Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Liars and Outliers

_Liars and Outliers:  Enabling the Trust that Society Needs to Thrive_ by Bruce Schneier
Indianapolis, IN:  John Wiley & Sons, 2012
ISBN 978-1-118-14330-8

(2)  Trust is largely habit, and when there’s not enough trust to be had, people stop trusting each other.

(6)  Sociologist Barbara Misztal identified three critical functions performed by trust:  1)  it makes social life more predictable, 2)  it creates a sense of community, and 3)  it makes it easier for people to work together.

(23)  [NIcholas] Humphrey proposed that the primary role of primate intelligence and creativity was to deal with the complexities of living with other primates.  In other words, we evolved smarts not to outsmart the world, but to outsmart each other.

It’s more than that.  As we became more social, we needed to learn how to get along with each other:  both cooperating with each other and ensuring everyone else cooperates, too.  It involves understanding each other.

(28)  One way to think of the relationship between society as a whole and its defectors is as a parasitic relationship.  Take the human body as an example.  Only 10% of the total number of cells in our human bodies are us - human cells with our particular genome.  The other 90% are symbionts, genetically unrelated organisms.  Our relationship with them ranges from mutualism (we both benefit) to commensalism (one benefits) to parasitism (one benefits and the other is harmed).

(42)  Psychological studies show that we have what’s called a hyperbolic discounting rate:  we often prefer lower payoffs sooner to higher payoffs later.

(46)  Remember the Dunbar number?  Actually, Dunbar proposed several natural human group sizes that increase by a factor of three;  5, 15, 50, 150, 500, and 1,500 - although, really, the numbers aren’t as precise as all that.  The layers related to both the intensity and intimacy of relationships, and the frequency of contact.

The smallest, three to five, is a _clique_:  the number of people from whom you would seek help in times of severe emotional distress.  The 12-to-20 person group is the _sympathy group_:  people with whom you have a particularly close relationship.  After that, 30 to 50 is the typical size of the hunter-gatherer overnight camps, generally drawn from a single pool of 150 people.  The 500-person group is a the _megaband_, and the 1,500-person group is the _tribe_;  both terms are common in the ethnographic literature.  Fifteen hundred is roughly the number of faces we can recognize, and the typical size of a hunter-gatherer society.

(48)  Institutions scale in a way that morals and reputation do not, and this has allowed societies to grow at a rate never before seen on the planet.

(49)  Recall our two definitions of trust from chapter 1:  trust of intentions and trust of actions.  In smaller societies, we are usually concerned with trust in the first definition…  Societal pressures become more about inducing specific actions:  compliance.

(56)  If someone consistently takes all the cookies, Mother will stop baking them.  Remember:  it’s a bad parasite that kills its host.

(69 - 70)  There are many ways to sort societal pressures.  The system I’m using sorts them by origin:  moral pressures, reputational pressures, institutional pressures, and security systems…. Security systems comprise a weird hybrid:  it’s both a separate category, and it enhances the other three categories…

Moral pressure works best in small groups…
Reputational pressure works well in small- and medium-sized groups….
Institutional pressure works best in larger-sized groups….
Security systems can act as a societal pressure at a variety of scales.

(79)  Harm/care systems.  As discussed in Chapter 3, we are naturally predisposed to care for others.  From mirror neurons and empathy to oxytocin, our brains have evolved to exhibit altruism.
Fairness/reciprocity systems.  Also discussed in Chapter 3, we have natural notions of fairness and reciprocity.  
loyalty systems.  Humans have a strong tendency to divide people into two categories, those in our group (“us”) and those not in our group (“them”).  This has serious security ramifications, which we’ll talk about in the section on group norms later in the chapter, and in the next chapter about group membership.
Authority/respect systems.  Humans have a strong tendency to defer to authority and will follow orders simply because they’re told to by an authority.
Purity/sanctity systems.  This is probably the aspect of morality that has the least to do with security, although societies have used it to police all sorts of female [and male] behaviors.  Mary Douglas’ _Purity and Danger_ talks about how notions of purity and sanctity operate as stand-ins for concepts of unhealthy and dangerous, and this certainly influences morals.

