Trust

Trust: (noun)

a : assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something

b : one in which confidence is placed

Trust is a relatively simple idea, but it’s application is as complex as anything in the world. Let’s start with one person, you.

Trust in yourself indicates that you have some level of confidence in something in your self. But what? By default we tend to believe in our abilities, and our intentions. Sometimes we trust our memories. However, there are a few confounding problems.

  • Our abilities have edges, areas where our experience is actually thin, and especially where there are extra variables which make our intuitions wrong. For instance, if you’re an experienced auto mechanic, but you are working on a strange new car, like a hybrid, the electrical subsystem is entirely new, and actually changes how other parts of the car work. In these areas, trust might be misplaced.
  • Intentions are often driven by knowledge. If your knowledge is wrong, your intentions might lead to an outcome you don’t want.
  • Memories turn out to be quite fragile, and easily manipulated. A classic example of this is the fishing story about the great catch when you were a kid, where you remember it being huge, and then someone digs up a picture and it’s not so huge.

These problems lead to a simple conclusion: trust is a measure of probability.

For the person or people being trusted, you are measuring how likely they are to act in a particular way, or do a particular thing. You might trust yourself to spend your money wisely, or take care of the dog well. You might trust a buddy to be helpful when times are tough. You also might trust him to disappear if the plan for the night is to play a game he dislikes.

Of course, when people use the word trust in a general sense, they usually mean that the person in question will act with honesty or discretion. They are someone you can confide in, who won’t go blabbing about your troubles around town, or they’ll faithfully deliver your hard earned change after picking up pizzas for dinner.

It’s useful, though, to have this expanded idea of trust. The question to ask is “What can I trust this person to do?”

Of course, you also have to ask, “How well can I trust my judgement of this person?”

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