Reputation Systems: the philosophical basis

Online Reputation Systems are merely digital embodiments of two fundamental mechanisms which humans use to decide whether to trust each other as defined by Philosopher Bertrand Russell : trusting by Acquaintance and trusting by Description.


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Thanks to Hernando de Soto, author of The Mystery of Capital, for pointing out that accord?ng to Russell, in his paper, Knowledge by Acquaintance and Knowledge by Description, you can only know someone or something either by acquaintance (i.e. first hand experience) or by description (i.e. the guarantee of another party).

Trust by acquaintance means that you know the individual on a first-hand basis.

Obviously we are very limited in the number of people we can know this way and in our modern world this provides no basis for the kind of commerce and transactions we all need to engage in.

Trust by description means that somebody else vouches for the person.

The guarantee of this is generally a document (such as a passport or credit card) and this is the basis for the vast majority of commercial transactions individuals and enterprises engage in.

However, Trust by description, could also be a communication between the party with the first-hand knowledge and ourselves in response to our question "can I trust this person".

This communication also could be indirect and come through a chain of intermediate relationships (with appropriate credentials) thus the interest in social networking systems.

So now you know!

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Nice article!

I think you nailed it on the head and found what is most difficult about online reputation - the fact that most people you deal with online are people you don't know first hand and you have no way of gauging a trust level.

I think social networks will play a big role in increased trust, as now you can actually learn about someone via their online profiles and be able to put a level of trust in that person through who their friends are and other information.

Very interesting! Thanks for sharing!


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