(82)  Psychologist Andrew Colman called this the Bad Apple Effect.  Any large group is likely to contain a few bad apples who will defect at the expense of the group interest and inspire others to do likewise.  If someone is speeding, or littering, or watering his lawn in spite of water-use restrictions, others around him are more likely to do the same….

In psychological experiments, a single unpunished free rider in a group can cause the entire group to spiral towards less and less cooperation.  These patterns reflect the human tendency to adhere not only to social norms, but to moral norms.  In Islam, announcing that you’ve sinned it itself a sin.

(84)  Although it was easy to take a bagel without paying, [Paul] Feldman succeeded in collecting about 90% of the posted price [in his honor system office bagel business], resulting in much more profit than if he had to pay someone to sell the bagels and guard the money…

Philosopher Emmanuel Levinas said that morality is grounded in face-to-face interactions.  In general, moral pressure works best at close range.  It works best with family, friends, and other intimate groups:  people whose intentions we can trust.  It works well when the groups are close in both space and time.  It works well when it’s immediate:  in crises and other times of stress.  It works well with groups whose members are like each other, whether ethnically, in sharing an interest, or some other trait.  Even having a common enemy works in this regard.

(114)  Unexpectedly, they [inspections and fines in toxin cleanup experiment] had a negative effect:  subjects were more likely to cooperate if there were no compliance fines than if there were.  The addition of money made it a financial rather than a moral decision.  Paradoxically, financial penalties intended to discourage harmful behavior can have the reverse effect.
NB:  fine as fee - Israeli daycare pick-up experience

(115-116)  Ostrom’s rules for common pool resources:
1.  Everyone must understand the group interest and know what the group norm is.
2.  The group norm must be something that the group actually wants.
3.  The group must be able to modify the norm.
4.  Any institution delegated with enforcing the group norm must be accountable to the group, so it’s effectively self-regulated…
5.  The penalties for defecting must be commensurate with the seriousness of the defection.
6.  The system for assessing penalties must be consistent, fair, efficient, and relatively cheap.
7.  The group must be able to develop its own institutional pressure and not have it imposed from outside the group.
8.  If there are larger groups and larger group interests, then the groups need to be scaled properly and nested in multiple layers - each operating along these same lines.

(116)  Ostrom’s rules may very well be the closest model we have to our species’ first successful set of institutional pressures.  They’re not imposed from above, they grow organically from the group.  Societies of resource users are able to self-regulate if they follow these rules, and that self-regulation is stable over the long term.  It’s generally when outsiders come in and institutionalize a resource-management system that things start to fail.

(118)  Similarly, we can never ensure perfect security against terrorism.  All this talk of terrorism as an existential threat to society is nonsense.  As long as terrorism is rare enough, and most people survive, society will survive.  Unfortunately, it’s not politically viable to come out and say that.  We’re collectively in a pathological state where people expect perfect protection against a host of problems - not just terrorism - and are unwilling to accept that that is not a reasonable goal…

Any increase in the severity of punishment often doesn’t translate into a drop in crime;  an increase in the probability of punishment often does.  Often the societal causes of crime are what’s important, and changes in the law do very little to help.

(127)  Lojack, widely deployed, will reduce car theft (and will increase car theft in neighboring regions that don’t have the same system).  Various computer security systems can have a similar result.

(144)  Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote:
Society is a joint-stock company, in which the members agree, for the better securing of his bread to each shareholder, to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater.  The virtue in most request[s] is conformity.  Self-reliance is its aversion.  It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs.

Henry David Thoreau talks about how he went along with the group norm, despite what his morals told him:
The greater part of what my neighbors call good I believe in my soul to be bad, and if I repent of anything, it is very likely to be my good behavior.  What demon possessed me that I behaved so well?

(164)  But the church hierarchy (the bishops and the Vatican) decided that its ability to function as a trustworthy religious institution depended on reputation.  This is known as the “doctrine of scandal,” and means that its reputation was more important than justice - or preventing transgressions [in child sex scandals].

(174)  Merchants like doing this, because keeping prices high is profitable.  As Adam Smith, “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”

(216)  Also - and this is particularly interesting - the wealthier a country is, the lower its citizens’ tolerance for risk.  Along similar lines, the greater the income inequality a society has, the less trusting its citizens are.

