Saturday, October 19, 2013

But So Are Lies

5 Reasons You Can’t Tell When You Are Being Lied To

Beyond that when you feel you are being told the truth, you are likely only right half of the time, and when you feel you are being lied to, you are likely only right half of the time.  It could get worse if you are ruled by your biases.

Dr. Riggio lists these 5 reasons (I paraphrase): stereotyping, trusting, seeing, low feedback, low apprehension of artifice.  Stereotyping is a formalized bias that matches the way we classify information for the preservation of the species (don't talk to strangers).  But once we are engaged, our natural optimism wants to establish trust.  We tend to give visual cues too much weight.  We get hardly any feedback to test our assumptions on communicating with another.  And we are impressed by artfulness (often liars are most theatrical, but the obverse applies as well).

are my reasons why I believe that truth is so hard to distinguish: accumulation of lies, language, fact vs fiction, indoctrination, process trumps content, complexity, confusion, evolution, time-orientation, space-orientation.

The human record is tainted with an accumulation of truths, half-truths, and lies.  Everything we claim to know is an interlocking but often conflicting heap of versions of how things are.  There are no general consensuses, other than tribal ones, about which versions and which parts of which versions are true in a useful way.

Language itself is a terrible filter through which to put verity.  Then add to that the fact that among the users of any one language only a tiny minority have a command of that language.  Further, many of those who command the language have a tendency, intended or otherwise, to misuse the power.

Ask your average government-schooled individual to define the determination between fact and fiction, between objectivity and subjectivity.  The responses will astound you.  Every boondoggle in history is explained by a failure to get information right.

Do I really need to go into gritty detail about indoctrination, on a web site partially dedicated to unschooling and good parenting?  I didn't think so.
I will very frequently in this column turn to the idea that processes pollute the information they should be meant to preserve.  Presidential press conferences and talks to the nation are about showy lies, secretiveness, and trivialized false dichotomies, for example.  Elsewhere, the use of the terms "caucasian," "hispanic," and "african-american" in government statistics are nonsensical behaviors to cram life into statistics (aka organized lying).  And how about euphemisms like "enhanced interrogation" and "tradeoffs between security and liberty?"  There is alive in the land a modern belief that we can make ice cream from manure if we will just process it enough.

Life is complex, and the information about life is complex.  The sender has knowledge that the receiver lacks.  The receiver has knowledge that the sender lacks.  The message itself has a tendency to deteriorate, particularly in the richness of detail about the limitless degrees of truth among the limitless number of aspects of the truth.  Layer in confusion and error among all the working parts of any communication structure.  Also every piece interacts from different time and space orientations.  Our inability to understand the past or to foresee the future compounds the problem.

Then there are two aspects of evolution at play:  1) evolution is not finite until after a species or organism has become extinct, and 2) we may or may not be the ultimate species among those endowed with reason.  Everything looks like a failure in the middle.  At this point in time, humans are still a failed path in the evolution of creatures blessed by reason (or cursed by reason, as the case may be.  To pretend that we can distinguish truth from untruth from others in any effective and/or efficient way is -- truly -- a pretense.

Truth is beautiful, without doubt; but so are lies.
 -- Ralph Waldo Emerson 

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics. -- [perhaps] Benjamin Disraeli, [perhaps] Mark Twain ... but to pretend certainty on either would be a lie.

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