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Liars and Outliers Bruce Schneier: Enabling the Trust That Society Needs to Thrive by Bruce Schneier

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Chapter 2

A Natural History of Security

Our exploration of trust is going to start and end with security, because security is what you need when you don't have any trust and—as we'll see—security is ultimately how we induce trust in society. It's what brings risk down to tolerable levels, allowing trust to fill in the remaining gaps.

You can learn a lot about security from watching the natural world.

  • Lions seeking to protect their turf will raise their voices in a “territorial chorus,” their cooperation reducing the risk of encroachment by other predators for the local food supply.
  • When hornworms start eating a particular species of sagebrush, the plant responds by emitting a molecule that warns any wild tobacco plants growing nearby that hornworms are around. In response, the tobacco plants deploy chemical defenses that repel the hornworms, to the benefit of both plants.
  • Some types of plasmids secrete a toxin that kills the bacteria that carry them. Luckily for the bacteria, the plasmids also emit an antidote; and as long as a plasmid secretes both, the host bacterium survives. But if the plasmid dies, the antidote decays faster than the toxin, and the bacterium dies. This acts as an insurance policy for the plasmids, ensuring that bacteria don't evolve ways to kill them.

In the beginning of life on this planet, some 3.8 billion years ago, an organism's only job was to reproduce. That meant growing, and growing required energy. Heat and light were the obvious sources—photosynthesis ...

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