John Stossel on Trusting Strangers on the Internet



Trust—society depends on it. For most of history, our ancestors lived in clans with other family members, or in small villages. Everyone pretty much knew who was trustworthy. People behaved better because they wanted good relationships with family members and neighbors. Only recently have humans interacted with lots of people. Today, "50 percent of the population lives in cities," points out entrepreneur Julien Smith. "We're surrounded by strangers, and you end up with these systems in place that progressively get built (to determine:) 'should I trust this person?'"

Smith created the website Breather, which arranges for strangers to rent private spaces—even living rooms—for business meetings. For his business to work, total strangers must have a reason to trust each other. The Internet makes that possible, writes John Stossel. His customers check his clients' reputations before they agree to share a workspace. It's wonderful: Internet ratings give us more reason than ever before to interact with new people.