Holochain Forum

Debate on Trust with Hybrida from Bitlattice

Hi all,

I recently had a juicy twitter exchange with @Hybrida after responding to her tweet:

My response was:

This led to some back and forth and eventually a long reply from her. I’ll try to collate the discussion so far here, and I invited her to come to this forum to continue the conversation using a communication medium that I think better suits the content, and to make it easier for others to chime in.

Hybrida:

Could you share any actual benefit of the qualities you listed? Trust in banks, authorities, corporations brought us to one of biggest disparities in history, when most wealth has no real equivalent in goods and work. Additionally, please share a strict definition of “community based trust” taking into consideration our selfish gene nature.

Me:

When you say “trust,” I think you mean power. Power in central authorities, banks, corporations, etc., in the context of rivalrous capitalism has led us to the brink of crisis. I have never trusted them, so no I wouldn’t call that trust.

[re: selfish gene] See https://tinyurl.com/y622xvqm “biologists have developed a far more sophisticated view of evolution as a series of complex, interlocking systems, where the gene, organism, community, species, and environment all interact with each other intricately over different time frames.”

Hybrida:

Sure they did. Community is a mechanism maximizing success of species. It works thanks to selfishness of all members. Trust has no meaning in a community. Mutual ad hoc profits have. We build a shiny ideology around it, calling a risky but potentially beneficial relation trust. But apart from biologists views and whether Dawkins was right or not so much - you avoid giving a definition…

Me:

Imagine a small community of 200 or so people. That kind of community doesn’t need banks, govts, or corporations because it is small enough to track reputation and actual relationships to know who to trust to do certain things and make certain decisions. To scale that kind of community based trust, we need systems to scale reputation and rich information about relationships and actions of each member of a larger community. I guess community based trust to me means p2p accountability at scale.

Hybrida: [long response in attached picture]

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There is no “ideal reputation system,” because a reputation system needs to fit the needs of a specific group of people engaging in a specific kind of interaction. e.g., reputation for a dating app should be different than reputation for agricultural supply chain.

Also, I wouldn’t say that the goal is “proof” of good intentions, rather more like vouching from verifiable sources that a person/organization has a certain quality or has done a certain thing. e.g., ebay ratings might give buyers an idea whether they can trust that the seller will actually deliver the goods. Something like Holochain would provide better verifiability for these kinds of ratings.

I won’t respond to what you said about precisely measuring behavior/intention, because that’s not what I’m advocating. What you’re talking about are “objective” metrics, whereas I imagine p2p accounting to basically tell you “who said what about whom.” Hopefully with the examples I give here you’ll have a bit of a clearer idea what I mean.

It’s true I have struggled to give you a concise definition of “community-based trust,” and instead kind of rephrased it as “p2p accountability.” I’m not sure how else to describe it except give a couple examples. I’ll reference some actual Holochain projects to try to ground it in reality:

Producer’s Market [agro supply chain]: my hope is that consumers will have richer information about the farming methods used, and the impact of these methods on the environment, if there are p2p ratings verified on Holochain for agricultural producers

humm.earth [p2p publishing]: I have read that they are designing reputation systems to represent verifiability of sources, transparency, and resilience to manipulation. As I understand it, part of the the idea is to help fight fake news and create conditions that support higher quality journalism.

There are many more examples I could give, and admittedly these are only short summaries without the all-important nitty gritty details that would determine whether they will actually be effective systems, but I hope it gives an idea of what I mean by community-based trust or p2p accountability.

Also, I wouldn’t say that the goal is “proof” of good intentions…

Contrary to the above you wrote in our Twitter conversation (and apparently forgot to copy it here, which would give other readers more complete and concise picture):

I don’t disagree with you that trust is risky, but in that case I think it’s better to improve our capacity to build actually trustable trust, rather than to rely on “dead cold tools.” e.g., reputation system that helps you genuinely believe someone has good intentions, etc.

Merriam-Webster (and other dictionaries as well, I presume) stubbornly refuses to provide for the word “genuine” any definition close to “approximate”. Because it looks like you meant an approximate measure, but you just used a wrong word.

