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Democracy, truth, fallibilism, and the tech overlords

Democracy, truth, fallibilism, and the tech overlords

In a recent conversation a friend of mine offered the following: “There would be no need to vote on anything if we knew the truth.” That statement has such profound implications that I will only scratch the surface of it here.

First, democracy presupposes that none of us knows the truth. We have our experience, our analyses, our logic and our intuitions, but we don’t have the truth with a capital “T.” We may reliably report our names to bank tellers. This is a social and legal designation, a definition backed by a birth certificate, driver’s license, and other official documents. Even here we are obliged to provide evidence of the truth of our identity to the teller.

But whether it is wise to subsidize electric cars, legalize gambling, or go to war are issues that are far beyond simple social and legal designations. Our information on such topics is always incomplete, conflicting and quite possibly unreliable. We have difficulty verifying through personal observation much of what we are told. And, we are prone to errors of logic and to misinterpretations.

For these reasons we often turn to experts to do our thinking for us. But they all suffer from the same disadvantages as we do and one additional one: Some are paid to say what they say. It is therefore in the cacophony of debate and consultation that we try to arrive at an approximation of the truth although according to the fallibilist view, we can never be sure that we are even close to the truth.

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