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Social punishment 3/3: reputation systems



Social punishment 3/3: reputation systems

Social punishment works because individuals know that someone has broken
rules, and _voluntarily_ cooperate with enforcing the accused's punishment.
(Of course part of the reason is the risk of similar punishment for 
non-cooperation, but a major part, particularly in cybercrimes, is that
if an individual could harm someone else, he or she could harm you too.)

Social punishment works through reputation. XXX, after breaking rules, is
seen to be a 'bad character'. Soon everyone knows XXX as a 'bad character' and
behaves accordingly, usually by avoiding contact. Once XXX gets a bad 
REPUTATION (and this is how _I_ define the term, not as some centrally imposed
certificate), in traditional societies it is very difficult for XXX to regain
a good one. People _individually_ decide whether a 'bad character' is indeed 
'bad' and depending on the stature of the individual and the bad character, 
may or may not cooperate with any punishment. A priest in traditional society
or someone else with impeccable reputation is permitted to interact with even
the worst of characters.

One problem with such a wildfire reputation system is it can be _too_ 
effective. Once ostracized, the decentralized system makes it very difficult
for someone to rejoin society, to have his/her 'reformation' recognized. The
channels in traditional societies include lots of 'good work' and 
recommendation by 'good citizens' such as the priest etc. The other is a new
identity.

The most powerful illustration of a reputation system I can think of is Victor
Hugo's Les Miserables, where ex-convict Jean Valjean finds himself ostracized
by society despite having been released. A priest's kindness is not enough, and
he later gains a very good reputation building an industry. The notable thing
is that he rejoins society only when he gets a _new identity_ - and later gets
back into prison when his old identity is discovered. 

This is a strong case for universal pseudonymity - BAN TRUE NAMES - which,
together with strong voluntary reputation and social punishment systems can
form the basis for cyberspatial order.

I can't really say as yet how a cyberspace reputation system should be
implemented. Old-timers will recognize the distinction between my proposed
voluntary reputation and certification - the difference between PGP and central
public key directories.

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Rishab Aiyer Ghosh             "Clean the air! clean the sky! wash the wind!
[email protected]                   take stone from stone and wash them..."
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