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Who Can You Trust?

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Who Can You Trust?

How Technology Brought Us Together and Why It Might Drive Us Apart

Public Affairs,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Innovative analyst tracks the history of trust, why it matters and where it’s headed.

Editorial Rating



  • Analytical
  • Innovative
  • Engaging


Rachel Botsman’s extensive research and broad grasp of business, geopolitics, psychology, social trends and technology yields a captivating exploration of why people trust, how they should trust and the revolutionary ways society is moving to new forms of trust and “trust mechanisms.” Her brilliant, original analysis introduces fascinating stories to illustrate trends she supports with data, facts and evidence. Botsman’s work, though repetitive at times, is mesmerizing and offers a valuable window into the past, present and future of trust, a force that is central to your life.


The New Faith

Trust fuels civilization and society. People can’t function without it. Centuries ago, individuals trusted only those in their immediate circle or tribe. More recently, people have extended trust to institutions, including government, media, business and religion. Today, trust in those institutions is eroding daily. A “distributed” faith is replacing it. Belief in machines – for things like online ratings, payment functions and “trust mechanisms” – may replace trust in institutions.


Entrepreneur Jack Ma built China’s first online shopping site, Alibaba, when less than 1% of the Chinese population had an Internet connection. He had to win people’s faith, but he was operating in a culture in which people extended trust only locally – to their extended family or to their colleagues in long-term relationships. Ma created a form of escrow called Alipay. He verified high-trust sellers using a method called TrustPass. He provided incentives for honest vendors and excommunicated those who weren’t. Alibaba overcame gaunxi – China’s familial trust and obligation networks. Most Chinese have taken the “trust...

About the Author

Rachel Botsman, co-author of What’s Mine Is Yours and lecturer at Oxford University, writes and researches about how technology is transforming trust.

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