A Protocol of Trust

January 27, 2015

in Ethics

Trust is a confident belief that we can rely upon something to perform in a specific predicted manner. In order to consistently establish that belief and the confidence that backs it up, we need a methodology or a protocol that defines how to build trust.

  • Define the desired or predicted outcome
  • Establish the steps needed to reach the outcome
  • Test outcome and use results to measure progress
  • Reach a high consistency level
  • Document the process

The desired outcome is confidence in our predictions (TRUST). The steps needed are to make predictions and check their accuracy. If they are accurate, our confidence grows, if not, our confidence is diminished. When predictions are accurate, we need to establish the degree of accuracy. When predictions are wrong, we must analyze the root cause for failure and attempt to correct the prediction process. We also need to document the nature of the predictions and the degree of accuracy or failure.

This methodology is similar to scientific experimentation, but in this case, we are concentrating on building trust through repeating experience consistently. Science proposes theories, then turns to experimentation to investigate the validity of the theory. When the experiments can be repeated many times with the same results, the confidence level in the theory is raised until eventually the theory is accepted as factual.

In survival situations, we need to have a good assessment of our confidence level in both systems and people. We will depend upon our systems to provide water, food, energy and shelter. We will depend upon our close group of people to cooperate with each other and collaborate our efforts. It is important to know, with confidence, how often we can expect a critical system to fail, so that we can make backup plans and stage repair components. It is also important to know, with confidence, how well we can trust people.

In the scientific method, we require rigorous control of experimental factors that can affect the outcome, and careful scrutiny of both the process and the outcome. Our confidence in the duplication of the outcome depends on our confidence that all conditions were identical.

With people, this level of experimental control is rarely available. And even if it was, the knowledge that a “testing condition” exists might change the behavior of the subject. This means that a human trust protocol will need to depend, at least in part, on casual observations in an environment that is not carefully controlled. We do this all the time in developing our level of trust with other people, but it’s commonly done at an intuitive level, with little or no methodology defined.

With scientific experiments, we might establish confidence in how chemicals will interact, or how a substance will absorb and release heat, or conduct electricity. With people, we need to establish confidence that they will maintain a level of honesty that can be relied upon and a level of integrity or adherence to some core principles that govern their behavior. We need to know we can count on them to follow through with actions they have promised. We need to know that they extend some level of their integrity beyond themselves to include the group and will act accordingly.

In this article, we have tried to establish some preliminary characteristics for a TRUST PROTOCOL as follows:

  • At least some part of the protocol will need to be based on observations that are ad-hoc, casual, anonymous and other forms that not obvious to the subject
  • In spite of the subjective nature of the observations, we need to convert the results into an objective form, so that the protocol is easy to apply and test
  • Our desired outcome measurements will include: honesty, integrity, loyalty, and extension of these characteristics to a group
  • It needs to be easy to apply to a variety of situations, but still respond with consistent results

Future articles in this thread will attempt to develop templates that can be used to establish a TRUST PROTOCOL as defined here.

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