A Call For Help: On The Hunt For “Truth Discovery Experts”

There is a difference between “subject matter experts”, and the people who are experts in the field of truth discovery.  Surprisingly for most people, subject matter experts can be wrong even in a claim when it’s related to their field of expertise, and when they are wrong hubris often plays a part, but there are also a whole host of other reasons why they might be wrong.

Experts who may be the best in their field of study still often disagree with each other, and even a democratic approach (as if truth can be defined by popular vote among the best experts) can still fail, especially when mob rule becomes the norm.  Examples that come to mind are the scientific communities of Galileo Galilei, Louis Pasteur, and Nikolai Tesla, which communities all viewed the claims of these revolutionary thinkers as out of step with the facts.  In those cases (please note that this still happens today more often than you might think) the communities were wrong, and the mavericks were right.

There are also a number of personal, and even professionally instituted biases that can influence the opinions of even the presumably most unbiased and pragmatic experts. In fact for claims on which there is tremendous debate there is a direct relationship between confidence in an opinion and the likelihood of that opinion being biased.  The more confident you are, the more likely it is that you are biased.  In short, for highly debated topics the most accurate assessment, or at least the most honest one, is the one that simply says “I don’t know”.

There will be experts who are right, and they are not always the leaders in their field, nor are they always in the majority opinion of those in their field.  The task set before each and every person as they go through life is to determine who among these experts are right in each situation.

And that’s hard.  It’s really hard.  But in one way or another your life, livelihood, and living conditions, or that of your children, depend on you correctly adopting the most truthful assessments for life’s greatest mysteries.

So to our rescue there is this science … the science of truth discovery.  It’s a branch of philosophy, but after my philosophy classes I found very little of it beneficial in helping the average person gain the skills necessary to distinguish between truth and falsehoods.

We need “truth discovery experts”, not philosophers, to train the rest of the world on how to do that. Even most scientists don’t know how to do that, and really they should be the first ones to take a class on discovering truth.

“But the scientific method”, you say. Most of them don’t even have a practical and clear understanding of the scientific method or, more importantly, most don’t know how to apply it properly.

A person well trained in the methods and techniques of employing the best algorithms for ascertaining truth should even be more right more often than even the experts in the field of study for which any claim may involve. Such a truth discovery expert will be less encumbered with professional biases, fear of professional reprisal, and can give equal weight to matters outside a field of expertise.  In short, they can get a better feel for what’s right, after consulting with subject matter experts, and after evaluating each expert, and after considering the facts in a fair and balanced way.

I’ve made a life long effort to develop my own algorithms for truth.  The one I put my greatest faith in is one I call “ibid”, a Latin phrase meaning “in the same place”, but which is also a acronym for Ideal Beneficiary Index of Doubt.  But I’m the first to admit that I’m not a “Truth Expert”.  There are those who are,  and I’m not just talking about those who think they’re subject matter experts in everything, or those who have made and promote their lists of  “trustworthy” sources of information.  One should be suspicious of such self-professed “trustworthy sources”.

Rather the truth seeker should train to become “Truth Discovery Experts”, who can ascertain why someone is right with logic that goes beyond referencing their source’s education or popularity.

Besides, what is more important to be given a fish or to learn how to fish?  So it is with truth … people need to stop lazily transferring all their truth discovery responsibilities onto some “trusted” sources (be it a pundit or a close friend, or a much loved public persona) without themselves personally applying fundamental principles of truth discovery on their own.

The skill to discover real truth should be gained and exercised frequently by every member of society now more than ever. Are we living now in the information age, or the misinformation age? The degree to which one can ascertain truth determines that answer.

Although “lists” of “legitimate information” sources (recently Political leaders have expressed great interest in establishing such lists, usually with their favorite partisan news source at the top) serve a worthwhile purpose, but the motives of those who make such lists and foist them upon others should be suspect.  Instead, we need all to become experts who can assess the reliability of a source of information based on algorithms, not on the popular opinion of the majority, or the wild blatherings of pundits, or the passionate pleadings of a good friend at the water cooler.  Galileo, Pasteur, Tesla all learned that first hand.  The time has arrived for the rest of us to do so as well.

