Hi again, long time no see!

I’m back with more content from our favourite book Liars and Outliers by Bruce Schneier. At the moment I am halfway through the book and oh boy does he still marvel me with his stupendous feats of analysis. Schneier continues to uncover how we human beings live together so harmoniously – which frankly is super interesting. Personally, I find it quite astounding that most of us don’t think about how vital different “pressures” fuel our civilization; even my parents said they never thought about it. Some of you might say “well we just communicate and trust each other “. It’s not as simple as that…

I will be summarising these “pressures” in this blog!

  1. Societal Pressures.

This is where society has expectations and influences us to act more in the group interest rather than in our competing individual interest. Essentially we are forced to cooperate and trust each other. Societal pressures are quite similar to peer pressure but are not as obvious.

Here’s a societal dilemma: Society of Baboons, Gazelle Hunting

Group Interest: Gazelle meat for everyone Competing interest: Gaining an advantage over a fellow baboon
Group Norm: Hunt cooperatively and get more meat Corresponding defection: Attack a fellow baboon during the hunt

In this situation, the baboons would want the best outcome for themselves, so they all work together to hunt and get as much meat as possible. If they conform to their competing interest or corresponding defection, this would be a disadvantage to themselves, but to another baboon too. So with societal pressures, this influences the baboons to work cooperatively and also monitor each other’s behaviours to ensure no one gets hurt and everyone gets a fair share.

Here’s another societal dilemma: Society as a Whole, Stealing

Group Interest: Respect Property Rights Competing Interest: Get stuff without having to pay for it
Group Norm: Don’t Steal Corresponding Defection: Steal

Society implements other societal pressures to encourage people to act in the group interest:

  • Moral: People feel good about being honest and bad about stealing. “Thou shalt not steal”
  • Reputational: Society shuns people who have a reputation for being thieves.
  • Institutional: Stealing is illegal, and society punishes thieves.
  • Security: Door locks, burglar alarms, and so on.

I found that this relates to ITGS in the instance of black-hat hacking or identity theft as our group interest is to enjoy and surf the internet safely; out group norm is to not hack or get hacked; our competing interest is to get access to all information on the web; and our corresponding defection is to hack. Society has more pressures that influences us to not hack.

  • Moral:We feel accessing personal or unauthorised information is indecorous
  • Reputational: We do not want to be regarded as untrustworthy and as a hacker
  • Institutional: Black-hat hacking and identity theft if illegal
  • Security: 2 step authentication, passwords, biometric security systems, levels of security, etc.

More info on these pressures in the rest of the blog.


2. Moving on to Moral Pressures.

All of us have our own morals – what we feel is morally right and what we feel is morally wrong. Morality is contextual and highly subjective: my friend may think embryonic stem cell therapy is morally correct as he feels killing an embryo is not destroying life as the embryo has no nervous system, however I think is it morally wrong as killing an embryo is killing a potential human being. Is it morally correct to hack? Is it morally correct to steal?

Another context is voting: Democracy requires people to vote, and if no one votes then democracy wouldn’t work. The group norm would be to vote and the competing interest is to do what you want to do on election day. To encourage people to act in the group interest, society implements moral pressure. People tend to feel good and satisfied when they vote and bad then they don’t, because they care about their welfare and that of their fellow citizens. Moreover, governments enforce the importance of voting through slogans and campaigns, reminding citizens to vote for “the right” political group. Voting centres provide stickers saying “I voted” which also encourages people to vote and feel satisfied.

Beliefs that voting is the right things to do, and that murdering someone is wrong, are examples of moral pressure.

The example of hacking and identity theft can be applied here too:

  • Moral: We feel accessing personal or unauthorised information is indecorous

3. Reputational Pressure

Who wants to be known as “the thief” or “the hacker”. Most importantly in commerce, no merchant would want to be known as having cheated customers; merchants want to have the best reputation for being trustworthy. Merchants would want more customers to visit them and therefore take their reputation very seriously. They want to please customers to ensure that customers use the word of mouth to encourage more people to promote their shop.

Interestingly, reputational pressure works best within a group of people who know each other: a group of friends or colleagues, compared to a bunch of strangers on a bus. Dunbar’s number of 150 means a single individual can really only remember the faces and names of 150 other individuals, therefore only affecting those individuals and not a whole society. Nonetheless with the explosion of the internet, reputation for celebrities or multi-national corporations such as McDonalds – reputations can extremely benefit them or completely ruin them. Unfortunately the internet brings with it what we call confidence tricksters who are people that spend a lot of time manipulating reputation signals. Celebrities may “buy” followers for social media and some even get hired hands to write fake comments on their posts. This would be unfair to the rest of the social media users.

Furthermore, sometimes people trust the company more than the quality of product. For example, McDonalds’ Cheeseburger may be be missing a slice of cheese, or a layer of ketchup; yet consumers still trust McDonalds as they have a good reputation of being a trustworthy company and delivering the expected product. Thus, reputational pressure can be misleading.

4. Finally, Institutional Pressure

Laws, fines, and rules. Institutional Pressure is a very vital societal pressure as it is the only official and formal societal pressure. Informal societal pressures are just not enough for a successful human society, which is why we need institutional pressure.

Societal Dilemma: Mall hours

Group Interest: Mall stores all have uniform hours Competing Interest: Maximize short-term profits
Group Norm: Stay open during agreed upon hours Corresponding Defection: Open and Close when it makes financial sense

To encourage people to act in the group interest, society implements the institutional pressure:

Institutional: The group fines stores that close during common hours.

Institutional Pressure helps with voting too. To encourage as much people to vote, some governments make it mandatory to vote. Unfortunately some governments do not have explicit voting laws, but have laws that raise the cost of not voting in other ways. In Greece, it’s harder for non-voters to get a passport or driver’s license. Non-voters in Singapore get removed from electoral rolls and must provide a reason when reapplying. Quit harsh in my opinion, but it has to be done.

Moreover linking it to ITGS, governments need laws to prevent hacking and piracy, using firewalls to do so too. Copyright laws and patents also ensure everyone has equal credit and rightful intellectual property.


That’s it from me! Apologies for the long blog. Hope you enjoyed reading it!

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!