Trustless vs Trusted

The bitcoin protocol is trustless. It was designed to allow people to exchange and store value without trusting any centralized entity. This is a refreshing departure from conventional financial systems where a mutual trust in banks, governments, and counterfeit-proof printing is required to facilitate the transfer of value. Bitcoin is nice because we don’t want to have to trust any third party in order to confidently transfer value between only two.

Social networks, on the other hand, are not trustless. Because socializing involves the exchange of personal data, it can only be safely conducted using entities we trust.

One consequence of this is that Facebook is implicitly elevated to a position of trust when we use their social platform. We have to simply trust that Facebook (and every other company we share data with) won’t do anything terrible with our data. They have the ability to exploit human perception, cognition, and emotion for profit, power, and control of our society.

Much like bitcoin redesigned value ownership and transfer to eliminate trust where it is not necessary, it’s possible to design a social network that elevates trust to its rightful position in its core.