From the clarification you presented in the post above it seems that we talk about two different things and have two distinctively different approaches to the subject. My stance is that as there cannot exist any objectively correct tool providing insight into an actual situation supported by facts, I prefer solutions that do not force me to trust/believe in anything. Your stance is that even while you cannot identify an actual situation supported by facts you are open to using tools that provide a more or less precise approximation and depend your choices on those tools output. That is probably what you call a “community based trust” - a set of community powered tools that give rough indicators who can be trusted and who cannot. The fact that such tools are by their nature prone to manipulation and inherent lack of precision escapes you. I have a hint - get a cat, it’s far more reliable: https://www.forbes.com/sites/frederickallen/2013/01/15/cat-beats-professionals-at-stock-picking/.

You gave an example of Ebay system, example wrong on many levels. Let me spare a few lines for that case. Ebay’s business model depends on clients being happy with their shopping. The dopamine pump can be halted by a dishonest supplier sending a brick instead of electronics for instance. Worse, a client with dopamine depression caused by such situation will likely share experiences in public via social medias. And the name “Ebay” will appear there, even if not as a culprit. To avoid as many as possible similar situations it’s better to have it hosted internally and to solve issues there before they go public. That gives also another benefit. When a supplier generates fair profits you can pump its rating via fake identities practically at no cost. You can shape the whole ecosystem this way. To summarize - that rating system never stood even close to any objective tool. It works only because it’s profitable.

Let’s turn now to the examples you provided. I like Holochain as it has several qualities that differentiates it from other blockchain related projects. Therefore, I’m happy there are practical use cases of it. But when it comes to a reputation scoring it’s actually irrelevant whether you use this chain, that chain or any chain at all. The only added value is that the content is immutable, but if you put garbage in you’ll get garbage out. Regardless of a method.

As to the projects - aren’t you interested in their business model? Because I would, provided that I’d use their services, which I won’t. Apart from that, are they susceptible to manipulation? Sure, as any such system. GIGO.

The common phenomenon in every community is that people en masse doesn’t care about facts. They care about having pacifiers that will make them feel comfortable and secure about their choices. The actual objective reality isn’t so important, as anxiety is internal and subjective.

My approach is different. Let’s illustrate it with “fake news” issue. Contrary to a popular trend to find out which is less fake, I consider all news fake. If I stumble on an article that doesn’t include a clickbait title, an outright manipulation, playing on emotions, partisan biases, logical fallacies, but includes some verifiable factual information I yell “Great, three more such articles and I open a champagne”. I don’t like champagne. I don’t even have a bottle.

I’m perfectly OK with not trusting and not using pacifiers. It makes life easier.

Apparently the debate is over before it seriously started. Pity.

:relaxed: I’ve enjoyed the discussion so far, though I’m realizing I feel less and less inclined to continue it. Not sure why. Maybe it’s a combination of a couple things. For one, I get a sense that you are holding tight to your belief that “trust has no meaning in a community,” which to me is so self-evidently false that I assume there must be an incredible chasm between our respective life experiences and worldviews, and maybe it’s not really worth the effort to bridge that chasm? Not sure. The other thing is that I get a sense from how you write that you feel disdain/contempt for me, which doesn’t feel very inviting to engage with. Could be an incorrect assumption, though - may be just your writing style.

But now that I’m writing this, I do feel open to continuing :slight_smile:

Imagine you want to buy a used car. You find an old Toyota on Craigslist. You ask the seller for its maintenance history, whether its been in any accidents, etc. He says he always took it for oil changes and it was never in any accidents, but are having trouble deciding whether to trust him. Before you buy it, you ask a friend who happens to own the same car for advice first. Coincidentally, she says she was thinking of selling her car, and offers to sell you hers instead for the same price. She tells you the same thing as the guy from craigslist: she always took it for oil changes and it was never in any accidents. You have known her for a decade and she is a close friend. Do you buy the car from her, or from the Craigslist guy?

Obviously you buy from your friend. Why? Because of trust. This is one of innumerable possible examples why your statement “trust has no meaning in a community” is so absurd to me.

Now, is it a “fact” that your friend can be trusted? Do you have a “precise” measurement telling you that she is trustworthy? What “cold-hard tool” have you used to make this measurement?

To me, these questions are also absurd, because your trust is based on your relationship with her.

You could extend this to other people. Imagine it wasn’t your friend who was selling her car, but she referred you to one of her friends that you don’t know, but said she could 100% vouch for the person’s trustworthiness. Again, you have no precise measurement using a cold-hard tool, but if I were in that situation, I would be more inclined to trust this unknown person vouched-for by my friend over a complete stranger on craigslist.

