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  • So I'm going to talk about trust,

  • and I'm going to start by reminding you

  • of the standard views that people have about trust.

  • I think these are so commonplace,

  • they've become clichés of our society.

  • And I think there are three.

  • One's a claim: there has been a great decline in trust,

  • very widely believed.

  • The second is an aim: we should have more trust.

  • And the third is a task: we should rebuild trust.

  • I think that the claim, the aim and the task

  • are all misconceived.

  • So what I'm going to try to tell you today

  • is a different story about a claim, an aim and a task

  • which I think give one quite a lot better purchase on the matter.

  • First the claim: Why do people think trust has declined?

  • And if I really think about it on the basis of my own evidence,

  • I don't know the answer.

  • I'm inclined to think it may have declined

  • in some activities or some institutions

  • and it might have grown in others.

  • I don't have an overview.

  • But, of course, I can look at the opinion polls,

  • and the opinion polls are supposedly

  • the source of a belief that trust has declined.

  • When you actually look at opinion polls across time,

  • there's not much evidence for that.

  • That's to say, the people who were mistrusted

  • 20 years ago,

  • principally journalists and politicians, are still mistrusted.

  • And the people who were highly trusted 20 years ago

  • are still rather highly trusted: judges, nurses.

  • The rest of us are in between,

  • and by the way, the average person in the street

  • is almost exactly midway.

  • But is that good evidence?

  • What opinion polls record is, of course, opinions.

  • What else can they record?

  • So they're looking at the generic attitudes

  • that people report when you ask them certain questions.

  • Do you trust politicians? Do you trust teachers?

  • Now if somebody said to you, "Do you trust greengrocers?

  • Do you trust fishmongers?

  • Do you trust elementary school teachers?"

  • you would probably begin by saying, "To do what?"

  • And that would be a perfectly sensible response.

  • And you might say, when you understood the answer to that,

  • "Well, I trust some of them, but not others."

  • That's a perfectly rational thing.

  • In short, in our real lives,

  • we seek to place trust in a differentiated way.

  • We don't make an assumption that the level of trust

  • that we will have in every instance of a certain type

  • of official or office-holder or type of person

  • is going to be uniform.

  • I might, for example, say that I certainly trust

  • a certain elementary school teacher I know

  • to teach the reception class to read,

  • but in no way to drive the school minibus.

  • I might, after all, know that she wasn't a good driver.

  • I might trust my most loquacious friend

  • to keep a conversation going

  • but not -- but perhaps not to keep a secret.

  • Simple.

  • So if we've got those evidence in our ordinary lives

  • of the way that trust is differentiated,

  • why do we sort of drop all that intelligence

  • when we think about trust more abstractly?

  • I think the polls are very bad guides

  • to the level of trust that actually exists,

  • because they try to obliterate the good judgment

  • that goes into placing trust.

  • Secondly, what about the aim?

  • The aim is to have more trust.

  • Well frankly, I think that's a stupid aim.

  • It's not what I would aim at.

  • I would aim to have more trust in the trustworthy

  • but not in the untrustworthy.

  • In fact, I aim positively to try not to trust the untrustworthy.

  • And I think, of those people who, for example,

  • placed their savings with the very aptly named Mr. Madoff,

  • who then made off with them,

  • and I think of them, and I think, well, yes,

  • too much trust.

  • More trust is not an intelligent aim in this life.

  • Intelligently placed and intelligently refused trust

  • is the proper aim.

  • Well once one says that, one says, yeah, okay,

  • that means that what matters in the first place

  • is not trust but trustworthiness.

  • It's judging how trustworthy people are

  • in particular respects.

  • And I think that judgment requires us to look at three things.

  • Are they competent? Are they honest? Are they reliable?

  • And if we find that a person is competent

  • in the relevant matters,

  • and reliable and honest,

  • we'll have a pretty good reason to trust them,

  • because they'll be trustworthy.

  • But if, on the other hand, they're unreliable, we might not.

  • I have friends who are competent and honest,

  • but I would not trust them to post a letter,

  • because they're forgetful.

  • I have friends who are very confident

  • they can do certain things,

  • but I realize that they overestimate their own competence.

  • And I'm very glad to say, I don't think I have many friends

  • who are competent and reliable but extremely dishonest.

  • (Laughter)

  • If so, I haven't yet spotted it.

  • But that's what we're looking for:

  • trustworthiness before trust.

  • Trust is the response.

  • Trustworthiness is what we have to judge.

  • And, of course, it's difficult.

  • Across the last few decades, we've tried to construct

  • systems of accountability for all sorts of institutions

  • and professionals and officials and so on

  • that will make it easier for us to judge their trustworthiness.

  • A lot of these systems have the converse effect.

  • They don't work as they're supposed to.

  • I remember I was talking with a midwife who said,

  • "Well, you see, the problem is it takes longer

  • to do the paperwork than to deliver the baby."

  • And all over our public life, our institutional life,

  • we find that problem,

  • that the system of accountability

  • that is meant to secure trustworthiness

  • and evidence of trustworthiness

  • is actually doing the opposite.

  • It is distracting people who have to do difficult tasks,

  • like midwives, from doing them

  • by requiring them to tick the boxes, as we say.

  • You can all give your own examples there.

  • So so much for the aim.

  • The aim, I think, is more trustworthiness,

  • and that is going to be different

  • if we are trying to be trustworthy

  • and communicate our trustworthiness to other people,

  • and if we are trying to judge whether other people

  • or office-holders or politicians are trustworthy.

  • It's not easy. It is judgment, and simple reaction,

  • attitudes, don't do adequately here.

  • Now thirdly, the task.

  • Calling the task rebuilding trust, I think,

  • also gets things backwards.

  • It suggests that you and I should rebuild trust.

  • Well, we can do that for ourselves.

  • We can rebuild a bit of trustworthiness.

  • We can do it two people together trying to improve trust.

  • But trust, in the end, is distinctive

  • because it's given by other people.

  • You can't rebuild what other people give you.

  • You have to give them the basis

  • for giving you their trust.

  • So you have to, I think, be trustworthy.

  • And that, of course, is because you can't fool

  • all of the people all of the time, usually.

  • But you also have to provide usable evidence

  • that you are trustworthy.

  • How to do it?

  • Well every day, all over the place, it's being done

  • by ordinary people, by officials, by institutions,

  • quite effectively.

  • Let me give you a simple commercial example.

  • The shop where I buy my socks says I may take them back,

  • and they don't ask any questions.

  • They take them back and give me the money

  • or give me the pair of socks of the color I wanted.

  • That's super. I trust them

  • because they have made themselves vulnerable to me.

  • I think there's a big lesson in that.

  • If you make yourself vulnerable to the other party,

  • then that is very good evidence that you are trustworthy

  • and you have confidence in what you are saying.

  • So in the end, I think what we are aiming for

  • is not very difficult to discern.

  • It is relationships in which people are trustworthy

  • and can judge when and how the other person

  • is trustworthy.

  • So the moral of all this is,

  • we need to think much less about trust,

  • let alone about attitudes of trust

  • detected or mis-detected by opinion polls,

  • much more about being trustworthy,

  • and how you give people adequate, useful

  • and simple evidence that you're trustworthy.

  • Thanks.

  • (Applause)

So I'm going to talk about trust,

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B1 UK TED trust trustworthy evidence people rebuild

【TED】Onora O'Neill: What we don't understand about trust (Onora O'Neill: What we don't understand about trust)

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    VoiceTube posted on 2013/10/01
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