In today's hyper-connected society, understanding the mechanisms of trust is crucial. Issues of trust are critical to solving problems as diverse as corporate responsibility, global warming, and the political system. In this insightful and entertaining book, Schneier weaves together ideas from across the social and biological sciences to explain how society induces trust. He shows the unique role of trust in facilitating and stabilizing human society. He discusses why and how trust has evolved, why it works the way it does, and the ways the information society is changing everything.
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About the Author
BRUCE SCHNEIER is an internationally renowned security technologist who studies the human side of security. A prolific author, he has written hundreds of articles, essays, and academic papers, as well as eleven books that together have sold more than 400,000 copies. He has testified before Congress, is a frequent guest on television and radio, and is regularly quoted in the press. His blog and monthly newsletter at www.schneier.com reach over 250,000 devoted readers worldwide.
"The closest thing the security industry has to a rock star."
Table of Contents
A Note for Readers xv
1 Overview 1
PART I THE SCIENCE OF TRUST 15
2 A Natural History of Security 17
3 The Evolution of Cooperation 27
4 A Social History of Trust 41
5 Societal Dilemmas 51
PART II A MODEL OF TRUST 61
6 Societal Pressures 63
7 Moral Pressures 75
8 Reputational Pressures 87
9 Institutional Pressures 103
10 Security Systems 123
PART III THE REAL WORLD 137
11 Competing Interests 139
12 Organizations 155
13 Corporations 173
14 Institutions 195
PART IV CONCLUSIONS 205
15 How Societal Pressures Fail 207
16 Technological Advances 225
17 The Future 243
What People are Saying About This
ADVANCE PRAISE FOR LIARS AND OUTLIERS
"A rich, insightfully fresh take on what security really means!"
—DAVID ROPEIK, Author of How Risky is it, Really?
"Schneier has accomplished a spectacular tour de force: an enthralling ride through history, economics, and psychology, searching for the meanings of trust and security. A must read."
—ALESSANDRO ACQUISTI, Associate Professor of Information Systems and Public Policy at the Heinz College, Carnegie Mellon University
"Liars and Outliers offers a major contribution to the understandability of these issues, and has the potential to help readers cope with the ever-increasing risks to which we are being exposed. It is well written and delightful to read."
—PETER G. NEUMANN, Principal Scientist in the SRI International Computer Science Laboratory
"Whether it's banks versus robbers, Hollywood versus downloaders, or even the Iranian secret police against democracy activists, security is often a dynamic struggle between a majority who want to impose their will, and a minority who want to push the boundaries. Liars and Outliers will change how you think about conflict, our security, and even who we are."
—ROSS ANDERSON, Professor of Security Engineering at Cambridge University and author of Security Engineering
"Readers of Bruce Schneier's Liars and Outliers will better understand technology and its consequences and become more mature practitioners."
—PABLO G. MOLINA, Professor of Technology Management, Georgetown University
"Liars & Outliers is not just a book about security—it is the book about it. Schneier shows that the power of humour can be harnessed to explore even a serious subject such as security. A great read!"
—FRANK FUREDI, author of On Tolerance: A Defence of Moral Independence
"This fascinating book gives an insightful and convincing framework for understanding security and trust."
—JEFF YAN, Founding Research Director, Center for Cybercrime and Computer Security, Newcastle University
"By analyzing the moving parts and interrelationships among security, trust, and society, Schneier has identifi ed critical patterns, pressures, levers, and security holes within society. Clearly written, thoroughly interdisciplinary, and always smart, Liars and Outliers provides great insight into resolving society's various dilemmas."
—JERRY KANG, Professor of Law, UCLA
"By keeping the social dimension of trust and security in the center of his analysis, Schneier breaks new ground with an approach that both theoretically grounded and practically applicable."
—JONATHAN ZITTRAIN, Professor of Law and Computer Science, Harvard University and author of The Future of the Internet—And How to Stop It
"Eye opening. Bruce Schneier provides a perspective you need to understand today’s world."
—STEVEN A. LEBLANC, Director of Collections, Harvard University and author of Constant Battles: Why We Fight
"An outstanding investigation of the importance of trust in holding society together and promoting progress. Liars and Outliers provides valuable new insights into security and economics."