Now the difficult part is being able to continue extending that kind of reputation-based trust farther and farther, which requires thoughtful reputation current-see design. The fact that the ebay system is not perfect, and that existing reputation systems are “prone to manipulation,” as you say, is not a fatal flaw but rather a design challenge. I believe that Holochain provides the tools to overcome those design challenges.

But when it comes to a reputation scoring it’s actually irrelevant whether you use this chain, that chain or any chain at all.

Holochain is the only one I’m aware of that is agent-centric, putting as much emphasis on data provenance as on data integrity, meaning you don’t have to rely on the system to give you “objective” truth about trustworthiness, you can judge for yourself based on who is making what claims.

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I equally enjoyed our conversation, that’s why I summoned you back :slight_smile:.
As to the differences between our attitudes toward the trust - debate is often not about finding a common ground, but about understanding the other party. I could bring the same doubt as you - you seem to present a very conservative view on a role of trust in communities, which I equally regard as evidently false. However, I’d love to learn more about reasons that make you perceive the same subject so differently from myself.
As to disdain/contempt - your assumption is incorrect. I express my thought that way in other places as well, it’s easy to check. It’s nothing personal. I just don’t find a diplomatic and overly correct style honest enough. While I’m a big fan of Mr. de Talleyrand-Perigord for his wit and humor there must’ve been a reason why his boss called him la merde dans un bas de soie :wink:.

Your example with a car is fundamentally wrong, because there are many things that can go… right, can go wrong.
For instance, while we know each other since a decade with that friend, we are in a closer contact only for last few years. And she just “forgot” to tell me that 5 years ago she had an accident and the car was almost totaled. She went unscathed and never mentioned it for some reason. Fortunately, I looked into a VIN database and discovered that fact.
Going along with things that might go wrong. I know that my friend has a heavy foot. Apparently she never learned that there is something between a full throttle and a full stop. While both cars are comparable I assume that most people drive in a more relaxed way. The way she drives certainly destroys car’s components faster than usual…
To sum the above - my friend can act in good will, or act in a way justifiable for her (she desperately needs money, she does nothing wrong hiding some minute details), but regardless of her intentions accepting her offer doesn’t have to be beneficial to me.
While I know her personally since many years I have reasons to doubt in her ability to assess car related matters. Because your story doesn’t state that she’s a car mechanic. I may trust in her judgement when it comes to situations that happened many times before and said judgement was mostly identical to mine. But only if I don’t have time to check it by myself or those matters are of negligible importance.
I might end up buying the car from her not because of trust, but because it’s easier, because I care about her and know that she won’t get a good price from someone else, or because I don’t care about that car and how long it lasts. Or all together.

Let’s now dive into the absurd that you build further in your post. My friend, whom I trust 99% (because she has a life long experience with cars, is a car mechanic, never had an accident, drives flawlessly) has a friend (of course also so professional) that she trusts absolutely (99%). I posit here that 100% is always a fiction. It might happen only with the same person and even then it’s not so obvious. So, 0.99 multiplied by 0.99 gives us 0.9801. Perfect. But perfect situations happen only in a perfect world. Which is not the case.
So, let’s bring some more realistic factors - say 80%. Still high and probably only possible when a relation is really firm and long. We then have 0.8 * 0.8 = 0.64. Still not bad, but the degradation of cumulative trust is already clearly visible. Let’s add another, third, actor with the same trust level. We get 0.64 * 0.8 = 0.512. Just a little over 50/50 chance. From that point on it starts to be more reliable to toss a coin.
Just for illustration how fast it degrades.

I over-simplify above, but you started it.

The fact that the ebay system is not perfect, and that existing reputation systems are “prone to manipulation,” as you say, is not a fatal flaw but rather a design challenge.

It’s neither a design flaw, nor a design challenge. Such systems are designed for two purposes. First and foremost they act as pacifiers. Satisfied clients, assured about their choices, buy more. Second - they help in building average profiles that can be later projected on specific buyers with a fair degree of certainty to target them with other products.

I believe that Holochain provides the tools to overcome those design challenges.
Holochain is the only one I’m aware of that is agent-centric, putting as much emphasis on data provenance as on data integrity, meaning you don’t have to rely on the system to give you “objective” truth about trustworthiness, you can judge for yourself based on who is making what claims.

Blockchains, Holochain including, are just databases. Often smart, immutable, distributed, but databases. It doesn’t matter what built in mechanisms they have while they have no impact on the data that is fed to them. If you put a monkey in front of the best text editor in existence you won’t get any meaningful document.

