Trust & Technology Initiative

The Trust & Technology Initiative brings together and drives forward interdisciplinary research from Cambridge and beyond to explore the dynamics of trust and distrust in relation to internet technologies, society and power; to better inform trustworthy design and governance of next generation tech at the research and development stage; and to promote informed, critical, and engaging voices supporting individuals, communities and institutions in light of technology’s increasing pervasiveness in societies.

Source: Trust & Technology Initiative

There’s No Good Reason to Trust Blockchain Technology | WIRED

What blockchain does is shift some of the trust in people and institutions to trust in technology. You need to trust the cryptography, the protocols, the software, the computers and the network. And you need to trust them absolutely, because they’re often single points of failure.When that trust turns out to be misplaced, there is no recourse. If your bitcoin exchange gets hacked, you lose all of your money. If your bitcoin wallet gets hacked, you lose all of your money. If you forget your login credentials, you lose all of your money. If there’s a bug in the code of your smart contract, you lose all of your money. If someone successfully hacks the blockchain security, you lose all of your money. In many ways, trusting technology is harder than trusting people. Would you rather trust a human legal system or the details of some computer code you don’t have the expertise to audit?Blockchain enthusiasts point to more traditional forms of trust—bank processing fees, for example—as expensive. But blockchain trust is also costly; the cost is just hidden. For bitcoin, that’s the cost of the additional bitcoin mined, the transaction fees, and the enormous environmental waste.Blockchain doesn’t eliminate the need to trust human institutions. There will always be a big gap that can’t be addressed by technology alone. People still need to be in charge, and there is always a need for governance outside the system. This is obvious in the ongoing debate about changing the bitcoin block size, or in fixing the DAO attack against Etherium. There’s always a need to override the rules, and there’s always a need for the ability to make permanent rules changes. As long as hard forks are a possibility—that’s when the people in charge of a blockchain step outside the system to change it—people will need to be in charge.

Source: There’s No Good Reason to Trust Blockchain Technology | WIRED

IBM and Maersk Struggle to Sign Partners to Shipping Blockchain – CoinDesk

It’s hard enough to get enterprises that compete with each other to work together as a team, but it’s especially tricky when one of those rivals owns the team.Shipping giant Maersk and tech provider IBM are wrestling with this problem with TradeLens, their distributed ledger technology (DLT) platform for supply chains.Some 10 months ago, the project was spun off from Maersk (the largest container shipping company on the planet) into a joint venture with IBM. But in that time the network has enticed only one other carrier onto the platform: Pacific International Lines (PIL), one of eight shipping lines in Asia and 17th in the world based on cargo volumes.As those involved admit, that’s not enough.

Source: IBM and Maersk Struggle to Sign Partners to Shipping Blockchain – CoinDesk

Critical Trust: Social Movements and Democracy in Times of Crisis | Della Porta | Cambio. Rivista sulle Trasformazioni Sociali

The recent financial crisis and, especially, anti-austerity policies, reflects and, at the same time, contribute to a crisis of representative democracy. In this article, I discuss which different conceptions of trust (and relations to democracy) have been debated in the social sciences, and in public debates in recent time. The financial crisis has in fact stimulated a hot debate on “whose trust” is relevant for “whose democracy”. After locating the role of trust in democratic theory, I continue with some illustrations of a declining political trust in Europe, coming from my own research on social movements, but also of the emergence, in theory and practices, of other conceptions of democracy and democratic spaces, where critical trust develops. Indignados’ movements in Spain and Greece as well as the Occupying Wall Street protest in the US are just the most visible reaction of a widespread dissatisfaction with the declining quality of democratic regimes. They testify for the declining legitimacy of traditional conceptions of democracy, as well as for the declining trust in representative institutions. At the same time, however, these movements conceptualize and practice different democratic models that emphasize participation over delegation and deliberation over majority voting. In doing this, they present a potential for reconstructing social and political trust from below.