So I am on the hunt for experts in truth discovery itself, not in truth itself.  If you know an such “truth discovery experts”, please do tell!


Where you are isn’t as important as how you got there

For decades I’ve been fascinated with engines for success … car engines, social  engines like facebook, and financial engines like business plans.  Any puny old human, with the right engine and fuel (society and resources) could make almost anything happen that they really wanted to. They could do literally anything, with the right engine.

Every engine runs on tried and true principles … physics, human behavior, supply and demand, etc.  Understood correctly, these principles can be leveraged through following a set of instructions, a “program” if you will, to create and operate new and more powerful engines.  The fundamental design of these programs, these sets of instructions, is called an algorithm.  Algorithms are often thought to be programs … but they are far more than programs or a sets of instructions.

Algorithms are the “how does it work”.  It identifies the motivations, the tools, the resources, and everything necessary to do that work, including the principles by which it works.  Algorithms are basically “How it works” manuals, and utilizes abstract thought, comprehension, and purpose.

In fact, algorithms are the only thing that can be patented for utility patents. You can’t patent a “what” idea … of course unless it’s a design patent (which only protect the decorative aspect of a thing).  Most people don’t know that.  Here’s an idea: a teletransporter that beams tocos from my freezer to my oven to my mouth, all with the push of a button.  Sounds cool, but that can’t be patented, because it’s not a “How” idea (eg. how the transporter works … and what instructions must be followed to create this thing).  It’s not an algorithm.  Mere instructions can’t be patented either … a patent has to have an objective, and it has to work by fundamental principles that can be and have been demonstrated.

But I’m still selling algorithms short.  The most powerful things about algorithms, the “how does it work” stuff in life, is that our brain lives on algorithms.  Thinking is an algorithm, in fact the only thing that separates our brain from computers is that we don’t follow instructions.  We follow algorithms.  That’s what it means to be alive.  And computers are not alive.  They don’t really know how things work, they don’t understand the fundamental principles by which things work, or how those things fit together.  A neural network seems to come close … but no.  It just understands relationships, not abstract thought … and algorithms are to abstract thought as instructions or programs are to computation.

The most important and fundamental algorithms on which our brains operate are those in which we invest for ascertaining truth. These algorithms for truth guide and shape everything we do … every decision, every opinion, every understanding, every hope and fear and passion.  Algorithms for truth lead us the way a map leads an explorer, or the way a rabbit’s vision leads them as they cross a busy street.

Yes, like the decisions a bunny makes crossing a freeway, if we are not careful with our choices … if we follow bad algorithms … the consequences can be dire.  And this happens every day to everyone, experiencing the consequences, good and bad, of the decisions they make, but those decisions are not the problem when things go bad.  It’s the justification, the thought process, the presumptions and beliefs, the cognitions that lead them to the bad (or good) choice.  These are algorithms.  The “how” or “why” they came up with that choice.  It’s more important that the choice itself.

Due to recent events, I thought that surely there is a well developed science behind the process by which people make choices … and in fact there is but, it’s not easily digestible for the average Joe.  Certainly not something someone can watch a video about and say, “Gee whiz, there are plenty of ways I can discover truth more effectively and efficiently, and it’s easy!”

Nope.  And while every social media platform is filled with people schooling each other on what they think is true, not too many people are calling enough attention to the fact that based on the algorithms they use for ascertaining truth, their conclusions whether it be to sack to capitol of the United States, or burn down the business of a peach of a guy, seems to be reasonable, because the decisions are based on falsehoods.  The problem is their algorithm for truth.  And society is in desperate need to be re-algorized.

So here it is, after 4 decades of me thinking on these matters, not a dissertation on my views, but an attempt to make accessible to the average Joe what the real experts (not me) have to say about it.  Let’s learn how can we as a society improve our ability to discover truth , and form the best algorithm to assess whatever circumstance might arise.