John Scalzi's Big Idea introduces Bruce Schneier's excellent new book Liars and Outliers , and interviews Schneier on the work that went into it. I read an early draft of the book and supplied a quote: "Brilliantly dissects, classifies, and orders the social dimension of security-a spectacularly palatable tonic against today's incoherent and dangerous flailing in the face of threats from terrorism to financial fraud." Now that the book is out, I heartily recommend it to you.
Liars and Outliers: Enabling the Trust that Society Needs to Thrive
Of course, all of these systems contain parasites. Most people are naturally trustworthy, but some are not. There are hotel clerks who will steal your credit card information. There are ATMs that have been hacked by criminals. Some restaurant kitchens serve tainted food. There was even an airline pilot who deliberately crashed his Boeing 767 into the Atlantic Ocean in 1999.
My central metaphor is the Prisoner's Dilemma, which nicely exposes the tension between group interest and self-interest. And the dilemma even gives us a terminology to use: cooperators act in the group interest, and defectors act in their own selfish interest, to the detriment of the group. Too many defectors, and everyone suffers — often catastrophically.