Discover more from New_ Public
Introduction to Issue 2: The Trust Issue
A letter from the editor, and a guide to the stories in the issue
In 2013, Tyler and Cameron Winkelvoss announced their decision to invest around $11 million in Bitcoin—around 1% of the cryptocurrency’s total market cap at the time. They declared: “We have elected to put our money and faith in a mathematical framework that is free of politics and human error.”
That decision has paid off handsomely for the twins. But it’s much less certain whether their reasoning has borne out. Nearly a decade on, the blockchain systems they praised as faultless have birthed a chaotic new world filled with excessive hype and elaborate cons — some leading to financial implosions that have devastated ordinary participants.
These dynamics may be particularly extreme in crypto, but they’re not unique to it. What these stories underscore is that no technology or digital space—however elegantly conceived—fosters trust solely through its design.
Trust is an elusive variable that lies within most of the key questions about tech’s role in our lives. How do we know a machine, or program, will work as planned? How do we determine if someone online is who they claim to be? How can we make sure a digital space is truly safe?
But trust is also about power. When a dominant platform asks for our trust, do we have a choice, or just the illusion of one? If a technical system predetermines a marginalized person to be less trustworthy, do they have any recourse?
We take these provocations as a starting point for this issue of New_ Public Magazine, which explores the idea of trust in digital systems. As always, we look for the human concerns that lurk just behind the technological ones. Our goal is not simply to pose whether trust is necessary in digital infrastructure—it undoubtedly is—but to approach the topic from unexpected directions that inspire new thinking.
There are 11 pieces in this issue, under three broad themes. We hope you’ll discover insights within these stories that can accompany you as you imagine, build, and inhabit the digital spaces of the future. We are grateful for your attention.
Editor, New_ Public Magazine