Last weekend my wife, son, and I went to storytime at the library. Fifteen kids, twenty parents, a big mat on the floor. A perfect Saturday morning.

Then class starts. 

“After storytime today,” the teacher begins, “we would appreciate it if everyone could fill out a survey about our performance.”

My head jolts up.

“We would further appreciate you texting this number to give consent to be surveyed in the future,” she continues.  

“All of this is so we can make evidence-based decisions.”

My mouth falls open.

Trust is dying right now. It’s dying by side effect and design.

Distrust is at the heart of modern marketing. Trust our product not theirs. Trust this candidate not that one. Podcast ads preach fear of the middle man. 

This kind of marketing is nothing new. What is new is that the competition they’re advertising against is humanity itself. Talk to Siri and Watson not each other. Trust data not intuition.

These messages undermine trust in each other in order to increase trust in corporations and systems. The meta-message: Trust companies not people.

We’re so hungry for validation we go along with it. How hot did the algorithm say you are? Show me your score and I’ll you show mine.

Human trust is an aging incumbent. Commercial trust is a hot category. Last month Facebook acquired a company called tbh that lets people give each other anonymous feedback. The deal was reportedly for tens of millions of dollars.

Verification and data tracking systems create a new frontier for trust. There’s no need for clumsy interactions like the one in the library — the networks know everything. 

But who trusts those networks? After the Equifax hack, even trusting trust is an issue. We’re trending towards a climate of default distrust. 

Not to worry, thinks the technocratic product manager. We’ll whiteboard a new global verification system of truth and trust to fix it.

God help us if they succeed. Today’s solution is tomorrow’s bureaucracy.

An ideal approach trusts others enough to not demand trust in return. It acknowledges the importance of trust without trying to commoditize it. It promotes good decisions, not fear.

The blockchain is an encouraging platform for new concepts of trust. I root for a future that looks like Keybase, not a Black Mirror dystopia.

In the end we didn’t fill out the librarian’s survey. Our son took off running the second storytime ended. We didn’t look back.