We’ve set the truth free… and it terrifies us
Many of us see parts of the Internet as horrible tools of deception and manipulation. People spewing all kinds of crazy and inaccurate views. Bad actors using propaganda to manipulate voters. Mob mentality and mass shaming as tools for social conditioning. Wouldn’t life be better without them? Wouldn’t it be easier to uphold the truth?
It might seem that way but we rarely pause to think of the alternative—a world where a handful of newspapers, politicians and academics get to decide for you which information is accessible. After all, if we don’t like the free-for-all nature of how information is generated on the Internet, then we must appoint moderators. But there is a reason why we kept innovating until we freed ourselves from that paradigm. When only a few people controlled the flow of information through society, they kept too much of it to themselves. This power—held by de facto arbiters of truth—was insidious because not only did we have no way of knowing when it was being abused, we also had no real alternative to it.
In the days when information flowed through arbiters of truth, the only things that existed in the world (as far as you knew) were the things they deemed you worthy of knowing—and even then, knowledge would be coloured by their prejudices before it arrived in your consciousness. They made the world smaller, simpler and more familiar than it really was—and in many ways, we liked that. Less information to process, fewer competing views to balance. But, now, the Internet is exposing you to all the unfathomable ways in which people don’t think, feel and act like you—and just how many of those people there are. This probably has you thinking, “If I’m right and they’re wrong, why should they get to spew their nonsense and infect other people?”
But this overlooks the fact that, for the first time in human history, we have the clearest view of what the largest cross-section of people in society really think. From one extreme to the other. From the “bleeding heart liberal” to the “race supremacist nationalist” , and from the CEOs of large multinationals to their least-paid cleaners. If we “sanitise” that, we lose the diversity and rawness that makes it so unique in the history of our species. The Internet didn’t teach us how to lie, or be bad researchers, or think and act irrationally. Those are all human traits. The Internet simply showed us just how much broader than our assumptions the spectra of beliefs, moral codes and cognitions in society really are. We are often encouraged to assume there is only one true interpretation of a phenomenon and that the one we have is the truth. Everybody else is not only wrong, they are evil. But it is often the institutions that encourage us down this path (rather than other civilians) that have an ulterior motive—the maintenance of the status quo and their influence within it.
The Internet isn’t changing us—it’s showing us, for the first time, parts of our collective self that we never realised were there. For the first time, we have a mirror large enough to reflect all of society—the good, the bad, the ugly... and the misunderstood.
These people with whom we disagree are still part of the same species as us. They are still part of our society. They are our children’s friend’s parents. Our doctors. Our cleaners. The person sitting behind you on the bus. That lady who gave you a hand with your bag. That ivy League professor who’s teaching the next generation of technology leaders. We cannot simply exclude them from discourse or go farther down a road of increasing discord and acrimony. To cope with this new level of collective self-perception to which the Internet has exposed us, we can surrender the power of information moderation back to a few elite institutions and pretend society is no more complex than our understanding of it. Or we can turn society into an ideological battleground where different factions try to destroy each other, for a chance to assert a dominant orthodoxy.
Or we can find a way to collaborate with people with whom we disagree, in order to achieve progress.
You see, in all that noise and unstructured information on the Internet, lies the most representative picture of truth on any given issue. There are people (people like you) with unique experiences and perspectives, sharing objectively verifiable pieces of information, which can be assembled into a body of knowledge that’s reliable and useful. These people (and the pieces of information they possess) are simply crowded out by all the noise and digital pollution. Rather than condemn the Internet’s tendency to generate raw, unprocessed information, what if we could create a tool that processes out all the pollution, leaving only the gems of knowledge?
That is what we’ve built in òtító—a tool that allows society to extract the pieces of objectively verifiable truth that is distributed in the minds, experiences and perspectives of different communities and people.
We don’t believe complex questions can be answered simplistically. Though it is emotionally satisfying and attractive to think that issues like Brexit or immigration have one simple, correct answer, it is also intellectually naive. The truth is, when it comes to big and complex phenomena, there are many things that are true at the same time—and different sets of facts contextualise one another. This is how reasonable people end up disagreeing on contentious matters. The best we can hope for is not that we figure out who the “right people” and “wrong people” are, then punish the latter. The best we can hope for is that most people understand the difference between “bad information” and “good information”, and can easily access the latter. In this way, society becomes equipped to understand how reasonable people can come to disagree—and, more importantly, move beyond their disagreements.
òtító is a place where anyone can come to learn the objectively verifiable truth consensus on any socio-cultural or political issue—safe in the knowledge that the tool is optimised to remove baseless assumptions, propaganda and attractive delusions. A place you can come to get the comfortable and the uncomfortable facts, the popularly verified narratives and their validated but unpopular counters, the most reliable epistemologies and the evidence-backed discoveries which undermine them.
A place where truth is a utilitarian, pluralistic and cohesive representation of the soundest set of conclusions, based on the least contested bodies of knowledge.
If you believe some good can come from the ideas I’ve shared here, then join us. Not because I need you… but because the world does.