We must bring to cyberspace “social capital,” the notion popularized by the political philosophers James Coleman and Francis Fukuyama. Social capital represents the matrix of behavioral norms and reciprocal expectations that allow any social network to function. These informal constraints provide the essential context within which societies can establish formal institutions, procedures, and rules of law. The core of social capital’s process is self-restraint, a willingness to forgo potential advantage.
What will we have to do to embed trust in the design of 21st-century electronic commerce? The full implications of the question are only beginning to draw the attention they deserve. Reengineering the real world may be beyond us, but creating an explicit and effective capacity for managing trust in commerce online — however complex — is well within our capabilities.
Richard Wilhelm, [email protected]
Richard Wilhelm is a vice president with Booz Allen Hamilton based in Fairview Park, Va. He concentrates on infrastructure assurance and homeland security problems for government and commercial clients.