John Scalzi's Big Idea introduces Bruce Schneier's excellent new book Liars and Outliers, and interviews Schneier on the work that went into it. I read an early draft of the book and supplied a quote: "Brilliantly dissects, classifies, and orders the social dimension of security-a spectacularly palatable tonic against today's incoherent and dangerous flailing in the face of threats from terrorism to financial fraud." Now that the book is out, I heartily recommend it to you.
It’s all about trust, really. Not the intimate trust we have in our close friends and relatives, but the more impersonal trust we have in the various people and systems we interact with in society. I trust airline pilots, hotel clerks, ATMs, restaurant kitchens, and the company that built the computer I’m writing this short essay on. I trust that they have acted and will act in the ways I expect them to. This type of trust is more a matter of consistency or predictability than of intimacy.
Of course, all of these systems contain parasites. Most people are naturally trustworthy, but some are not. There are hotel clerks who will steal your credit card information. There are ATMs that have been hacked by criminals. Some restaurant kitchens serve tainted food. There was even an airline pilot who deliberately crashed his Boeing 767 into the Atlantic Ocean in 1999.
My central metaphor is the Prisoner’s Dilemma, which nicely exposes the tension between group interest and self-interest. And the dilemma even gives us a terminology to use: cooperators act in the group interest, and defectors act in their own selfish interest, to the detriment of the group. Too many defectors, and everyone suffers — often catastrophically.
Liars and Outliers: Enabling the Trust that Society Needs to Thrive
Karl Schroeder (previously) is literally the most visionary person I know (and I've known him since 1986!): he was the first person to every mention "fractals" to me, then "the internet" and then "the web" -- there is no one, no one in my circle more ahead of more curves, and it shows in his […]
Veteran reviewer/interviewer Rick Kleffel (previously) has just posted a long podcast interview (MP3) with Neal Stephenson, discussing his latest novel, Fall; or, Dodge in Hell ("a science fiction novel with a fantasy novel stuck inside of it").
A couple of weeks ago, I was thrilled to hear Subgenius founder, the Reverend Ivan Stang, interviewed on the Comedy on Vinyl podcast (previously) and to discover that the Church of the Subgenius was selling a $35 Salvation/Membership/Ordainment kit that was chock full of goodies.
Even if you feel like AirPods are worth the price tag, you’ve got to admit there’s a certain anxiety that comes with using them. What if I lose them? What if they get wet in the rain? Or drenched in sweat? Or fall into the drink you dropped them into? Shiny tech is great, but […]
With the quick-fix appeal of video games and their own cell phones, it can be tough to keep kids focused on supposedly “educational” toys. And while it may seem counter-intuitive to fight tech with more tech, we’re all in when it comes to the Toybox 3D Printer. We’re not sure if anyone had envisioned a […]
Whether you’re an artist, designer or just organizing a photo album, photo editing software is a must. And software designers know it: Platforms like Photoshop and Lightroom have a ton of helpful features, but you’ll pay for them in spades. Luckily, there’s some competition in the photo editing arena. Right now, Skylum’s Luminar software is […]