Democritus wrote “Do not trust all men, but trust men of worth; the former course is silly, the latter a mark of prudence” (c460-370 BC).
Those words set the tempo for a broad discussion on trust and technology’s role with several leading industry practitioners at Fujitsu’s World Tour event in June 2016, in London. Looking back at the event, here are the key themes that dominated the discussion.
Trust – invisible, but important
Little has changed since the days of Democritus and his fundamental principle. Trust is an invisible quality; firmly affixed to everything physical or digital and generally taken for granted, until it fails.
Since the days of Democritus, society, technology and the media sector specifically, have faced a trust explosion. The boundaries of trust grow day-to-day, bringing with them implications which are both profound and complex.
With digital becoming even more ubiquitous, this trust explosion needs structure, understanding, and most importantly directing, else we risk losing control of this underlying fabric of commerce and content production, both today and in the future.
The ecosystem of trust and security
Looking at the trust explosion, it has become an industry in its own right; a diverse eco-system of suppliers, systems and software.
Fujitsu’s Andy Herrington, Head of Cyber Professional Services, cites identity, digital handshakes, authentication, two-factor validation, the trusted cloud and certification as examples of the core components of trust frameworks.
Herrington stresses that, whilst trust is reciprocal, the curation and aggregation of trust is your responsibility and this is misunderstood at your peril.
From my own experience, I can remember distinctly my first trust conversation. It was unstructured, almost emotional in nature, and badly thought through. I was struck by the lack of framework and was left asking myself how could something so important be so badly presented. Herrington’s reciprocation principle could be the first law in such a framework.
Real consequences from getting trust wrong
And the consequences of getting this all wrong are profound. Haitham Rowley, Group IT director, Square-Enix West says “When data is lost, trust breaks down”. And whilst “Free to play gaming brought us into the digital world, putting content out into the world created real issues for Square-Enix.”
The double-edged sword faced by Square-Enix goes to the heart of their business model. Rowley says these data trust issues extend far into production and content transportation. For Square-Enix, there is no space to get this wrong.
Dr Chris Brauer the Director of Innovation at Goldsmiths University, says people trust people like you, which in some ways is similar to Herrington’s reciprocation principle. Where trust was historically built around authority, with an implicit assumption of good until proven otherwise, this is no longer the case.
And bizarrely, the more expertise thrown at a question, the lower the level of trust that results. Is this evidence of a trust fatigue?
Brauer makes the point that trust is built in a reciprocal way as a community; the community acting as a trust filter, amplifying the good and discriminating against the less scrupulous. One might dub it the Brauer–Herrington law.
Hugh Boyes, the Cyber Security Lead at The Institute of Engineering and Technology, believes a sceptical public will need to be won over to gain their trust in using systems of the future. Clearly, this can only be achieved by communication, as shown by the Edelman Trust Barometer.
He believes that it’s important to segment between an objective level of trust. This applies through the media value chain and subjective individual relationships with organisations and potentially content itself.
Of interest, when asked whether regulation had a role to play, Boyes doesn’t believe so. In his view, what’s required is an educational piece from legislators for digital propriety which is just as valuable as physical property.
Ensuring a robust chain of trust in today’s digital world
The Digital Production Partnership’s Head of Business Development, Andy Wilson, says that in a world where programmes are digital by default, it’s far easier for them to be leaked; everyone must act with a trust role throughout the value chain from creator to consumer.
Each party – production, post-production, distribution – has a quantifiable trust profile, which invariably only becomes apparent retrospectively. Wilson says that individual point relationships require more and more trust at every hand off.
The implications are profound – if someone disrupts your material, you start losing your audience trust. As a way forward, he does see the cloud as offering a way to solve the problem, both with point solutions, as well as structurally.
Aside from a theory of trust, there are also subjective drivers which provide a different trust dimension. Whilst at an objective level trust is measurable, based on a known history of impulse response – micro-trust – there has to be the complement – macro-trust – which is the subject of bias driven by community behaviour or experience.
Your audience and trust
In closing, Democritus was seemingly right, with his essential premise standing the test of time, and remaining highly relevant. Albeit, individual relationships require proportionately more and more trust at each hand off. This opacity can be reduced by leveraging the community, which can be assisted by going digital and accessing the cloud.
The bottom line is: if someone disrupts your audience you start losing them. This can then destroy your business.
“Do not trust all content, but trust content of worth; the former course is silly, the latter a mark of prudence”
He is a former Management Consultant, having spent five years at A. T. Kearney, advising and leading on IT Outsourcing and operational efficiency solutions across a broad range of sectors.
He is a graduate of Manchester University, Electronics and Electrical Engineering, FIET, holds a Dip. Law from City University and completed his Bar Finals in 1995. He is the former Chair of the City of London Citizen's Advice Bureau and Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists.
He is married, with one son, and lives in Islington. Outside of work, his interests include music, and writing screenplays.