Monthly Archives: April 2020

The death of facts



Them’s the facts jack. Facts are facts. Or are they. Fact checkers love to write their own checks, but who checks them? Other fact checkers? That’s a tangled web, and at any scale sovereignty, and then authority, begins with you. As always the most important question isn’t who, but how. How we determine what the facts are, determines the quality of our reactions.

Many people care about facts as weapons. A way to zing their enemies. The repugnant selfish theater better known as politics. They don’t contemplate broader risks. Absurdities enable atrocities. The fields of facts are filled with Pyrrhic victories. Battles won at cost of humanity’s common war against risk. The truth and the broad shield it provides us is damaged. What does truth shield us from? Many interim horrors, but ultimately, mistakes we can not come back from.

Inherently, there can be no greater risk than irreconcilable error, should facts go awry. All risk ends there. Facts are important, possibly the most important to a shared social system. The only thing that can correct irreconcilable error is externalities. Waiting for some black swan to save you is inherent failure. Not because saviors don’t exist, but because you learn nothing and therefore accomplish nothing if you strictly wait for them. Trying and failing to understand still often makes progress. You need to act even if the facts do not favor action.

Unknown unknowns

How do you act without or in the face of apparent facts? The temptation may be to vette the facts further. It seems like a positive action, and it could be. But as the earliest politician showed, fact finding can become a fool’s errand. If your premise, or other contributing facts are flawed your result will be skewed, possibly multiplicatively. A trace of poison can ruin the whole water supply. Finding facts objectively, at a glance, seems improbable.

There are a few structures by which to find facts. Only in rationalism can facts be found objectively through strictly logical constructs. Empirical evidence depends to a degree on perspective, and attributes and quality of the senses. A rubber ruler at best. Skepticism can never create a test it can pass, because it’s nature is to doubt everything, including the test itself. You can’t create a useful system of rules, you inherently can’t trust. Determinism can indicate there are immutable facts, but you can’t measure inevitability, only likelihoods approaching inevitability. It may be true, but we can’t measure it completely, so we can’t create a fact with it. So rationalism it is.

Determinism while maddening can be useful. There are no determinists. There are only people who think determinism is the most likely explanation for events and attributes, by a very wide margin. They can’t know every quantum outcome at the sub-atomic level that create the molecules in their brain cells, they can only imagine the parts at that scale working together on an impossible to simulate universal scale. It’s too big for simulation or calculation. Which reveals our final opponent to rationalism, pragmatism.

While many people treat facts as deterministic, they can be, and are pragmatic.  What actually performs and gets good results?  Based in an incalculable world, all things deterministic are in fact an odds game and actually pragmatic. This presents a problem for rationalism. Scope. Just like determinism can only approach the probability that it is true, rationalism can only approach the totality of relevant facts. It may, and mathematically will, miss facts. But don’t just take my word for it, rationalism died with the renaissance man. Once humanities best minds determined the entirety of human knowledge is not knowable to any one person  more than a century ago, it follows that nobody can have or even honestly claim to have, all the facts. The concept of incontrovertible facts died, when the scope of human knowledge exceeded one very smart person.

As this is Civgene, I can’t help but present a second argument. The real way I knew to look for the death of facts. I know all the most intelligent human behavior is partly driven by rationalizing subconscious impulse. Our conscience, indicated by our lack of psychopathy, is a probability engine. Churning out likely answers to puzzles by comparing unlike things in our memories and nudging us. We then in turn rationalize or externally explain these insights. Reason without conscionable  impulse is just rationalism, and that psychopathic fashion of seeking truth is, incomplete at best.

Known unknowns

So we know facts can be false, and can’t be proven completely true, but we have to act. What to do? We should use facts, but we should encourage competing facts. How can they compete? By shrinking the scope of society so that sets of competing facts can play out. Experiments when possible, but predictions when not, can scientifically vette facts. It is healthier to act, than to simply wait for a system of incorrect facts to grow large enough to induce a catastrophic failure. By letting people choose their own results, you prevent moral hazard to truth, or disintegration of the idea of objective truth. Whether it’s distortions originate from gaslighting or subtle errors, top down facts chip away at the viability of approaching objective truth.

An idea oriented fact finding process should be encouraged, not a blame based one. Since all people with imagination have ideas, consensus facts should be shared. Consensus is when the vast majority of people see a fact as true, not only people whom you agree with. Some ideas may conflict. To progress materially or spiritually, you may need to limit the scope of people who are considered for your consensus. People outside this technocracy’s scope should not be considered when achieving a local consensus, but also should not be indoctrinated by the technocracy. Attempting to achieve broader consensus through ideas can expand your scope, but if blame encourages a faux consensus, it damages the viability of objective truth. Smashing anyone, much less your political enemies, in the face with truths they can’t understand hurts the viability of future consensus, and creates castes or classes, the quick road to oppression, oligarchy, and massive inefficiency.

Again as this is Civgene, I must point out civgene had predicted this. Behavioral pairs (consionable humans compared to the animal kingdom) indicate that human rights originate from the differences between humans and all (possibly most) other animals and psychopaths. Primarily adding a time component, future, present, and past to current animal social structures. Property, investment, freedom, friendship, currency and their derivatives, money, markets, specialization, and economy of scale all indicate a right to fork. Allowing hierarchies, like oligarchy and technocracy to interfere with these rights, denies people the opportunity to act naturally human, and benefit maximally from it. Faulty (or false) facts compete with and even eliminate these behaviors. Bringing us closer to psychopathic simple animal behaviors as cumulative distortions grow.

Known knowns

If faced with opponents to your facts, approach them with ideas of process for resolution (ideally scientific), or don’t approach them at all. If a fact is rejected, the blame lay with the explainers understanding of the fact, not the challenger. Many things can be, and have been wrong with specialized and local consensus facts. Deception or defection for power or political gain, scope errors or missing information, empirical errors, or simply low intelligence actors may have forced superficial consensus before a broader population could be brought in through understanding. The highest orders of industry, government, science, and other hierarchies have been disastrously wrong about facts for centuries, before. Destroying public trust. Pushing a fact you can’t explain can have subversive results on our very ability to agree on anything, and possibly our health and safety. An obscure fact is safer for the social fabric than a profound distortion. An obeyed dictate, posing as fact, is possible, but comes at difficult to reverse cost. Destruction of trust.

Much good has been done by small groups of technocrats using a common base of facts to discover new truths. Find like minds. Mankind’s greatest discoveries languished for decades in obscurity, even when in common use, or while enjoying tremendous financial success. All based on facts that still to this day do not share a public consensus. Who, what, when, why, and especially how, can all be wildly changed by the tiniest change in the underlying facts. The truth does not suffer from a lack of attention. Only you do. You can not conquer this problem alone, so seek like minds to build on your facts and compare your performance to other societies technocrats, with different assumptions, I mean ‘facts.’ The public mind is a contest of ideas, and the only sure way lose it is to attack the contest itself.