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Full Title or Meme

Trust, simply put, is just the projection into the future of past behavior by an entity (person or organization) that has a consistent Identity over time.


Tom Jones 2018-06-15


The content on this page is intended to provide the tools to know what can be trusted by an individual in a digital age.


There are two ways to approach the problem of trust in networked digital systems.

Computer Engineering

The scientific approach

When this approach does not work the computer scientist always try to blame the users and propose educating the users. This approach never winds up meeting the goals.

Social Engineering

The social approach to trust is exploited by con men attacking our human weaknesses every day. Creating trustworthy computer systems can not be overcome this sort of attack. One good example

Only a good user experience


The Philosophical Problem

The Psychological Problem

The philosopher Karl Popper defined the psychological problem The psychologist

Ethics and trust are inextricably linked. We are interested in ethics in large part because we are concerned, even obsessed, with the question of who we can trust is a world where there is risk and uncertainty. In our relationships, we humans are much more concerned about assessing trustworthiness of others than we are in trying to figure out how ethical they are. So what is trust and what is trustworthiness? The mountain image on right depicts our human situation of uncertainty.[1]

Our lives are embedded in human networks where we need to assess trust (see Trust Choice Schematic). The Decision to Trust Model (DTM Model) was developed (see below HBR 2006 article or Jossey Bass 2012 book) to help us make better decisions about discerning trustworthiness and even repairing trust.

Trustworthiness relates directly to ethics on two specific dimensions: integrity and benevolence. In brief: ‘‘A trustworthy party is one that will not unfairly exploit the vulnerabilities of the other party in the relationship.’’ (see Banerjee, Bowie and Pavone An Ethical Analysis of the Trust Relationship page 308 in Bachmann and Zaheer eds. Handbook of Trust Research in book chapter below).

Trust relationships exist at many levels: between two people, among members of a team, between teams, within an organization, between workers and management and even within an entire system, like the financial system or the air traffic control system. The further removed individuals are from the locus of the relationship, it becomes more complicated to assess trustworthiness. For example, how do you judge the trustworthiness of a bank or a financial system that is saving your money? We would like use a combination of personal and impersonal cues. For example, if we were making a trust judgment about a doctor for surgery, we might assess not only the doctor but also what hospital he or she operates in.


Trust is earned. Where Ethics are lacking Trust cannot survive. They are reciprocal concepts[2] as high trust environments will encourage good ethics of participants and good ethical values in on-line interchanges will build trust.


  1. Trust
  2. Linda Fisher Thornton Ethics and Trust are Reciprocal