The miracle of trust

10 May 2015
10 May 2015
West Lafayette, IN
4 mins

I, Linus Lee, is the creator of this blog post. I’m typing out these words out with my own hands on my laptop. But that’s not all that goes into it. For you to see this post on your screen, these words have to be safely stored on my hard drive, made by people halfway across the world in a factory. Then the server’s software, made by a group of volunteers in thousands of offices across the world, has to work perfectly to receive your signals, then read and send you the words in this post. Then the massive infrastructure of the Internet has to hold together, so that between me and you, there is not a broken wire or a compromised connection. And then the same happens on your computer, where each component works flawlessly to translate bits of electronic signals into dots on the screen than you can read, and accept, as my words.

In those few milliseconds, without much thought, I’ve put an incredible amount of trust on thousands of other people. I’ve trusted Apple’s engineers and designers to have produced a working computer, Metronet’s internet services to be fast and reliable, and your computer to safely display these words, so you can read them. “Trust” as an everyday notion is related mostly to personal relationships. You can trust your friends or your acquaintances, and you can trust people on contract. But those are just the explicit connections we make when law or a promise call for proofs. The basic idea of trust underlies so much more than just crossed fingers or signatures at the bottom of documents. When I step into the shower in the morning, i trust that the water will keep running for the foreseeable future, until I’m done and out of the shower. When I lock my door to head out, I trust that the producer of the lock on my door has made a lock that cannot easily be unlocked without my key. When I wait for the bus, half awake, I trust that the bus will come in almost exactly the same time each day to pick me up, so I’m not late. When I do schoolwork, I trust the teachers and the administration to accurately reflect my grades in their records for the future, and I trust their tests to be reflective of what they’ve taught me, which I trust to be the facts, and not some fictional theory my teacher’s made up on his morning commute that day.

Our daily interactions held together by these seemingly fragile connections of trust and reliability. Nothing’s stopping my bus driver from intermittently ditching his job for a sick leave five minutes before time. Nobody’s guaranteeing that my mail will stay in my mailbox without anyone stealing them. And I would hardly know it if Metronet sent you some other information or website disguised to be these words once in a while. But you might be saying, “these people are bound by contracts! They have some obligation and motivation to keep to the law.” But there are less explicitly bound relationships, just as common in our lives. People expect vague, ambiguous pictures of stereotypical men and women glued on the walls to keep everyone going to their respective restrooms. I mindlessly assume random knickknacks I buy at garage sales to be safe and legal to use. If you, a friend, tell me that you’ll meet me at 4 in a park for a party, I trust that you’ll show up. So much of our lives are spent with us taking for granted that we can trust people – the same strangers who riot with firearms and explosives, the same strangers who commit mass atrocities, the same strangers who give these laws and contracts reasons to exist in the first place.

The fact that I can trust a nameless, complete stranger to act with integrity is, I think, a little miracle we pass by mindlessly every day. But besides being merely helpful in carrying on day-to-day tasks, the trust that we can have towards these complete strangers also proves to us – or at the very least, shows us – something beautiful about being a human being. There’s almost seven and a half billion of us on Earth, and sure, we’re all different in our own ways, but the fact that we all trust each other to some extent also tells us how similar we are, and how relatable we are. Regardless of your faith, your skin color, or even your age and gender, there is the human factor, the experiences and emotions that make us, collectively, feel love and fear, smile and tear up, and trust each other. And I think that miracle of trust is one thing we shouldn’t take for granted.

If you enjoyed this piece, you might also enjoy my next post, The artist's motivation.

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