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Life and crime in the metaverse: Trust, trustless, and zero trust
By Nigel Morris-Cotterill  |  Jun 02, 2023
Life and crime in the metaverse: Trust, trustless, and zero trust
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This, the third in an article series titled Life and Crime in the Metaverse, examines the idea of trust, how to engage in online transactions and other interactions in its absence, and what this signifies in the metaverse context.

Location: No one knows, and very few can find out.

“On the internet, everyone knows your name, but no one knows who you are.” Thus I wrote in a paper in 1999. One would think that this fundamental issue would have been addressed by now, but it has not. Worse, with terms such as trust, trustless and zero trust, it is easy to get confused and make the wrong decisions about safety.

Trust is a complex subject because it is not one that can be easily defined: It is not measurable, nor is it fixed. One cannot simply write it down and say, ‘There, now I am trusting.’ Trust is an emotional reaction to something, i.e., a psychological feeling. It is closely allied to knowledge, belief, and suspicion, as well as their counterparts falsehood, agnosticism, and... well, there is no exact counterpart to suspicion because suspicion is, in a way, suspended between knowledge and belief, yet also part of both the presence and absence of each.

Here is where the language used in relation to the technologies behind the metaverse starts to make no sense in the real (i.e., non-techy) world.

To understand ‘trustless,’ one should start with the concept of ‘stakeholders’ - in its original sense. In gambling, a stakeholder is someone who holds the bets of each party until the result is known and pays to the winner. In the United Kingdom, in property sales and purchases, the vendor’s attorney holds the deposit as a stakeholder pending completion of the sale. Other jurisdictions use different terms, but the basic principle is the same. In other fields, the term has become corrupted, but that is the meaning I am sticking with here for the purposes of this article.

In commerce, the stakeholder concept is used in letters of credit. A letter of credit is a thr

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