100 Years of Trust Theory: Buber’s “I and Thou”

The philosophy of Martin Buber (1878–1965) is foundational to modern thinking about trust.

In the years following WWI, as a minority being oppressed by the rise of violent racist nationalism, he argued one’s self is constructed in how communication is made with an other.

His book “I and Thou” (originally German “Ich and Du”, translated to English in 1937) explained a way of life that emphasized care for others and building trusted partnerships.

Considered to be one of the most important books of Western theology since its original publication in 1923, Martin Buber’s slender volume I and Thou influenced the way theologians, philosophers, and laymen think about the meaning of the relationship between human life and God. Heavily influenced by the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche, Buber unites the proto-existentialist currents of modern German thought with the Judeo-Christian tradition, powerfully updating faith for modern times.

1923… 2023. A centennial edition is available with the original translation.

Buber cited the informal you (German “du”) as carrying a certain authorization, such as the links between close friends, close relatives and…with God. These are the “I and Thou” he speaks about, contrasted with detachment of “I – It” relations (objects for use).

Relation is reciprocity, to put it simply.

Whereas establishing and sustaining mutual trust was an important point of exploration, God was given a sustained connection “as the Eternal Thou”. Relations thus are not just for humans, they are meant for any or all “others” spanning flora, fauna and even the Divine.

Try thinking about Buber the next time you start work on OpenID Connect projects.

Does your God use Verifiable Credentials?

Or as I joked back in 2015, the world would be a much better place if investor money had poured into “Buber as a service” instead of an obviously harmful “I – It” business model of Uber.

Click to enlarge. Source: Me.

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