Blogging network and the neuro-semantics of trust #

Gary Lawrence Murphy picks up the thread about Bridges and Bubbles and asks some fundamental questions about how we should evaluate the value of each link on the graph:

The bridge itself may be an accident of happenstance and bandwidth, but to grow ourselves, we’re enticed (or compelled) to test each path for inter-networked recommender bridges out from our own local space […] Seeking Matt’s glittering cave moments, we cross over those bridges we find, and some of us become (by accident or design) new bridges for others. What’s important, the effect we want, arises not from the number of bridge paths, but by their quality, and it’s a totally subjective quality, and therefore unpredictable. Far from the networking is everything approach of Thomas Power, […] perhaps a more efficient strategy may be a second-order goal to cultivate relationships with connected (bridging) individuals to discover what bubbles they know but also to suss out our personal metrics of the qualities of their knowledge; as with sex, quality beats quantity

Gary goes on to link this to earlier comments he wrote about the role of trust. (and that in itself is linked to a fascinating dialogue on trust that Gary has contributed to on Knowledge Board) The conversation stretches across several platforms and the interchange relevant here is between Gary and Ton Zijlstra

To summarise, Gary’s key point is

that ‘trust’ arises from a brainstate, an emotional sensation

whereas Ton says

So if we say we trust someone, this means that we recognize a consistent pattern of behaviour, and a certain level of predictability (reputation) in the other.

Gary notes (and Ton acknowledges) that most of the participants in the Knowledge Board discussion appeared to shy away from this “animal effect” to look for “higher” reasons for trust, and goes on to suggest

The more correct response is, IMHO, that while our brain colours our perceptions, humans are so blazingly successful on this planet because we can (not that we do, just that we can) transcend our physiology (when it’s appropriate!) to reach for higher conclusions.

The thing that I notice about this discussion is the Cartesian brain-vs-physiology dualism of it. IMHO looking through a systemic neuro-semantic frame will allow us to combine both insights, perhaps leading to more clarity…

Like all systems with feedback loops it’s easy to get caught into chicken-and-egg thinking if you ask which comes first – the somatic response or the meta-state thought structure about the value of a consistent pattern of perceived behaviour. It’s a truism in neuro-semantics that meta-states collapse very quickly into a neuro-physiological state. Unpicking this to explore (and maybe change) the higher level states is an important step to understand what is happening… Ton appears to have done that unpicking, and for him the feeling of trust is associated with the cognitive state of recognising consistent behaviour. Ton doesn’t mention if he actually makes his trust-based decisions on a gut feeling or whether he consciously explores the history of consistent behaviour. My guess in the absence of data is the former (but open to correction!)…

Some questions come to mind:

  • Do other people share Ton’s criteria for trust?
  • What other criteria might apply?
  • What evidence can we glean from online connections that might allow those criteria to be applied?
  • Could we create new forms of information that would help that discrimination?
  • How do we Mind-to-Muscle those mental states to give an emotional signal for “online trust” that will work as a shorthand?

Lots more to do, and I’m sure others out there are further down the path. In the meantime perhaps we are, as Gary says, “back to clicking on pure blind faith”!

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Julian Elve
Proactive application of technology to business

My interests include technology, personal knowledge management, social change

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