It’s a problem of an interface (or an oracle). Humans are terribly complex creatures. Our brains, apart from planning shopping, must deal with a plethora of different stimuli that affect the decision-making process. Extracting, using outside tools, any consistent intent or wish from that bunch of neurons is at least problematic if not impossible (due to stochastic factors). The only thing that makes rating systems deliver something more than a white noise is our natural coherence when we act as a group. That coherence however has no guaranteed strength.
Another issue related to the interface is that the electronic system cannot verify who provides an input. The very recent example - by ICMP. It shows fairly well how easy is to manipulate a crowd support.

I cannot include more than 2 links in my post as a novice user, but regarding monkeys and a typewriter I found that thread really informative :smile:.

I like the cybernetic perspective, that just like the human eyeball can be extended with a telescope, so too should the human frontal lobe be capable of extending itself through technology. The human capacity for trust by belief, is quite unique in the animal kingdom to begin with, I think. It was once an innovation too, allowing ideas as a kingdom of life to flourish, a “genetic code” for technology. I’m equally interested in person-to-person ledgers like Holochain and “global singletons” like BitLattice, both are cybernetic augmentations, and I think both will co-exist. I have (unproven) ideas for a protocol for each paradigm, Resilience and Pseudonym Pairs + proof-of-vote.

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You’re right, the “trust by belief” was possibly very important when it comes to the early development of humanity. That mechanism couples well with the ability to speak. As speech forces abstract thinking there must be a mechanism to agree when it comes to common definitions. However, sooner or later, there comes a realization that our definitions are often very fluid and imprecise. Usually around such moments (already several times throughout our history) efforts start to clean up a mess accompanied by advances in technology. No coincidence here. Every attempt to abstract facts from our far from ideal way to describe them, base them on objective prerequisites, pack into mathematical representations fuels progress in areas directly dependent on strict paradigms. Then, our natural tendency to trust/believe without any solid reasons, becomes a burden.

Now, we are at a specific moment in our history, when the technology must melt into and shape our society, this way or the other. That hasn’t happened yet, contrary to what some may think. Our technology is still very primitive, but coming inventions are just around the corner. We can use one of two strategies to address the merger.

First approach is to conserve our tendency to believe even in a total nonsense. While historically a prevailing trend it just serves as a braking force of progress and never actually wins.
The second approach is to realize our limitations and attempt to either adapt to function ignoring them or bridge them with technology.

This debate is about a choice of strategy, not about blockchains and their strengths and weaknesses, because these are just tools. Fascinating, but only tools. To me, the interesting issue is what path will we take toward the future. I’m just afraid that by frantically defending our right to believe we’ll let coming technology to dominate us. Because future technologies will be able to use our dependence on trust to take control.

@Brooks There is a lot of historical precedent of trusting a scripture, Ethereum and BitLattice are evolutions of having a “book of law”, the Torah, Koran, Bible, nation-state law book, and so on and so forth. I was never that big a fan of scriptures but I like global ledger technology for some reason, probably because in contrast to other scriptures, they are “rule space commons” as Gavin Wood calls them. What he means with rule-space commons, inside Ethereum or BitLattice, all content is agent-centric, key-to-key, entirely controlled by people as sovereign agents. There is also a lot of precedent for person-to-person trust, I think both Holochain-type ledgers and BitLattice-type ledgers will exist, co-exist as separate niches.

@resilience-me - When it comes to Bitlattice, what you wrote is not entirely true. It sports another layer of decision-making process - built in logical units that take some basic decisions (depending on their internal complexity). While their code is open, their nature is dynamic enough and their processing hidden via encryption to eliminate at least some classes of potential manipulations I mentioned above.
But, as I said before, I’m here to debate about trust, not to brag about Bitlattice. It wouldn’t be even polite to do so on the forum of Holochain.
Therefore, let’s stick to the main subject.

I agree with both sides in the debate, or, do not see that there is a conflict. Human capacity for trust went beyond just social trust from the start, the ability to trust belief let humans trust in technology, and social technology like scriptures have been around always, at the same time, people have always trusted one another directly, two separate niches.

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@Brooks this thread is pretty long, but it’s probably worth several side conversations. I would add to the point about organisations designing their reputation systems - that users also need to be given agency to stake this reputation outside of the originating app/institution. That would move us to diverse, thriving designs for trust/reputation that aren’t dominated by monolithic structures. (Can share more when relevant)

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Your agreement with both sides is bogus. You only agree that the phenomenon of trust exists. It’s truism. The same way I could agree with proponents and opponents of bloody conflicts. Wars and conflicts are an undeniable fact. So I agree :grin: .

