Vinay Hiremath

The Evolution of Trust

Published on

I found out about this through an acquaintance today, and I would highly recommend checking it out (if it’s still accessible here): The Evolution of Trust by Nicky Case

It’s a rather playful interactive demonstration of building and undermining trust featuring “players” that employ simple strategies. For example, in a simple game in which two players both equally gain if they cooperate, but a cheater wins a higher reward if they fail to cooperate while their partner cooperates, which player’s strategy wins out? Is it more effective to always cheat, to never cheat, to copy your partner’s decisions, or something else entirely?

Furthermore, under what circumstances do these outcomes shift? How does playing on repeat (with the knowledge that future interactions will occur) change things? How about changing the payoffs so the game is closer to zero-sum, or adding miscommunication about a player’s decision, likely a real-world inevitability, into the mix?

It provides a surprisingly elucidating view of the basics of trust in an environment that is relatively tangible, given the players' straightforward strategies. Of course, the real-world has many inherent complexities, but I think some aspects of this game remain relevant.