Source: Critical Trust: Social Movements and Democracy in Times of Crisis | Della Porta | Cambio. Rivista sulle Trasformazioni Sociali

The limits of trust-free systems: A literature review on blockchain technology and trust in the sharing economy – ScienceDirect


At the tip of the hype cycle, trust-free systems based on blockchain technology promise to revolutionize interactions between peers that require high degrees of trust, usually facilitated by third party providers. Peer-to-peer platforms for resource sharing represent a frequently discussed field of application for “trust-free” blockchain technology. However, trust between peers plays a crucial and complex role in virtually all sharing economy interactions. In this article, we hence shed light on how these conflicting notions may be resolved and explore the potential of blockchain technology for dissolving the issue of trust in the sharing economy. By means of a dual literature review we find that 1) the conceptualization of trust differs substantially between the contexts of blockchain and the sharing economy, 2) blockchain technology is to some degree suitable to replace trust in platform providers, and that 3) trust-free systems are hardly transferable to sharing economy interactions and will crucially depend on the development of trusted interfaces for blockchain-based sharing economy ecosystems.

Source: The limits of trust-free systems: A literature review on blockchain technology and trust in the sharing economy – ScienceDirect

The mechanics of trust: A framework for research and design – ScienceDirect

With an increasing number of technologies supporting transactions over distance and replacing traditional forms of interaction, designing for trust in mediated interactions has become a key concern for researchers in human computer interaction (HCI). While much of this research focuses on increasing users’ trust, we present a framework that shifts the perspective towards factors that support trustworthy behavior. In a second step, we analyze how the presence of these factors can be signalled. We argue that it is essential to take a systemic perspective for enabling well-placed trust and trustworthy behavior in the long term. For our analysis we draw on relevant research from sociology, economics, and psychology, as well as HCI. We identify contextual properties (motivation based on temporal, social, and institutional embeddedness) and the actor’s intrinsic properties (ability, and motivation based on internalized norms and benevolence) that form the basis of trustworthy behavior. Our analysis provides a frame of reference for the design of studies on trust in technology-mediated interactions, as well as a guide for identifying trust requirements in design processes. We demonstrate the application of the framework in three scenarios: call centre interactions, B2C e-commerce, and voice-enabled on-line gaming.

Source: The mechanics of trust: A framework for research and design – ScienceDirect

Trust, reputation and ambiguous freedoms: financial institutions and subversive libertarians navigating blockchain, markets, and regulation: Journal of Cultural Economy

This article departs from the post 2008 financial crisis context, from its intersection with technological developments, and from the socio-technical arrangements configured by this conjuncture. It explores plans and actions – of mainstream financial institutions, and of a community seeking for alternatives to centralised economy and governance – for the use of digital platforms supported by blockchain infrastructure. In particular, it explores how such plans and actions relate to conceptions of public and peer trust and how they appear to produce, or reinforce, reputational imaginaries and quantification practices within added value philosophies. By illuminating a tension between the two identified case examples, I seek to render alternative communities’ and financial institutions’ conceptions, imaginaries and practices (more) visible and to analyse their organisational marketing strategies – where there is a pragmatic and discursive operationalisation of technology as well as of trust as means to gain more self-sovereignty in action, while navigating markets and regulated actual world contexts.

Source: Trust, reputation and ambiguous freedoms: financial institutions and subversive libertarians navigating blockchain, markets, and regulation: Journal of Cultural Economy: Vol 0, No 0

Questioning Centralized Organizations in a Time of Distributed Trust – Marc-David L. Seidel, 2018

Imagine meeting a stranger and entering into a trusted economic exchange without needing a third party to vouch for you. What changes in your theoretical perspective in such a world? That model of interaction is what distributed trust technologies such as blockchain bring. I introduce the basic concept of distributed trust, describe some early instances, and highlight how organizational theories need to be updated to no longer rely upon fundamental assumptions about trust which are becoming outdated. Distributed trust fundamentally transforms boundaries of organizations and challenges assumptions about internalizing organizational functions to overcome market trust coordination issues. Implicit assumptions about the legitimacy and power of central network positions no longer ring true. This is very fertile ground for organizations research as the core tenet of the field—what roles and functions should group together within an organization—is being called into question at the most fundamental

Source: Questioning Centralized Organizations in a Time of Distributed Trust – Marc-David L. Seidel, 2018

