It is more shameful to distrust our friends than to be deceived by them.

― Confucius

I’ve continued to think about that planning session a couple of days ago. It was utterly stunning that a group of people could simultaneously come up with the same idea of what needed to be done, and be totally convinced that it was impossible. Not technically impossible, but culturally, and practically impossible due to political constraints. Let’s be clear, the solution we came up with would be transformative to how we execute our mission. It would drive meaningful use and need for the cutting edge (exascale) computing, we are blamed for not having. Despite all of this, it seems unthinkable to even attempt it.

Success is most often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable.

― Coco Chanel,

How can this be? I think it boils down to trust, or more properly the lack of it. We have become a low trust society and the current trends seem to be pushing us to even lower levels of confidence and faith in our fellow citizens. Democrats don’t trust Republicans and vice versa, white doesn’t trust black, young and old lack trust for each other. The rich don’t trust the poor, and even trustworthy professions like medicine, science and engineering aren’t trusted. We imprison a massive portion of our population to a point that exceeds the rate everywhere else on Earth. Everywhere we look the evidence points to little confidence or faith in the best intentions of our fellow citizens.

The implicit costs of all of this lack of trust are immense. I’m only seeing a small amount of it in the lack of high-minded risk-taking encouraged in science. People won’t engage in anything risky or overly challenging because there isn’t any faith that they won’t be skewered if they don’t deliver on promises. Ultimately everyone is afraid of appearing in some congressional hearing and being made into a political football to be kicked around.

The fear-based politics and shame baiting does everything to make things worse. The ever-growing evidence that our democracy is devolving into oligarchical, kleptocratic system of privilege over substance only drives a deep-seated feeling of untrustworthiness. Given the Orwellian nightmare unfolding with surveillance of every moment of our lives coupled with the capacity of drones to kill people at will makes every untrusting thought seem more rational.

At one time, we trusted massive resources to people to accomplish big things. They were accountable for doing the best job possible to achieve the goals. The difference with today is that we hadn’t broken down every step, every month-week-day of effort into an accounting superstructure designed to track every single action. Just because we can easily create a system to account for something doesn’t make it a good idea. The impact of this is to be a straightjacket on every effort, and assure that we accomplish much less rather than just breakeven. That’s right, I would be happy if we just stopped losing ground. Every year we become less productive.

If we could muster the courage to trust each other, we would be able to craft a much better, much happier, much richer future.

 The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.

― Ernest Hemingway