How Technology Transforms Trust | A Q&A with Rachel Botsman

25 March 2020

We caught up with leading thinker and author on trust in the modern world, Rachel Botsman, a master at connecting with audiences, who gave us the tools to understand trust – what it means, how it works and why it’s so important for every aspect of our lives.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Rachel Botsman. I am an author of two books and a trust fellow at Oxford University, so my area of expertise is ‘trust’.

I became fascinated with the way technology was changing the way we could share information, content, music and videos and I had this hunch that it could transform the way we could share all kinds of assets, like homes on AirBnb or rides on Uber and goods on eBay, and so I wrote this book called ‘What’s mine is yours’ about the sharing economy. The component that always interested me was how on earth can strangers trust one another, and how would technology transform that.

I discovered that it was one of these things, a bit like innovation or disruption that companies where talking about a lot. They don’t know what trust is, they don’t really know how it works. How do you gain trust? How do you earn trust? How do you lose it? What happens when it’s lost? I thought there was this really big need to give people a whole different way of thinking about trust.

What is the current status of our relationship with sharing our data online?

Through the lens of trust, what’s interesting is people talk about trust, they talk about privacy, they talk about security, and they use all of these words interchangeably, but often what we value is convenience. Convenience often trumps trust, no pun intended.

We’ll say that we really care about these things, yet, if we’re offered the service for free, we’ll take that service for free.

What do you think is the most pressing issues facing the future of technology?

People often underestimate the roll trust plays in technology. So, when you think of those two words together, ‘trust’ and ‘technology’, people think you’re going to talk about security, safety and privacy, but there’s a whole different dimension to this that.

In order for people to try something new, in order for them to change their behaviour, on order for them to get into a self-driving car or put Alexa in their homes, you have to have trust. Trust is essentially the conduit for new ideas to travel. It’s what enables people to leap into the unknown.

Finally, what’s next for you?

I’m working on a new podcast series called ‘Trust Issues’ so we just made Series 1. Which is trying to unpack some of the big trust issues of our time, of which there are many. I teach at Oxford, so we’re doing a new course on trust, but more focused on boards and executives who are starting to ask very big strategic questions. And I’m working on my next book, so that’s exciting.

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