wort zum sonntag the toy u nion


The main topic of the last issue of the magazine of the Deutsche Hochschulverband was “trust” or “confidence” (in german “Vertrauen”) Various authors were discussing multiple manifestations of trust. The lesson was inspiring and made me think about it the issue and in particular the role of trust in connection to robots. My sister said that this blog post sounds like the thought of the day. So you have been warned if you read further.

If one omits the various contexts then (this is my way of viewing it) trust means basically that one has a set of “rules”/”laws” or even “roles” (a role can be seen as a behavioural rule) which one expects to be fulfilled, but that at the same time one can never be sure if these expectations will be met.

Assuming that the expectations are of positive nature author Moellering identified in the magazine at least three different expectation perspectives regarding trust. The first perspective is a that trust is based on a sort of rational decision (a “reason”). In short – in this perspective it is assumed that the stakes are high that the expectations will be fulfilled. The second perspective is based on a more intuitive experience, which is usually acquired via a “routine”, like if your bus is punctually every morning you have great confidence that this will be also the other day. (Note that with my above view on trust I call “the bus is coming puctually every morning” a rule). The third perspective is (as I understood) something in between, i.e. the trusting person is making experiences with others (persons, institutions) and learns from this what the rules may be and how certain they will be fulfilled (the author calls this “reflexivity”). Like you will have a certain knowledge and an expectation how a close friend will behave in a certain situation. (Again I call “behaving so and so in such and such a situation a “law” or “rule”). These were – highly simplified – the main issues of the article by Moellering – he actually wrote a book about trust.

In my opinion the more a person/institution etc. shows constancy in satisfying certain “rules” the more one will tend to expect that this behaviour will continue and the more one will “trust in this behaviour”. This holds for “reason”, “routine” as well as “reflexivity”. It is what empiricism is based on. Like if the products of a company were always recommended to you (reflexivity) and everytime you bought them they were indeed good (routine) you will find it rational to assume (reason) that they will be of good quality also in the future.

So in order to evaluate wether you can trust that “rules” are fullfilled, things like stability, periodicity and knowledge of the environment (“transparency”) are important points.

It was also interesting to read in an article by author Prof. Reichholf about trust among animals, like e.g. about this famous example were the defeated wolfs offer their throats. There exist a lot of basic trust (Urvertrauen) among a lot of animals. This trust was also prevalent in a lot of “primitive” tribes who didnt know the strange rules of their conquerors and thus it was often abused.

So much for now about the magazine of the Hochschulverband.

The simpler and more transparent the rule (like e.g. in a real “law”) the easier it is to evaluate how much one may trust that these rules will be fulfilled/obeyed. Punishment (or gratification) will enforce this (e.g. think of traffic laws, like you have high trust that everybody drives on the right lane (taking GB aside)).

Stating fixed and/or explicit rules is related to efficiency. Stating too many rules usually reduces efficiency (-> bureaucracy) but stating no rules implies that the involved parties need to negotiate about the rules (behaviour) , which also reduces efficiency. As a result a fixed set of rules is usually only achieved after a sometimes painstaking process. Think how long it took to allow women to vote!

Transparency and democracy should further the overall acceptance of rules.

Fixed rules can be found everywhere were a certain efficiency is needed – in a state, a company, even in a commune when it comes down to who is doing the dishes and how often. Hierarchies (rules of who is deciding what), institutions (rules of who is doing what, opening hours, as well as even marriages and relationships (who is going out with whom) are related to make daily life more efficient, i.e. they provide rules for social interaction. Also- what sometimes looks like “there is no rule” means usually more “there is a hidden rule”. Like if no one tidies up then this often means that in the end the person who endures mess the least is doing the job.

Concluding the clearer (and simpler) rules are stated (and thus can be easier controlled) and the more people/institutions etc. fulfill these rules the more one would be inclined to trust that a certain behaviour will take place.

On the other hand given some rules (from wherever they may come from and however clear they may be) and the trust that these rules will be fulfilled – if your trust had been broken once then you will hesitate to trust again, the more of this “breaking of trust” will happen the less you will be inclined to trust everything this person, system, community, institution, company does.

One could call this trust empiricism.

As a result people tend sometimes to state no rules (like politicians dont want to promise certain things) which implies that “trust cant be broken” (if there is no rule) on the other hand the more people will tend to make assumptions (make up their own rules) about e.g. a politicians behaviour and be likewise disappointed if these are “broken”.

An interesting aspect of all this is that machines obey a very strict set of rules (namely “physical laws”, i.e. their behaviour is more or less easily predictable and constant and so they are often highly trusted. They are often more trusted then a human (think of aviation devices). This implies that the less humans are able to find senseful rules for social interaction (which as explained above needs a lot of direct and transparent communication) the more people will be inclined to stick to autoritarian rules or machines and in particular machines which guide behaviour (example: social networking platforms).

A mixture of machines and puppets (->role play) or toys in general are robots. The above explains maybe a bit the “boom” of robotic devices.

Concluding one should remark that the more complex a robots behaviour – the longer people will need time to trust it.

->The Great Robot Exhibition: karakuri, anime and the latest robots on pingmag
->toy comics exhibition (art exhibition about toys and games in comics) (via we-make-money-not-art) (article)

above image is from the recent exhibition die roboter kommen

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