Truth and Uncertainty

December 11 2016

Truth and Uncertainty

We hear a lot these days about the ‘post truth’ world. The search for truth and understanding is as old as man, the curious animal. In the mere 200,000 years that humans have existed, ’civilized’ man has only been around for 6,000 years. 6,000 years is a lot of time to collectively wonder and discover, and to build our cultural fabric. We can seen the evolution of this fabric when we look to the past and examine where we have come from, tools we made, art we enjoyed, music we played, food we ate and wars we fought. These stories deliver truth to eye of the beholder, each with their own curious mind.

We search for truth in a world of uncertainty. We are born in uncertainty as described through our understanding of the lens of quantum mechanics. There is beauty in that view that is absolutely compelling in its ability to describe many aspects or our world. For those that like to look towards the future, we are getting better a predicting many things or events. However all these future events that we attempt to predict live with uncertainty. We know how long it will take for a ball to hit the ground from a given height as it is well described by physics, but the precision of measurement of that event always has a component of uncertainty. Consider how poor we are at predicting unusual events that we might encounter as we walk home from work. Much of that walk may seem the same everyday, but beauty will be seen in the unusual and rare, the act of kindness that you pass on is rewarded by a smile.

We are targeted everyday by those who understand and use the power of guilt, shame, fear and joy to motivate us to buy everything from deodorant, razor blades and cars to racism, hatred and intolerance. There are those that want to confound us, to make us believe, feel and react rather than think. They tell lies and distort what we know to be true, blurring vision. The tools of the Internet and big data are powerful and they will be applied relentlessly. What is the social contract that we expect from each other as we use and apply these tools. We don’t want to give up our freedom of speech, but do we not also expect some civility in telling the truth and being respectful to each other? That is what we expect in our families, with our coworkers, business partners and friends. There is no law for that per say, but we need to look after each other and count on each other, we have learned that much from our past. Resilience comes from our relationships that support us, not just from pulling up our socks. We need each other so that we can all be the best that we can be.

The deep knowledge embedded in our cultural history is there for us all to discover. Our history is part of our truth, and there are plenty of awful periods and events in our past. These are not to be ignored. There is truth there to be found, it takes critical thought to decipher. Education is important and valuable, but taking the time to stop and think to sort out the truth from fiction is essential. This discourse is a skill and it can be learned and it is taught in our schools and universities. Build your fabric of knowledge and wisdom, employ critical thought, be empathetic. Being kind pays off too.

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