Trust beyond computation alone: Human aspects of trust in blockchain technologies
Blockchains – with their inherent properties of transaction transparency, distributed consensus, immutability and cryptographic verifiability – are increasingly seen as a means to underpin innovative products and services in a range of sectors from finance through to energy and healthcare. Discussions, too often, make assertions that the trustless nature of blockchain technologies enables and actively promotes their suit- ability—there being no need to trust third parties or centralised control. Yet humans need to be able to trust systems, and others with whom the system enables transactions. In this paper, we highlight that understanding this need for trust is critical for the development of blockchain-based systems.
Through an online study with 125 users of the most well- known of blockchain based systems – the cryptocurrency Bitcoin – we uncover that human and institutional aspects of trust are pervasive. Our analysis highlights that, when designing future blockchain-based technologies, we ought to not only consider computational trust but also the wider eco-system, how trust plays a part in users engaging/disengaging with such eco-systems and where design choices impact upon trust. From this, we distill a set of guidelines for software engineers developing blockchain- based systems for societal applications.