What I love about great books like Liars and Outliers by Bruce Schneier is that the ending of it is just superb. A clean finish to a chaotic, beautiful and deeply analytical book. Schneier is able to incorporate so many ideas and evidence to really solidify his points consistently throughout his book. For me, what really brought it all together was when he mentioned the term “Wicked Problem” and it made me think of drtech in class holding that laminated poster with those big emboldened words – gave me quite a chuckle 😀

Anyways, the end of the book is all about the future: Scheneier states that acquiring this balance in society, a balance of societal pressures, security, defection, etc. will never be truly accomplished. Never in the world. The knobs of society cannot be adjusted to perfection and have to be constantly turned to adjust to the ever-changing world. Technology and along with the internet has brought a plethora of pathways to defect, allowing even more people to join the defection, meaning even more security would need to be setup to counter this growing rate of defection. Of course I am not saying that everyone will become criminals: because once everyone is a criminal, there would be nothing to steal! I am saying that since more people are hopping onto this bandwagon, small defections would become more of a norm (e.g piracy). More hawks, less doves. Increase the security -> less hawks -> more money spent 🙁

Trust is the reason why we humans can cooperate well. We are able to trust organisations and companies with our private information. We trust chefs to not poison our food. And we trust that our cars do not have faults when we drive on the highway. Schneier brings back the Red Queen Effect and says that defenders and defectors are always competing and trying to one-up one another. The defenders release a new piece of spy-ware; the defectors find loops in the code and eventually find a way to remove the spyware and even use it against them. This would force the defenders to either update their software or design a new one to mitigate these attacks. It is a never ending arms race – but this is what makes society thrive!

Schneier also gives advice on how to manage the societal pressures in a society and really highlights how scale is such an important factor (I explained more about this in my previous blog). What was also quite interesting is how he also says defection is also very important for societies to improve: “whistle-blowers need to publish documents proving his government has been waging an illegal bombing campaign in Laos and Cambodia. Sometimes a plutonium processing plant worker needs to contact a reporter to discuss his employer’s inadequate safety practices. And sometimes a black woman needs to sit down at the front of a bus and not get up. Without defectors, social change would be impossible; stagnation would set it.” Definitely not the efficacy society wants.

To finish the blog, here are two quotes which Schneier uses in his conclusion:

From Philosopher Sissela Bok: “Trust is like water and air. When it is damaged the community as a whole suffers; and when it is destroyed, societies falter and collapse.” Trust is vital to the survival and success of the human race, but it can also be the downfall of it too.

From economist Bart Nooteboom: “Trust in things or people entails the willingness to submit to the risk that they may fail us, with the expectation that they will not, or the neglect of lack of awareness of that possibility that they might.” Schneier writes how those three are all intertwined: we aren’t willing to risk unless we’re sure in our expectation that the risk is minor, so minor that most of the time we don’t even have to think about it.

That’s the end of the book! Thanks for reading!



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