Home' HR Monthly : May 2017 Contents Who do you believe?
What happens when a society loses faith in established institutions?
Rachel Botsman, keynote speaker at AHRI’s national convention,
talks about the evolution of trust with Girard Dorney.
GIRARD DORNEY: Trust is such a big topic –
it’s an essential part of being human. How did
you decide to make a study of it?
RACHEL BOTSMAN: I think from a young age
I was always fascinated by what makes human
beings tick and what makes them connect and
collaborate – that emotional connection. My
career has followed a windy path. I started out
in the arts, making artwork. That might seem
very removed from what I do now, but you are
trying to figure out how to connect an idea to
an audience. I won’t go through the whole
story, but I went to Harvard, then I went to
work for President Clinton and then I saw the
role of technology in unlocking assets and
capabilities in people in new ways. A nd that
became the basis of my first book on the so
called “sharing economy”.
GD: We are increasingly putting our faith
in technology whether it’s ordering food or
transferring money. You refer to this in your
upcoming book as “distributed trust”. What do
you mean by that?
RB: If you think back to industrial society, it
was built around institutional trust. Rather
than trusting people directly, we built brands,
corporations, insurance, contracts, law yers and
so on, so that trust would flow through third
parties and institutions. Today, that is being
turned on its head; we are now transferring
trust from experts and institutions back to
individuals. It’s no longer centralised and top-
down, it’s distributed. I think this is profound
because it impacts how trust is built, managed,
lost and destroyed.
GD: What do you think is the most powerful
example of this change?
RB: From a technological perspective, Artificial
Intelligence and Blockchain are in competition
for which will have the bigger impact. With AI
you’re going to see a shift from a relationship
where technology is predictable to one where
you trust it to decide for you, and that’s huge.
With Blockchain it will remove the need for
many intermediaries because you will be able to
transfer value directly, whether that’s the deed
on a house or whether that is money.
GD: I’ve read that part of what we’re seeing
is the removal of the human element in trust.
What are you r thoughts on that?
RB: I think that’s hype to be honest. AI can
remove systematic biases but to say “it removes
human trust” is too much. You still have to
trust this idea of the Blockchain, you still have
to trust self-driving cars.
GD: Can you talk about the dark side, or the
potential problems you’re seeing as we transition
to this new kind of trust?
RB: If I had to name the top three: the first is
accountability. Uber is a good example: these
drivers are not employees and Uber doesn’t
own the cars, so when something goes wrong
who protects the driver and the passenger? It’s
pretty ironic when you think about it because
one of the reasons people are open to distributed
trust is that they’re so fed up with the lack of
accountability in institutional systems.
The second is that even in distributed models
you end up with some kind of centralised
power. If you think of Bitcoin, the concentration
of mining power [the servers that handle
transactions] is now in China and that makes it
precarious. So how do you regulate that when
traditional regulation doesn’t know how to
And the third thing is, I worry that we’re
trying to automate trust too much. Think
about people’s behaviour on Tinder, or how
quickly you accept a guest on Airbnb. It’s not
that I believe human beings are ultimately
untrustworthy, it’s that I think our children
will have an automated relationship to trust.
Real deep trust is slow, it takes time, it has
to breakdown, it has to be rebuilt. I wonder
whether they will have the skills to deal with
messy people issues.
GD: On the issue of work, how do you think
distributed trust will affect the HR profession?
RB: We complain now about how millennials
push against boundaries and authority, but
if they grew up in a world where trust wasn’t
derived from experts or authority, how do you
manage the next generation?
That becomes really interesting. Can and
should trust be automated in your organisation’s
For HR there’s the upside and the downside.
Take resumes, for example. We’ll just laugh
at those – that we once presented these static
objects. In the near future, we’ll be able to
aggregate all these data points to give a real
indication of who the person is that you’re
employing. To show how they might behave in
a given situation, and who their connections
are. If we use it well, we can have a much better
sense of the people we’re bringing in. It can
fundamentally change what recruitment looks
like and the nature of HR.
GD: What can AHRI convention attendees
expect to hear from you?
RB: I think I will paint a picture of this shift
happening. We hear about institutional trust
collapsing. What is really behind that? And
at the same time, why is distributed trust
rising, and how are new technologies enabling
that? And then what I will try and do is tie
it to implications for HR professionals, but
also how it fits into a bigger picture. So, for
example, how will this change the relationships
between companies and customers? And how
will it change how you think about trust and
relationships in your own life? These are all the
questions we need to raise. •••
20/04/2017 7:19 PM
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