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  • Writer's pictureChristoph Burkhardt

Trust - the currency of AI economies

Updated: Sep 2, 2019

#Organizations trade #trust with employees as well as customers. The invisible #markets for these trades hold the key to which businesses will succeed in the age of #AI and which ones will fail.

Interestingly, if you look at what trust is psychologically it is a very inward concept meaning that it is more about the qualities of the person trusting rather than the object of trust. Trust in yourself determines how much trust you will have in others. It is really more about how you trust your response to certain events, good and bad, and if you trust that you will be able to deal with them. Once you have formed this level of trust in yourself will humans be able to trust each other.

A trustworthy human is therefore not only judged on the basis of past action but also based on potential activities of the future. Trust is fundamentally about connecting this past action to future events. If you trust someone you trust in their behavior to a certain extent while you also know that there is an element of chance they will behave differently. Thereby trust is much more than a simple prediction.

Trust is the fabric of all societies and the building block behind implicit contracts of social life. Most systems of exchange are based on trust in fundamental agreement about things that have no real value but are required to make the number of complex connections we have built with other humans possible in the first place. The concept of money is one of those fundamentals. Without an agreement between people who use money about its value there would not be money. Why would you exchange your products against a piece of paper with an arbitrary number on it that someone just says describes the value of the paper? Unless people trust the value of the piece of paper exchange is impossible. But even bigger concepts than money only exist because people trust in their existence. Whole countries would fall apart if people stopped trusting their existence. Governments are no natural entities. They are made. They are built on trust.

Organizations only exist based on the trust in their purpose. The value of a company vanishes the moment people stop trusting the justification for its existence. This holds true for employees as well as customers. Purpose is the basis on which people decide which companies, brands and products to trust and which to ignore. Without trust there is no brand.

Trust is the currency of the 21st century. It is being traded collectively. You pay into trust accounts and you take out trust loans. Your own trust account is thereby the most difficult to maintain. Nobody has more data on how trustworthy you are given your own purpose than you yourself. Even if you try to justify your behavior and explain your weaknesses away with a made up rationalization you always know how trustworthy you actually are. This account can not be manipulated by fake excuses and arguments. Everything you expect of yourself is implicitly measured against what you actually do and the resulting level of trust towards yourself determines how much trust you have in others and the world. Since we are fundamentally social in nature this is not very surprising but ultimately the success of an organization is determined by the degree to which people in the organization trust themselves and project this trust on towards others, customers and coworkers alike.

Read more about the rise of smart machines and how they fundamentally change how we live and work. To get ready for the Age of AI check out Christoph Burkhardt’s new book “Don’t Be a Robot - Seven Survival Strategies in the Age of Artificial Intelligence”.

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