageous how we trust that our data servers are going to adequately encrypt and store our passwords and we trust banks that there is a record we stored money with them in the first place. As I’m writing this, I am having faith that WordPress doesn’t blow up and all of my writing doesn’t get lost. For the most part, this trust has worked out. My money is exactly where I remembered it to be, and my identity hasn’t been compromised, yet. I have not been victim to any serious hacks or scams, yet.
I don’t like that aspect of contemporary existence — that we need to trust people in order to function in our society. In Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari pointed to our collective ability to believe in myths to be the source of modern civizilation. The collective belief of what has value and what does not have value underpins the entirety of economics. Believing in the same myths, like paper and electronic currency, allow us to make transactions with individuals who we have never met, and I don’t like that very much. I would much rather revert back to a hunter-gatherer society where I develop trust more organically, where I don’t need to trust people if I don’t want to.
What happens if our experience with trust results in a betrayal of trust? Then we are presented with two options: we could either shrug it off and move on, or we could choose not to trust anymore. The problem with option B is that not trusting equates to rejecting civilization altogether and all the comforts that come with it. Eventually, we are going to have to trust that doctors have our best interests at heart when we pay them to perform a surgery or take a drug that might result in our death. When we move into a new apartment, we have to trust that our landlord won’t increase the rent twofold when our lease renews in a year or two.
Trust is the cost of accessing civilization. Trust also operates as a random variable. Although we have become better at identifying what is trustworthy and what is not, there are always some leaps of faith that we need to take in particularly less transparent markets to adequately obtain the goods and services that we need. While the internet has made businesses and individuals more accountable in many regards, there are still areas that the internet has not touched yet and may never touch. We are pushed back to pre-internet levels of trust, where we have to rely on our instincts. That is the cost of wanting something that we cannot create ourselves.