From Trust to Care: A Speculative Ethics of the Actual in Cryptographic Worlds

Aktivitet: Foredrag og mundtlige bidragKonferenceoplæg


As ethnographers pursuing the social production of cryptographic logics and tools, we were presented with the notion of cryptographic trust early on. It took us some time to understand that when the cryptographers and co-researchers with whom we were working referred to trust, what they were actually referring to, was mathematical proof. If a cryptographic protocol could be shown to be either perfectly secure or computationally secure [need to check these terms], then it was a protocol that could be trusted. But in the social sciences, the humanities and philosophy, trust is a quite a different animal. The central paradigm for investigating trust, whether this refers to trust in individuals, groups, institutions, governments, science, and oneself, is that it is fundamentally an interpersonal phenomenon. Ethnographers Broch-Due and Ystanes define trust as ‘a disposition, a powerful affect, a stance towards the world expressed in a confident reaching out to others. It is a social orientation towards the future nurtured by the gradual accumulation of positive experience and sometimes revealed in a leap of faith’ (2016: 1). A leap of faith is radically different from mathematical proof, so how do we connect the two? And should we? In this presentation, we take a critical stance to trust as the gold standard of cryptographic security and privacy. We argue that trust requires the vulnerable to make a “leap of faith”, rather than require the powerful to provide care. Pursuing the design relationship between the cryptographic ideal, the cryptographic real and the ethnographic actual, we posit a speculative ethics of the actual that connects the three. An ideal standard is useful and a real model may serve to test hypotheses, but they must be tethered to the actual of specific lived experiences to embed an ethics of care in cryptographic protocols.
Periode20 maj 2021
BegivenhedstitelCryptic Commons: Transdisciplinary Probes of the Ideal and Real World in Actual Cyber-Physical Systems
PlaceringAalborg, DanmarkVis på kort
Grad af anerkendelseInternational


  • Anthropology
  • Care
  • Ethics
  • Cryptography
  • Actual World
  • interdisciplinarity