—ANDREW ODLYZKO, Professor, School of Mathematics, University of Minnesota
"What Schneier has to say about trust—and betrayal—lays a groundwork for greater understanding of human institutions. This is an essential exploration as society grows in size and complexity."
—JIM HARPER, Director of Information Policy Studies, CATO Institute and author of Identity Crisis: How Identification is Overused and Misunderstood
"Society runs on trust. Liars and Outliers explains the trust gaps we must fill to help society run even better."
—M. ERIC JOHNSON, Director, Glassmeyer/McNamee Center for Digital Strategies, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College
"An intellectually exhilarating and compulsively readable analysis of the subtle dialectic between cooperation and defection in human society. Intellectually rigorous and yet written in a lively, conversational style, Liars and Outliers will change the way you see the world."
—DAVID LIVINGSTONE SMITH, author of Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others
"Schneier tackles trust head on, bringing all his intellect and a huge amount of research to bear. The best thing about this book, though, is that it's great fun to read."
—ANDREW MCAFEE, Principal Research Scientist, MIT Center for Digital Business and co-author of Race Against the Machine
"Bruce Schneier is our leading expert in security. But his book is about much more than reducing risk. It is a fascinating, thought-provoking treatise about humanity and society and how we interact in the game called life."
—JEFF JARVIS, author of Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live
"Both accessible and thought provoking, Liars and Outliers invites readers to move beyond fears and anxieties about security in modern life to understand the role of everyday people in creating a healthy society. This is a must-read!"
—DANAH BOYD, Research Assistant Professor in Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University
"Trust is the sine qua non of the networked age and trust is predicated on security. Bruce Schneier’s expansive and readable work is rich with insights that can help us make our shrinking world a better one."
—DON TAPSCOTT, co-author of Macrowikinomics: Rebooting Business and the World
"An engaging and wide-ranging rumination on what makes society click. Highly recommended."
—JOHN MUELLER, author of Overblown: How Politicians and the Terrorism Industry Inflate National Security Threats, and Why We Believe Them
Liars and Outliers Q&A
Q: In your book, Liars and Outliers, you write, "Trust and cooperation are the first problems we had to solve before we could become a social speciesbut in the 21st century, they have become the most important problems we need to solve again." What do you mean by trust?
A: That's is the right question to ask, since there are many different definitions of trust floating around. The trust I am writing about isn't personal, it's societal. By my definition, when we trust a person, an institution, or a system, we trust they will behave as we expect them to. It's more consistency or predictability than intimacy.
And if you think about it, this is exactly the sort of trust our complex society runs on. I trust airline pilots, hotel clerks, ATMs, restaurant kitchens, and the company that built the computer I'm writing these answers on.
Q: What makes people trustworthy?
A: That's the key question the book tackles. Most people are naturally trustworthy, but some are not. There are hotel clerks who will steal your credit card information. There are ATMs that have been hacked by criminals. Some restaurant kitchens serve tainted food. There was even an airline pilot who deliberately crashed his Boeing 767 into the Atlantic Ocean in 1999. Given that there are people who are naturally inclined to be untrustworthy, how does society keep their damage to a minimum? We use what I call societal pressures: morals and reputation are two, laws are another, and security systems are a fourth. Basically, it's all coercion. We coerce people into behaving in a trustworthy manner because society will fall apart if they don't.
Q: But even with all of that, not everyone is trustworthy.
A: Exactly. No society is 100% trustworthy. The trick is to ensure that the minority of people who cheat, steal, or otherwise break the rules don't ruin everything for everyone. Take theft as an example. Our society requires that everyone respect the property rights of others. We need the rate of theft in society to be small enough so that we all basically trust each other. If the rate of theft gets too high, we might implement more societal pressures such as increased police protection and better locks on our doors. If the rate of theft gets very low, we might stop worrying about locking our doors. But no matter what we do, we'll never get the rate of theft down to zero.
Q: So it's a constant back and forth between the criminals and society.
A: Exactly. Criminals figure out new ways to steal things, and society has to respond with new ways of protecting property. This dynamic is especially important in periods of rapid technological change, like today. Technological advancements, particularly around the Internet, are changing the ways people can behave contrary to society's rules. Society needs to be nimble in defense, otherwise the untrustworthy will do too much damage.
