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Defragging truth

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Defrag Presentation on Understanding Truth by Dave Jilk

Published in: Technology

Defragging truth

  1. “the … perception has emerged that ours is a particularly dark time for political ‘truth.’It isn’t. Throughout history, presidential campaigns have been consistently dishonest.” Michael Moynihan, The Daily Beast
  2. “The Zionist regime's establishment was based on numerous deceptions and lies and one of the biggest lies was the Holocaust.” - Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
  3. The vast majority of facts we know about the world, we know through what other people tell us.
  4. For example: • Abraham Lincoln was President • Admedinejad actually said that • Admedinejad is President of Iran • The Nazis killed six million Jews
  5. How do we know whether “testimony” is true?
  6. References Journalists Experts Authoritative Sources
  7. Event Source You Opaque testimonial chain Trust
  8. “Several articles I wrote or co-wrote were based on this faulty intelligence, and in May 2004, The Times concluded in an editors' note that its coverage should have reflected greater editorial and reportorial skepticism.” “It’s now common knowledge that [Snopes is] owned by an ultra-liberal San Francisco Bay area couple, but until now only a handful of people knew they were bankrolled by George Soros, one of Obama’s primary financial supporters.” Judith Miller “‘ News reporting’ from well-established news outlets is generally considered to be reliable for statements of fact.” ‘test’
  9. “Networks of knowledge on the Net have no shape because the Net has no outer edge. Besides, it doesn’t stay still long enough.” - David Weinberger, Too Big to Know
  10. I disagree. Knowledge has a shape, and it is extremely rich and interesting.
  11. Event Evidence Witness Witness * Analyst Evidence Memory Documentation Testimony Perception
  12. Attention Distortion Failure Modes of Perception Interpretation
  13. Forgetting Failure Modes of Memory Confusion Confabulation Encoding
  14. Objectivity Competence Sincerity Failure Modes of Testimony
  15. Event Witness Witness * AnalystReporter 98% 90% 80% 95% After analysis of the failure modes, we could assign confidence levels to each step. All of the steps need to transmit the truth, so we multiply to get the overall confidence in the chain. .98 x .90 x .80 x .95 = .67
  16. Event AnalystReporter If we have multiple independent confirming sources, we increase our confidence. (1-.8) x (1-.2) x (1-.95) = .008 [99.2% confidence] Reporter Reporter 95% 20% 80%
  17. Collaborative Synoptic Correlative Failure Modes of Independence
  18. Google Search Showed coverage of this in: Forbes Esquire Huffington Post International Business Times RawStory MSN Now and dozens of others
  19. So it’s probably true: Independent, trusted sources. Right? But there was one problem.
  20. All of these articles were based on a single blog post on MSNBC
  21. And all it said about credit cards is: “Aides taking cabs home late that night got rude awakenings when they found the credit cards linked to the campaign no longer worked. ‘Fiscally conservative,’ sighed one aide the next day.”
  22. Event Analyst Reporter * Reporter Reporter Witness Reporter Reporter Reporter Synoptic Failure
  23. Event Analyst Reporter * Reporter Reporter Witness Reporter Reporter Reporter Synoptic Failure
  24. • Garrett Haake, reporter for MSNBC • Embedded with Romney campaign • Nominated for four Emmys • Makes one biased comment in article • MSNBC body of work: generally biased • No named source attributed • Suggests more than justified by known facts • And I tweeted him for good measure Evaluating the Witness / Reporter
  25. Quality Context Genuineness Failure Modes of Documentation
  26. It has structure. It mostly exists online. Could it be partly automated?
  27. “Take no one’s word for it.”
  28. “Take no one’s word for it.”
  29. Credulous Trusting Skeptical Paranoid How much it matters
  30. When evaluating claims: • Find multiple, independent testimony chains – Evaluate the independence – Use Google, not just links • Evaluate the quality of each chain, at each step • Get as close as possible to the original event, including looking for original documentation What we should insist on: • Writers state and link to all their sources! • Digitize and post original documentation! Join the Truth Brigade!
  31. If you repeat what you hear from liars, fools, and clowns, what does that make you?
  32. • Seth Herd (CU Boulder) • Blur: How to Know What’s True in the Age of Information Overload (Kovach, Rosenstiel) • Too Big To Know (Weinberger) • Testimony and Epistemic Authority (Fricker) • Pathologies of Testimony (Coady) Acknowledgements and References

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