A few days ago, I got enthusiastically introduced to Ethereum, a platform for decentralised applications, based on a public blockchain and using Ether as a crypto currency.
The main idea of this project is building decentralised, digital networks to handle standardised agreements (smart contracts) between people, f.e. handling financial transactions, booking hotel accommodations, granting of credits, etc.
Such standardised procedures can be programmed, run automatically, without human interference and thus seem to be more objective and free of manipulation (which I doubt because what was created by humans can be manipulated by them).
I don’t want to get into the very complex technical details but what startled me during our discussion was the belief that it is better trusting an algorithm than a person or a corporation or a government.
I confess, our world is on so many levels in trouble and many people are questioning the current economical and political conditions, and therefore searching for ways to disrupt the centralised systems which often misuse their power and the trust of people.
Technology was/is used to improve life conditions but to me, today, nearly everything is optimised and efficient, is measurable.
Technology determines our lives, it should be vice versa: we should determine how much technology we really want to have in our lives. Moving away a bit from the faith in technology to sustainable processes would make our world more liveable.
Technology reduces diversity. The complexity of social systems is reduced to what is technically viable. Discussions about alternatives, taking into account each persons emotions, motifs, rational and irrational behaviour and thoughts take more time and might lead to a complete different decision than filling a system with relevant logical data and let the algorithm decide. It goes faster when using algorithms, sure. Our economical system is driven by the idea of exponential growth. It’s driven by greed.
What does it do with us, when decisions are taken purely based on rational arguments? Where does it lead when robots build self-driving cars? Do we really save the world with it? For whom is it good? Who has an advantage?
Don’t get me wrong, I am a great believer in efficient structures and processes (which sometimes is a burden for my family ;-)), I am using technology to earn my living but I just don’t belief that we can solve major today’s problems with technology only.
Technology has limits. It can’t include emotions and a big percentage of our decisions are taken on the basis of our emotions and not rationally.
Reflecting on my own behaviour, I don’t really trust a government or corporations, it’s more having a sort of limited confidence that they will fulfill the contract I made with them, e.g., when I buy a car I want to be sure that it drives, when I vote, I want to be sure that the representatives act in a wider sense in my interest. Let’s say, I want to believe that it works somehow, but having in mind that it could not.
But everything what is important to me personally, I try to oversee and manage by myself. Unlimited, I trust only very few people. But that’s not a blind trust either, its an ongoing reflection about the status of our relation. Because, everyone can change everyday and in order to do justice to us, it is a good thing to look at ourselves again and again.
To me, real trust is based on personal relations, knowing, that I can be like I am, that the other person sees me, hears to me.