Recently, a potential business partner suggested an interesting exercise to determine how well we might bond together. Based on a project began in the 1950s, the assignment was to write 500-600 words entitled “This I Believe”. The instructions emphasize it is not a chance to write about faith, but about values.
Rather than spend hours deliberating on the topic, I chose to write response impulsively, from the gut. After a few weeks, I have concluded that, amidst the chaos of the world, the resistance of inertia against change, and my own awareness that my priorities for how to live out this life are beginning to become more clear, sharing my essay with my online community is the right thing to do. So, without further ado, here it is.
This I Believe
October 31, 2014
I believe in peace. I believe humans can live without violence and co-exist in harmony with themselves, each other and other living things. To achieve peace is easy; to sustain peace is incredibly difficult. Peace is not static, but dynamic, volatile, prone to collapse, and difficult to enrich. Enduring peace can only be achieved when peace has value to all those who may be seduced toward other outcomes.
Nearly 30 years ago, I began work on enabling peace by enabling commerce. Throughout history, an interesting truth had become apparent to me—we rarely commence or fight wars with those with whom we do business. The inter-dependence and mutual gains achieved through commerce, properly structured, drive us, in small steps, toward balances that enable peace to emerge. Competition exists, but adaptation to achieve success in commerce—‘routing around failure’—provides an enduring strategy for achieving peace.
I have lived with an impatient soul. My work has often been defined by a drive to develop solutions that would accelerate commerce, improve access to commerce for more of the world, and eliminate barriers that constrained achieving the understandings required to execute all variations of commerce—trades, barters, transactions, leases, licenses.
I have always viewed the emergence of the Internet and global computing as powerful tools to increase the velocity of the next solutions that enabled greater inter-dependence, greater accessibility to commerce, and more small steps toward peace. Through my work, however, I learned those tools were vulnerable unless, as a global society, we determine how to also build across the digital dimensions of cyberspace the capacity for humans to achieve what each transaction first requires—an affirmative decision to trust.
I believe the digital, wired world in which we now live offers enormous, nearly unlimited potential for improving and sustaining peace. But we must now assure that the Internet, still issuing merely its first heartbeats in the lifecycle of human history, enables trust. Doing so will be difficult, much like installing modern plumbing in a 15th century castle—the strong, thick stone walls simply were not built to accommodate running water. Nor was the Internet built to enable trust; indeed, its origins in the strategic planning of military defenses belie the presence of a contrasting intent.
I discovered that, to build digital trust, I had to first stop and learn how humans achieve trust itself. In doing so, I figured out that trust is not an emotion; trust is an outcome of a complicated calculus that each of us performs countless times each day as we interact with the world around us. Trust is a decision process. The process is based on catalogs of rules we assemble and the information we gather with which to evaluate whether our assembled rules are being satisfied by the person, the tool, the system, or the information we are deciding whether to trust.
By understanding trust, I have now built a really cool set of tools for making better trust decisions. These tools will also enable teams to design and operate new digital solutions (or retrofit the 20th century ‘castles’ existing systems represent). Doing so will better enable trust decisions regarding the digital assets of our world and the humans that own, control or use those assets in commerce.
I believe that my remaining time in this life is best used teaching how digital trust can be designed and executed; coaching builders, architects, suppliers, customers, students and their professors to incorporate building trust into their operations, their transactions, their tools, their knowledge, and their daily decisions; and creating and using the tools that enable those activities to be productive. By doing so, I believe I can better enable peace to be achieved and sustained.
Doing so will require communities, teams, and dialogs that have yet to exist, struggles against inertia and fears that are powerful; and resources that have yet to be assembled. So, my success will not be measured by the wealth I create, but by the number of seeds I am able to plant that take root and grow and, with a little luck, multiply into new generations of trust among humankind.
This I believe.