Friday, July 16, 2004

Trusting Words

John’s recent posts refer to the relationship between trust and language.

People often use words in a deceptive way, to conceal truth or intention. When people choose their words carefully, this may be because of a strong desire for accuracy and clarity, or it may be quite the opposite. Obviously this is (among other things) a trust issue.

But words can also be misused or misleading without any conscious intent to deceive. To the disappointed, it may make little first-order difference whether I'm disappointed by accident or design. But it makes a big second-order difference. (And in any case, the POSIWID principle suggests that Nothing Happens By Accident.)

People talk nostalgically about handshake-based trust or eyeball-based trust. But these trust mechanisms assume a shared and unambiguous language and culture, and may not work in a heterogeneous (asymmetric) world.