(218)  When you start measuring something and then judge people based on that measurement, you encourage people to game the measurement instead of doing whatever it is you wanted in the first place.

(239)  The geopolitics that results in terrorism matter much more than any particular security measure against terrorists.

(240-241)  ...list of principles for designing effective societal pressures:
Understand the societal dilemma.  Not just what the group interest is, but what the group norm is, what the competing norms are, how the societal dilemma relates to other societal dilemmas, what the acceptable scope of defection is, and so on…
Consider all four societal pressures… effective societal pressure usually involves all four categories, though not necessarily in equal measure…
Pay attention to scale…
Foster empathy and community, increasing moral and reputational pressures…
Use security systems to scale moral and reputational pressures…
Harmonize institutional pressures across related technologies.  There shouldn’t be one law for paper mail and another for e-mail, or one laws for telephone conversations and another for Internet telephony…
Ensure that financial penalties account for the likelihood that a defection will be detected…  If we expect a fine to be an effective societal pressure, it needs to be more expensive than the risk of defecting and paying it.
Choose general and reactive security systems… we need to concentrate on the broad motivations for defection, rather than on blocking specific tactics, to prevent defectors from working around security systems…
Reduce concentrations of power.  Power, whether it’s concentrated in government, corporations, or non-governmental organizations, brings with it the ability to defect.  The greater the power, the greater the scope of defection.  One of the most important things society can do to reduce the risk of catastrophic defection is to reduce the amount of power held by individual actors in key positions.
require transparency - especially in corporations and government institutions.  Transparency minimizes the principal-agent problem and ensures the maximum effect of reputational pressures.

(250)  Adam Smith wrote:
If there is any society among robbers and murderers, they must at least, according to the trite observation, abstain from robbing and murdering one another.  Beneficence, therefore, is less essential to the existence of society than justice.  Society may subsist, tho’ not in the most comfortable state, without beneficence;  but the prevalence of injustice must utterly destroy it.

(258)  …books on neuropsychology:  Michael Schermer’s _The Science of Good and Evil_, Nigel Barber’s _Kindness in a Cruel World_, Donald Pfaff’s _The Neuroscience of Fair Play_, Martin Nowak’s _SuperCooperators_, and Patricia Churchland’s _Braintrust_.  The last two are the best.

(263-264)  Golden Rule/Silver Rule
Judaism:  “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow man.  This is the entire Law, all the rest is commentary.”  -Talmud, Shabbat 3id
Christianity:  “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” - Matthew 7:12.  Also “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” - Luke 6:31.
Islam:  “No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself.” - Forty Hadith of an-Nawawi 13.
Hinduism:  “This is the sum of duty;  do naught onto others what you would not have them do unto you. - Mahabharata 5,1517.
Confucianism:  “Do not do to others what you would not like yourself.  Then there will be no resentment against you, either in the family or in the state.” - Analecdts 12:2.
Buddhism:  “Hurt no others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” - Udana-Varga 5,1.
Taoism:  “Regard your neighbor’s gain as your gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.” - Tai Shang Kan Yin P’ien, Chapter 49.
Jainism:  “A man should wander about treating all creatures as he himself would be treated.” - Sutrakritanga 1.11.33.

(271)  In general, the altruistic portion of a person’s brain only works when the thrill center isn’t stimulated by the possibility of financial compensation.  If you try to stimulate both simultaneously, the thrill center wins.

(271-272)  Ostrom’s original rules are:
1.  The commons must be clearly defined, as must the list of individuals who use it.
2.  What can be taken out of the commons, and what sort of resources are needed to maintain it, must be suited to local conditions.
3.  Those affected by the rules of the commons need to have a say in how those rules can be modified.
4.  The group charged with monitoring or auditing use of the commons must be accountable to the individuals being monitored.
5.  Individuals who overuse the commons must be assessed graduated penalties, in line with the seriousness of their offense.
6.  Individual must have access to quick and cheap mechanisms to resolve the inevitable conflicts that come up.
7.  Individuals who use the commons must be able to come up with their own rules for managing it, without those rules being overruled by outside powers.
8.  If the commons is part of a larger system, all of this needs to be nested in multiple layers operating along the same lines.

(284)  Mussolini didn’t make the trains run on time;  he just made it illegal to complain about them.

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