Reputation systems work because people are mostly good

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People: please remember this when reading the news.

Great read, Cory. Thanks for sharing (and reminding everyone).


So true. Just look at my trust level.

Trust is key to a prosperous society, and it seems like the causal arrow points in both directions: a society without trust wastes resources on walls, bodyguards, and inefficient monetary strategies (hiding cash in mattresses or wall-safes); a rich society has fewer problems with trust.

To recommend a book with a similar reasoning: Schneier’s Liars and Outliers, imo very well written and convincing.


people are mostly good


I’m not saying this is completely comparable, but I used to run a LARP. We made the rule system fairly open, as fair as we could make it, and simple. Our philosophy on rule development was that we would deal with bad faith players who cheated, rather than make elaborate complicated rules to deal with dishonesty. In the years we ran it, we only had two outright cheaters. We never had any thieves, despite there being a lot of money in personal belongings and equipment just laying about. It was all based on personally being honest about things. Among our playership of about 200 individuals over the years, there was a point of pride that folks had integrity to follow the rules. What was kind of cool for us, was the amount of people that thanked us for taking this route, because the other local LARPs were playing an arms race with rules addendum to deal with what they perceived as possible cheating opportunities, which made the games cumbersome, complicated, and difficult to navigate.

I think when you start trying to control for bad actors, who are outliers, you downgrade experiences for everyone else. I think a lot of businesses do this to prevent lawsuits, and conform to insurance company expectations. I’m not saying to leave out gobs of cash and data laying about, but in general most folks don’t mess with other people.


It was a similar atmosphere back when I played paintball. Nearly all the time one could leave out over a thousand bucks worth of gear and not have to worry about it. Things changed when more people got into it and it got more popular. But still, I would say the level of theft at large tournaments was extremely low.

Cheating was the same. For the most part, people were honest and self regulated. Competition seems to bring out cheating way more than recreational games.

As for the general concept of trust, our brains are just horrible at filtering things. One bad experience or repeated stories can scar our bias. I guess evolution wise this makes some sense. Bears may eat people, so stay away from all bears is probably a good bias to have. When it comes to more complex things like branding people into groups and then assigning trust levels to that group, it turns into un-useful shit.


With a LARP group, though, you have the sense of everyone being voluntary members, which is where trust flourishes. When everyone feels welcomed and valued, and additionally, when everyone feels that the others are willing and good-fatih participants, it’s easy to trust. I’d spend the next few paragraphs analogizing this to current US politics, but that part pretty much writes itself…


I think you just described DRM perfectly!


This is a pretty convincing argument-and it scales nicely too. War statistics are going the same direction as crime statistics, for similar reasons. Acting in good faith is less expensive and more rewarding than trying to cheat.

HistorIans tend to focus on the wars, looking at the peaceful times as the anomoly, the pause between the real action. But it makes just as much sense to focus on the stretches of time when people are minding their own business and mostly treating each other fairly, as the building up of historical capital. The occasional war is an interruption of this pattern, where for a brief time it’s cost effective to cheat and treat others unfairly… until the next period of peace makes that nonsense illegal again.


I swear I’ve seen that girl singing “Tomorrow belongs to me.”

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