Dmitry's Reviews > Liars and Outliers: Enabling the Trust that Society Needs to Thrive

Liars and Outliers by Bruce Schneier
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's review
Jul 06, 12

bookshelves: popular-science
Read from May 25 to July 06, 2012

Getting a hold of this book is the natural thing for everyone who knows something about computer security - and about the most famous author and personality in the field. The book is different though in that it is not about computer security (at least, most of it isn't), it's about trust and lack thereof. It's an extensive, almost scholarly rigorous exploration of the topic of trust. However, sometimes there are lapses, and certain topics are hand-waved away, were obvious objections to the author's logic could have been easily presented (and, potentially, as easily refuted). Just a couple of examples: the author claims that a corporation is usually "immoral" - unless it's a smaller one, controlled by a single individual or a small group of people. Well, is Amazon, rigidly ruled by Jeff Bezos, or Apple, until recently single-handedly controlled by Steve Jobs, or a host of other sufficiently large corporations, controlled very closely by a small group of individuals - moral or not, and does it have to do with the size of the controlling group or that of the corporation? A couple of pages before that the author claims that the Irish double sandwich tax scheme is "immoral". If a legal accounting trick can be immoral, I would like to hear an explicit definition of what "moral" is. The author claims it's hard to harm the reputation of a corporation, employing whole PR departments, whose whole raison d'etre is maintaining that reputation. But surely he's heard about the "United breaks guitars" video, and the complete helplessness of the UA's PR department in handling that incident?

Other than that, the book is somewhat tedious to read, and also contains a lot of material probably familiar to anyone with an even slight acquaintance with genetics (a lot of the material from Dawkings' "Selfish gene" is being rehashed) and with behavioral economics. Still, it provides a fresh perspective on many of the problems we deal with on a daily basis.

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