Is Truth same thing as Fact? What is the difference between Fiction and Lie?
In the post “Fact Fiction and BS” I’ve looked at the notion of Fact . In this post I will focus on the notion of Truth and its relation to the Fact.
You can check the classic definitions of truth, fact and fiction in dictionaries or lately online dictionaries. I’ve included some links at the end of the article.
I will try bellow a definition of my own aiming to the core of the concepts.
The “Truth” is the mental projection of a Fact.
Also the Truth is the attempt of the human mind to capture and recall a Fact.
Let me present the definition of Fact and Fiction from the “Fact Fiction and BS” article:
Fact: A fact is any piece of information, created by a sensor of any kind measuring one or more parameters, from a well defined position in space-time and whose content can undoubtedly be authenticated by a quorum of “witnesses” at any moment in time and space, after the measurement, upon request.
Facts are the bricks of what we call “reality”.
Fiction: Any information which is not fact is fiction!
Based on the above definitions of Fact and Fiction you can see that the Truth resides somewhere between Fact and Fiction. For a short time, a Truth can “match” perfectly a Fact but will never be a Fact, it is simply our mental image of a Fact.
So, human mind alone can only produce Fiction or Lies and in certain cases (at random or not) match a Fact.
One important corollary of the above sentence is that any attempt to find “facts” by probing human memory is futile. For example using a machine such as a classic lie detector may at best only probe if an individual lies intentionally. If your intention is to get to a fact by using any device to probe the brain memory content then you are simply leading yourself on a wrong path.
The most accurate dictionary definition I found so far is in the “ The Devil’s Dictionary (1881-1906)” stating “TRUTH, n. An ingenious compound of desirability and appearance.“. I’m not sure why the devil seem to be closer in defining a term than the holy. That says a lot about how our psyche works.
So, how and why the brain is such an unreliable machine to produce factual information? Let’s explore some of the most important causes of error.
- Errors in how the information is acquired by the brain via natural sensorial processes
- Errors induced by the “malleability of the mind” as our memories change continuously for many reasons
Let’s explore those error inducing reasons.
1. The information acquisition errors.
We all know that our visual and auditive acuity is different from person to person as well as at different moments of ones life. Our “reality” is constructed by our brain exclusively out of the sensorial information. If the information produced by our natural sensors differs from person to person and even for same person in time, then how can we think we can produce factual information out of it? Additionally sensorial errors induced by external conditions further undermines the accuracy of the raw basic information our brains use to construct our reality.
An excellent case study, put in a movie is (obviously) The Matrix scene where Morpheus explains to Neo what Matrix is. Interesting enough our reality may be an even more complex and convoluted case of The Matrix where each individual tends to live in its own Matrix and our reality is only an overlap of many individual Matrix like realities.
2. Memory storage inaccuracies.
The fact that the information in a human mind matches a Fact it does not necessary makes it a Fact. To be a Fact the information must be able to be verified by other entities (minds or machines) and we have no way, yet, to precisely extract mind states and test against other minds or machines. Problem is, even if we can probe and examine a mind state, the mind state will change almost immediately (that is how minds work) hence rendering the mind state non factual. Yet for the mind there will be no way to sense that without an external reference. So, the Truth (the representation of a fact) will drift away from the Fact. This is a complex relationship and if we are not aware of it we can end up confusing Truths and Facts with disastrous consequences for us and the society.
My definition of the Truth is based on analyzing how human mind works. To perceive anything, our mind needs to rely on memory. Simply put there is no way for the human mind to make distinction between any entities outside of the mind itself without prior information about the external world. To use this prior information the mind needs to store it in the physical support, the neurons in the brain.
An interesting book explaining how our memory works and how reliable is (or not) The memory Illusion by the researcher Dr. Julia Shaw. The book cites many research projects including her own trying to understand how reliable the human memory is, including how the memory can be manipulated. YES! your memory can be manipulated by what you hear in ways you can barely believe. Many other researchers such as Elizabeth Loftus have studied how human memory works and provided sufficient proof for us to understand our own weaknesses and our inability to gather and and use factual information by only using our own natural bodies.
So, we are bad on probing our reality with our natural sensors and we easily mess up what we acquired by mixing it with fictional constructs of our own information induced by other minds and yes we do forget things.
Knowing all this, how anyone can hope to get to and be able to work with Facts? Luckily for us, we invented ways to precisely sense and measure reality and also accurately store and recall information. Our digital computers, if used correctly, have the potential to do exactly that.
My solution to these limitations of the human mind, is to pair human beings with digital machines in a fully symbiotic way in order to use the machine as a scaffolding for the mind. This new living entity will be able to accurately acquire and use factual information as well as unleash the human creativity in the realm of fiction.
I’m coining a new concept called “Self Reliance” for Self Reliant Individuals as the base unit for a society of the future. Self Reliant is NOT equal or equivalent to Selfish, but exactly the opposite. A society made up of self reliant living entities has the best shot to endure until the end of time and to enjoy life together with all humanity. “Live and let live” kind of society. This society is also built on shared facts and will lead to a micro balance of abilities. However this is not a given, we have to fight for this type of society. Unfortunately, our current society seems to head directly towards auto destruction instead. Yet there is hope….
Obviously this is what I believe and I’m presenting here the base on that belief. I’m happy to get any feedback which may lead to a better understanding of this essential issue deeply affecting the lives of all of us. I also believe that most of the atrocities humans committed against other living things including other humans during our short history under the sun are rooted in this confusion between the Truth and Fact.
I have intentionally not analyzed the concept of Lie in this article. A lie is an intentional distortion of a truth by a human mind when communicating with other human minds. This is all for now on the subject of lies. If time permits I’ll come back to this subject in a different article.
- Links to other people opinions in this matter
Dr. Julia Shaw on human memory imperfections
Elizabeth Loftus: Powerful case of human memory issues
Anil Seth: Excellent talk about mind and reality
Blowing your mind, we live in “A Matrix” like reality, Nick Mercer:
The heads in the sand: Next, how and way we run towards our own demise… (gullibility and ignorance) Forget for a while this is a commercial, just turn off the sound an see the brilliant way it points out a human weakness of all of us (more or less but always there).