Trust issues

I’ve been called “paranoid” too many times to count, with varying degrees of endearment attached. I’ve been told by friends, acquaintances, and strangers alike that I have some serious “trust issues.” Someday, I’d like someone (without an ulterior motive, of course) to explain what’s wrong with that. I always half-joke with these people and tell them it’s not me who has the issue, it’s them, because trust is inherently a weakness, and I choose simply not to expose myself to it.

Trust fall photo by klndonnelly on Flickr

I’m fond of saying that I don’t trust anyone but… the truth, the uncomfortable truth, is that I do sometimes. It would be more accurate for me to say that I trust as few individuals as possible, and only as much as I absolutely must, with the things I absolutely must. That’s a real mouthful though, so I just say I don’t trust anybody, and it’s good enough for most people to roll their eyes at me, write me off as some weirdo, and move on.

Why, though, does it make me weird? Why is it abnormal to have “difficulty” (if you can call it that) trusting others? Propensity to trust is a trait highly desired by dishonest people and psychopaths in their victims, and it seems obvious why. If I default to trusting people I don’t know, it is only a matter of time before a scam artist comes along and ruins my day. Why am I expected to open that surface of attack? Why does the world expect me to trust people randomly, especially complete strangers who have every incentive to betray me?

Let’s look at what trust really is. Trust is an unenforceable contract in which the trusting party exposes an attack surface usually in order to gain something: convenience, perhaps, or companionship, from the trusted party. In return, the trusted party promises not to attack. Wait; that’s it? Seriously? I would understand if we lived in J. K. Rowling’s world of Fidelius Charms and Unbreakable Vows, but we don’t; there is no such thing as a safe secret, and promises can and will be broken (just have a look at your average politician).

Of course that’s a clearly biased description as someone who has problems with the entire concept of trust, but I can’t see it any other way. As a software developer, part of my job is to think constantly of how someone may try to compromise my product, and mitigate those attack vectors. If I am not thinking of that and someone does something evil, certainly they are to blame but it’s still my responsibility; the (hopefully) metaphorical blood is still on my hands. It’s my job to make those attacks impossible.

Part of the goal of the cryptographic consensus technology which powers our platform is to minimise the amount of trust we need in order to work together, and I think that’s beautiful to be honest. “Trust issues” are nothing to be ashamed of in my opinion; they’re the natural conclusion of logical thought. So please take note: if we’re friends and it seems like I don’t trust you, it’s not because I think you’re untrustworthy; it’s because I don’t believe in creating unnecessary security holes. Please don’t be hurt. I still love you. 🍋