Comments

DavidMarch 15, 2012 6:27 AM

Bruce,

You write "Defectors are people who, for whatever reason, break the rules. That definition says nothing about the absolute morality of the society or its rules. When society is in the wrong, it's defectors who are in the vanguard for change. So it was defectors who helped escaped slaves in the antebellum American South.
It's defectors who are agitating to overthrow repressive regimes in the Middle East. And it's defectors who are fueling the Occupy Wall Street movement. Without defectors, society stagnates."

It was, I think, George Bernard Shaw who wrote "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

Plus ca change... :)

TerenceMarch 15, 2012 8:28 AM

I am not a learned individual. No doctorate, in anything, here.

But it strikes me that your use of the word 'trust' in "Liars and Outliers", at least what I've seen so far, is, if not incorrect, then somewhat misplaced. What you seem to be describing is more like reassurance or comfort provided by 'foolproof systems' (sic), which simply feed our misplaced optimism.

It's not 'trust' which allows us to live our lives in the certainty, right or wrong, that everything will work as it's supposed to. It's a function of the brain's subconscious reasoning which tells us, everything will be OK. We believe, or rather, we want to believe, everything will work as it should.

The kind of 'trust' you're describing is not the human emotion based on empirical knowledge of the individual and circumstances, which *I* think of as 'trust', but rather comes about as a result of several other factors. The most important of these is unrealistic subconscious optimism, which tells us the chance of anything bad happening to us is lower (and sometimes much lower), than average. We can keep on drinking, smoking and not exercising and we'll beat the odds, kind of thing, even when we know all the statistics exactly.

Another is simple resignation to fate (what the religious call being "in god's hands"), because we know we don't know how to fly a Jumbo jet, perform brain surgery or how the Internet works, so we just have to accept the cards as they're dealt.

Misplaced faith in belief systems, whether secular or supernatural, due to the subconscious activity of 90% of our brain, which we don't understand, is not 'trust', its more like ignorance and blind faith, but I guess that's not so catchy?

AlanSMarch 15, 2012 8:55 AM

@Terence

"Misplaced faith in belief systems, whether secular or supernatural, due to the subconscious activity of 90% of our brain, which we don't understand, is not 'trust', its more like ignorance and blind faith..."

It doesn't have to be subconscious. Everyone has to trust as perfect knowledge doesn't exist. We all make conscious judgments based on imperfect knowledge all the time. Some people are better at it than others.

Chris B.March 15, 2012 12:47 PM

Yes, it's important to remember he's using these terms *clinically*, not *popularly*.

Trust, in this sense, is not the warm fuzzy feelings of faith or closeness. It is, value-neutral, the assumption that a person will do as they're required to.

Defector, in this sense, is not the evil person who ditches his country, or even the nice person who blows the whistle. It's a person who does not do as they're required to do, value-neutral.

Use the terms as scientific terms instead of touchy-feely terms.

SteveMarch 15, 2012 1:12 PM

Bruce sez "One of the reasons that lamp merchant -- or, indeed, the restaurant's owners or the airline -- didn't cheat me is that none of them want a reputation as a cheat."

He may be right about lamp merchants and restaurants but Dr Schneier apparently flies on different airlines than I do.

And don't get me started about banks and the financial system, where the raison d'etre would appear to be to cheat the customer, if Greg Smith, formerly of Goldman Sachs, is anywhere close to being right.

Mike BMarch 15, 2012 1:33 PM

Are you hitting the National Press Club -> Fresh Air -> Daily Show -> Today Show circuit any time soon? I am interested in you saying the same things to 4 different audiences ;-)

S Dep S PedsMarch 15, 2012 9:10 PM

One can only defect from a system.
All systems in shared contexts are inter-present to a degree.
Defecting from one system may be proper to another.
I know. I used to interview defectors.
They were mostly fine, and very courageous, people.

James SpinksMarch 16, 2012 10:51 AM

Bruce. There are more 'community sourced' reviews are starting to build up at Goodreads.com. Although I haven't read or reviewed it yet myself...

So far the book is scoring a 4.04 out of 5. Which is just a pinch above "I really liked it", but not reaching the heady heights of "It was awesome".

Bruce SchneierMarch 17, 2012 6:14 AM

"But it strikes me that your use of the word 'trust' in 'Liars and Outliers', at least what I've seen so far, is, if not incorrect, then somewhat misplaced. What you seem to be describing is more like reassurance or comfort provided by 'foolproof systems' (sic), which simply feed our misplaced optimism.

It's not 'trust' which allows us to live our lives in the certainty, right or wrong, that everything will work as it's supposed to. It's a function of the brain's subconscious reasoning which tells us, everything will be OK. We believe, or rather, we want to believe, everything will work as it should."

I define what I mean pretty explicitly in Chapter 1. The chapter is free and online -- go to the book's homepage -- and you can read it.

I disagree with two points above. I disagree that our optimism is misplaced. Yesterday I flew home from London. I trusted the airports, the airlines, the Air Traffic Control system, my fellow passengers, a taxi driver, etc, etc, etc. That trust is my no means misplaced. It works millions of times a day, every day.

We believe everything will work out okay because -- by and large -- it will.

Of course it doesn't mean we can live our lives in certainty. There is nothing that will allow us to live our lives in certainty. That's just what life is. If I defined "trust" to mean that, it would be a useless word.

Bruce SchneierMarch 17, 2012 6:15 AM

"Are you hitting the National Press Club -> Fresh Air -> Daily Show -> Today Show circuit any time soon? I am interested in you saying the same things to 4 different audiences ;-)"

I would like that, too.

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