Can we copy trust?

Ben Laurie ben at
Mon Jun 2 14:57:29 EDT 2008

Ed Gerck wrote:
> In the essay "Better Than Free", Kevin Kelly debates which concepts hold 
> value online, and how to monetize those values. See 
> Kelly's point can be very useful: *When copies are free, you need to 
> sell things which can not be copied.*
> The problem that I see and present to this list is when he discusses 
> qualities that can't be copied and considers "trust" as something that 
> cannot be copied.
> Well, in the digital economy we had to learn how to copy trust and we 
> did. For example, SSL would not work if trust could not be copied.
> How do we copy trust? By recognizing that because trust cannot be 
> communicated by self-assertions (*), trust cannot be copied by 
> self-assertions either.
> To trust something, you need to receive information from sources OTHER 
> than the source you want to trust, and from as many other sources as 
> necessary according to the extent of the trust you want. With more trust 
> extent, you are more likely to need more independent sources of 
> verification.
> To copy trust, all you do is copy the information from those channels in 
> a verifiable way and add that to the original channel information. We do 
> this all the time in scientific work: we provide our findings, we 
> provide the way to reproduce the findings, and we provide the published 
> references that anyone can verify.
> To copy trust in the digital economy, we provide  digital signatures 
> from one or more third-parties that most people will trust.
> This is how SSL works. The site provides a digital certificate signed by 
> a CA that most browsers trust, providing an independent channel to 
> verify that the web address is correct -- in addition to what the 
> browser's location line says.

But doesn't that prove the point? The trust that you consequently place 
in the web server because of the certificate _cannot_ be copied to 
another webserver. That other webserver has to go out and buy its own 
copy, with its own domain name it it.




"There is no limit to what a man can do or how far he can go if he
doesn't mind who gets the credit." - Robert Woodruff

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