Q: What makes Liars and Outliers so relevant in today's society?
A: As our systemswhether social systems like Facebook or political systems like Congressget more complex, the destructive potential of defectors becomes greater. To use another term from the book, the scope of defection increases with more technology. This means that the societal pressures we traditionally put in place to limit defections no longer work, and we need to rethink security. It's easy to see this in terms of terrorism: one of the reasons terrorists are so scary today is that they can do more damage to society than the terrorists of 20 years ago couldand future technological developments will make the terrorists of 20 years from now scarier still.
Q: What do you hope readers will take away from reading Liars and Outliers?
A: I can do no better than quote from the first chapter: "This book represents my attempt to develop a full-fledged theory of coercion and how it enables compliance and trust within groups. My goal is to rephrase some of those questions and provide a new framework for analysis. I offer new perspectives, and a broader spectrum of what's possible. Perspectives frame thinking, and sometimes asking new questions is the catalyst to greater understanding. It's my hope that this book can give people an illuminating new framework with which to help understand the world."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The book explores how and why societies form, and the factors that by and large induce the cooperation that is part of civilization. The material on morality will certainly challenge those who believe in absolute morality; nonetheless, the book is extremely well written. Highlights: defections are expensive; the most successful parasite does not kill its host.
Why do I trust that my neighbor won't burgle my house while I'm at work, and why do others not have that luxury? How does society try to prevent Joe Badguy from laundering money, and how/why do the systems & pressures supposedly restraining Mr. Badguy sometimes fail or even become counterproductive? Those are the kind of questions Mr. Schneier asks and answers. I think of the book a little like the Freakonomics series. Take some simple aspects of everyday life, the kind of things most people have never given a second thought (or a first thought for that matter), and look at them through new-fangled x-ray glasses that allow you to see the underlying mechanisms. Freakonomics looks at economic incentives, while Liars and Outliers looks at the effects of trust and of the various formal and informal systems that [try to] enforce and engender trust, and punish and deter those who are untrustworthy. The main reason I'm rating the book 4 stars instead of 5 is that I don't think Liars and Outliers has the same broad appeal as a book like Freakonomics. That said, I'm not sure this is such a bad thing. Freakonomics is so broadly appealing, IMHO, because it picks and chooses case studies for maximum impact and entertainment. Liars and Outliers, in comparison, takes a wider view and explains entire systems from masthead to keel and stem to stern. This leaves it a little drier and less of a page-turner than it otherwise might have been, but also allows for a broader analysis than would be possible in the Freakonomics style. For anybody interested in security (computer, physical, societal, or any other type) at all, I wholeheartedly recommend Liars and Outliers. The same goes for anybody who is a sociology layman but enjoys learning about new angles from which to view society and our interactions. The one and only thing that I truly disliked about the book is the footnotes, or should I say the you-need-two-bookmarks-and-have-to-constantly-flip-back-and-forth-between-your-current-point-in-the-book-and-the-notes-all-bunched-together-at-the-very-end-of-the-book notes. I know that it was the publisher's choice and not Bruce's, but it is an abomination and it should be burned at the stake alongside unskippable pre-roll commercials on DVDs, homeopaths, and Madonna's remake of American Pie. Bruce, the next time your publisher suggests using this non-footnote-note arrangement in a book of yours, kindly put on your best Chuck Norris grimace (you have the beard already) and apply your foot directly to his face, roundhouse style.
Schneier sets out to describe the social contract and how it applies to security, and does an excellent job with this compelling and well-written treatise.
The first chapters of Liars and Outliers: Enabling the Trust That Society Needs to Thrive by Bruce Schneier, a book about the how and why of trust in today's world, were tough going but the balance of the book is well worth the effort. The work seems to be a psychological/sociological description and explanation of how trust comes to be. It seems to be a philosophical work as the author puts forth his ideas about how "defection" from the group expectations can be a positive and/or a negative - for example, people who ran the underground railway in the 1800s were defectors. The work is not a hands-on guide to developing security but is an excellent effort to investigate why we trust . . . trust that the piece of paper our employer gives us can be taken to the bank and exchanged for money or that the lost person at the door isn't really casing the house for a future break-in. As I said, the first chapters were difficult but the rest of the book became one it was difficult to put down. Fascinating.