You agree with the topic of the debate we are in, which isn’t so hard as it’s written in the header. Though, it’s way harder to express a specific stance. You don’t have to side this way or the other, but to refer to situations/use cases we mentioned above.

The “trust by belief” certainly played some role in our early development as humans and also certainly plays a big role in formations of kids.
Early socialization (in sociological terms) is an important step to synchronize a new member with a society. There is no other mechanism than to “sell” the norms and basic paradigms via unconditional trust to parents and other influential persons. However, when we grow up and gather knowledge and experience the trust we use (as it’s a tool) changes from the absolute formative form I described above into a trust based on experience. It’s no longer absolute. Contrary to what @Brooks claimed, there is never 100% trust. We just exaggerate while we describe it, but we are usually aware that there are multiple factors that might affect the other person’s behavior.

The degree of that transformation differs from person to person. In some cases the formative process is strong enough and a person vulnerable enough to enforce using unconditional trust even in later years. Others stop believing in Santa, absolute trust and fairies altogether. There are of course mane shades in between.

The first group, let’s call them conservatives, tries to defend their belief using a multitude of arguments. They claim that trust in opinions of others is a good tool to judge about the reality. That aggregated measures dependent on trust in many community members opinions give reliable enough results. That trust is a common phenomenon and therefore is useful. They also claim that the wisdom of the crowds phenomenon actually works, so trust can be extended onto larger groups. And many more.

The other party, let’s call them progressives, also present some arguments. They claim that there are far better methods to judge about the reality than trust in others’ opinions. Coincidentally those methods are the ones that fuel our technological progress. They posit that while there is a coherence in society due to the conformism and common goals, tools built upon assumption that there is a constant correlation between facts and opinions are fundamentally wrong and easy to manipulate. They argue that argumentum ad populum is a fallacy when used in general statements, which was proven by many historical atrocities and is practically equally absurd as “eat shit, trillions of flies cannot be wrong”. They claim that while the wisdom of the crowds works well with simple, clearly defined answers, in diverse populations, with independent participants, with no external influence, any bias in the above factors can lead to unreliable results.

And here we come to a point when you can take a stance.

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While my attitude toward reputation systems is rather negative, if people feel a compulsive pressure to use them they should be build in a way that at least minimizes their deficiencies.
I know, your post wasn’t addressed to me, but your proposal is reasonable. I’d only extend it a little. While the ability to migrate your reputation score is certainly a good thing, there should also be a standardized protocol to facilitate such process. Another function of the protocol could be to force reputation system providers to include specific metrics. I suggest that the protocol should include not only a person specific entries (list actions with respective scoring), but also values indicating correlation with the rest of the community. Also, it should include global measures of the community as a whole, including behavior/opinions diversity, coherence metric and many more. Forcing use of such protocol could, to some extent, limit providers’ freedom to alter/adjust/manipulate the system. Not that it cannot be bypassed, it’s just harder to bypass and easier to detect dishonest provider.

Hey @Hibryda - lovely to hear from you too. So, we’ve actually been working on the standardised protocol to facilitate this process (check out more on the Sacred Capital forum). This protocol really comes alive in Holo’s agent centric environment because users hold the agency to ‘place at stake’ this reputation as they port it, and our Reputation Interchange ensures the corresponding contextual ripple effects play out.
The key lies in building reputation as a relative score - each user views the other as per their context, or as per their user chain. (There’s a lot to unpack here, I can share more).

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Thanks for info. I browsed both the forum and the site, but couldn’t see any detailed description. Probably I just missed it. If so, please share.
As to the relative approach - its reliability would largely depends on diversity of a community. With homogeneous community such scoring will be meaningless.

Nope, I agree with both viewpoints. I think that crypto removes the need to trust a person directly can make the world more honest and fair, an evolution of what the state has been intended to be used for, and I also think that crypto can increase capacity for person-to-person trust. Although those types of organization are polar opposites, I do not think they oppose one another, both have always co-existed.

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@Hibryda yes, as of now the website and medium channel are all that are publicly available. We’re planning to release details about the protocol, and results of some simulations soon (in a couple weeks) - would love your thoughts.

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Great, please keep me updated.