Trust is a simple concept that has enormous power. Without trust there would be no community, no commerce, no democracy. Trust requires faith – in another person, in government, in anything new and unfamiliar. That’s why trust is also at the heart of technological progress and many other aspects of modern society, as various sessions at DLD 2019 in Munich showed. Here’s a brief overview ranging from innovation and social networks to Blockchain and international security issues.
Leap of Faith
Author Rachel Botsman sees trust as a “conduit for new ideas to travel”. Voice assistants and self-driving cars, for example, demand that humans have faith in technology – and the companies that create the systems. Otherwise they are doomed to fail.
• • •
More Than Words
Loss of trust has created a crisis for social networks, particularly Facebook. The company’s Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg, admitted that her company had been facing difficult times. “We know we need to do better at making sure we can anticipate the risks that come from connecting so many people”, she said in her keynote address. “We need to earn back people’s trust, and we’re not going to do that with words alone.” Among the initiatives that Sheryl Sandberg announced at DLD is an investment of 6.5 million to establish a research institute for Ethics in Artificial Intelligence at the Technical University of Munich.
• • •
Hanging In the Balance
In politics, trust forms the basis for peace and stability. Wolfgang Ischinger, Chairman of the Munich Security Conference, is worried by a “total lack of mutual trust” among key political players today. Rapid change, he explains, is shifting the balance of power between nations. In addition, new technologies give outsize power to hackers and other groups of rogue actors who can inflict damage on a global scale.
• • •
Who Do You Trust?
While many people see the technology industry critically these days, the Edelman Trust Barometer, an annual global survey, actually registered a modest uptick in trust globally. “Technology remains the most trusted sector in business”, the company’s Vice President, Margot Edelman, pointed out in her presentation. “It’s more trusted than automotive, telco, financial services – there is a halo of trust around technology.” That said, the survey also shows marked differences in perceptions, hopes and expectations between consumers in Western societies and those in many Asian nations.
• • •
A growing number of technology pioneers envision systems based on the Blockchain model as a way to reinvent the Internet and make it more trustworthy by design. The key to more security is, “you don’t move data around”, MIT professor Alexander Pentland explains. “If you make copies of data, you lose track of it. It becomes easy to attack.” Instead, he argues, data should be left at its source and be stored in an “immutable ledger like the Blockchain or any other sort of consensus ledger” – meaning a shared database whose entries can be verified by all participants in the system.
Please visit the DLD 2019 YouTube page to see further Blockchain-related talks by Ethereum co-founder Joe Lubin and Don Tapscott, Executive Chairman of the Blockchain Research Institute – in addition to many more videos about topics such as data privacy, artificial intelligence, cyber security, democracy, and Africa’s new dawn in the digital age.