Blockchain, Once Seen as a Corporate Cure-All, Suffers Slowdown – Bloomberg

Corporate America’s love affair with all things blockchain may be cooling.A number of software projects based on the distributed ledger technology will be wound down this year, according toForrester Research Inc. And some companies pushing ahead with pilot tests are scaling back their ambitions and timelines. In 90 percent of cases, the experiments will never become part of a company’s operations, the firm estimates.Even Nasdaq Inc., a high-profile champion of blockchain and cryptocurrencies, hasn’t moved as quickly as hoped. The exchange operator, which talked in 2016 about deploying blockchain for voting in shareholder meetings and private-company stock issuance, isn’t using the technology in any widely deployed projects yet.“The expectation was we’d quickly find use cases,” Magnus Haglind, Nasdaq’s senior vice president and head of product management for market technology, said in an interview. “But introducing new technologies requires broad collaboration with industry participants, and it all takes time.”Betting on BlockchainSo far, IBM and Microsoft have grabbed more than half of blockchain spendingSource: WinterGreen Research Inc. report from earlier this yearNote: Figures shown are percent of total dollar salesBlockchain is designed to provide a tamper-proof digital ledger — a groundbreaking means of tracking products, payments and customers. But the much-ballyhooed technology has proven difficult to adopt in real-life situations. As companies try to ramp up projects across their businesses, they’re hitting problems with performance, oversight and operations.Hype Versus Reality“The disconnect between the hype and the reality is significant — I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Rajesh Kandaswamy, an analyst at Gartner Inc. “In terms of actual production use, it’s very rare.”That could be bad news for makers of blockchain software and services, which include International Business Machines Corp. and Microsoft Corp. They’re aiming to make billions on cloud services that help run supply chains, send and receive payments, and interact with customers. Now their projections — and investors’ expectations — may need to be tempered.“Blockchain is supposed to be an important future revenue stream for IBM, Microsoft and others in equipment sales, cloud services and consulting,” said Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates. “If it materializes more slowly, analysts will have to make downward revisions.”IBM, which has more than 1,500 employees working on blockchain, said it’s still seeing strong demand. But growing competition could affect how much it can charge clients, according to Jerry Cuomo, vice president of blockchain technologies at IBM.Microsoft also remains upbeat. “We see tremendous momentum and progress in the enterprise blockchain marketplace,” the company said in a statement. “We remain committed to developing cutting-edge technology and working side-by-side with industry leaders to ensure business of all types realize this value.”So far, IBM and Microsoft have grabbed 51 percent of the more than $700 million market for blockchain products and services, WinterGreen Research Inc. estimated earlier this year.For a large swath of companies, blockchain remains an exotic fruit. Only 1 percent of chief information officers said they had any kind of blockchain adoption in their organizations, and only 8 percent said they were in short-term planning or active experimentation with the technology, according to a Gartner study. Nearly 80 percent of CIOs said they had no interest in the technology.‘No Delay’Many companies that previously announced blockchain rollouts have changed plans. ASX Ltd., which operates Australia’s primary national stock exchange, now expects to have a blockchain-based clearing and settlement system at the end of 2020 or the beginning of 2021. Two years ago, the company was aiming for a commercial blockchain platform within 18 months. An exchange spokesman said “there’s been no delay,” as the company hadn’t announced the exact launch date until recently.Another early advocate, Australian mining giant BHP Billiton Ltd., said in 2016 that it would deploy blockchain to track rock and fluid samples in early 2017. But it currently doesn’t “have a blockchain project/experiment in progress,” according to spokeswoman Judy Dane.But there could be more of an uptick next year, according to blockchain-backing organizations.“It’s not on a steep ramp-up curve at all,” said Ron Resnick, executive director of Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, comprised of about 600 members such as Cisco Systems Inc., Intel Corp. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. “I don’t expect that to happen this year. They are still testing the waters.”Seeking StandardsOne reason behind the delays: Most blockchain vendors don’t offer compatible software. Companies are worried about being beholden to one vendor — an issue the EEA group hopes to resolve by setting standards.The organization will launch its certification te

Source: Blockchain, Once Seen as a Corporate Cure-All, Suffers Slowdown – Bloomberg