Blog about geeky stuff, computers, physics and life.
Created on Fri, 04 Jun 2021
TL;DR: Because I care about myself, my parents and friends and I believe vaccination is the best way to protect myself and them, in order to resume any kind of "normality". I believe the risk of vaccination outweights the risk of not vaccinating, I trust the process of vaccination approval and testing by the various national and supra-national organizations, I trust the scientists and (even though I don't have to) I understood the relative simplicity of the idea of the vaccine and immune response generated by it. I find it unlikely that there is a larger conspiratorial picture for control, even if the vaccine has not naturally occured but it turns out it has been produced artifically on purpose for some geo-game or by accident by leaking/negligence. I find it much more likely that people look for someone to blame, people falling for all sorts of biases and missconceptions, media and government trust being at such low levels that people search for "alternative" explanations, all the while social media making finding agreeing groups much easier than ever with possible state actors trying to subvert trust in the "western" sciences, democracies and the like. Larger picture: because despite everything, we live in the best of times and I trust humanity.
Plus: now I truly have Internet everywhere. My hand has a ringtone, my fingers shoot lasers, my ears are satellites, I see in 5 dimensions and my thoughts have thoughts that manipulate the government.
This post is long. It's messy, touching topics not so much on the vaccine safety, testing and inner workings - this can be found elsewhere. I'm also not trying to convince people to vaccinate because of herd immunity or to get "back to normality faster". It has been plenty covered and I have less to say about this anyway. This post is actually more about how does one find to believe what they believe, how does one find truth and what is truth anyway. It's very philosophical, possible full of errors and biases of my own but are things that I have been researching and interested in lately (and possibly for a long time too).
I will go pretty deep on what "truth" means at all at a semantic, mathematical and physical sense. I am not the first blogger or philosopher or whatever thinking being to think about at all, but I think about it and this is my blog and most of this is probably wrong anyway. Here is my slice of the philosophy that I've been exposed to in my life.
I was doing lot of self- (and through other-people-) reflection these past few days and weeks. For the first time in my life, I am exposing myself heads on, very willingly to opinions and world-views quite different than my own. Of course, I knew I was living in a bubble but I have resisted getting out of that bubble of scientific knowledge and science-minded people.
So I thought (and keep on thinking) about what I hear and try to understand where it's coming from, what should I change in me and what things I should keep.
My shocking conclusion (so far): I trust people.
Would I live any other time?
I got asked the other day "in what time of history would you chose to live?". I don't think I would chose any other time than now, despite the romanticism of some periods and the badness of the now. I enjoy having a nice, clean toilet with running water. I enjoy not having to die of hunger, have a relatively low chance of getting mugged, killed, tortured, getting a decease with absolutely no better resolution than shamans screaming in my face. Since I don't know what the future might be, and despite the global pandemic and relative uncertainty - this might be the best pandemic humanity has "enjoyed" - I chose now. We may be getting out of this badness in the next year or so - a record! And even if "it's not even a pandemic but a blown-out-of-proportion flu" (it's not) - is it possible to think of this 1-2 year period as a training for society in case a really much deadlier pandemic hits us? Learn through a relatively undeadly decease (it's not) so that if a new plague comes over we are much better prepared. It's not the best that we do that of course, but even if this was the case, it would still be extremely valuable.
Think of it: overall humanity has made such progress that we can develop a vaccine in a year! It's not a new method of vaccination - it's something we have been researching for years. Here's how it works, courtesy of the most informative comedian on the web:
This is the progress of the scientific and engineering world, logistics, advances in medicines, bio-engineering and other fields that I will misname if I keep on going. It wasn't rushed - it was just extremely prioritized. Every single test that we usually do was done. The difference - it was done in parallel whenever possible.
But how could I possibly trust these people, without knowing them or without even knowing the fields they are working in? How could I possibly understand the benefits of mRNA vaccines over... the other kind? How could I possibly trust that all tests are done without even knowing the tests? Effectiveness rates and immune system responses, side effects and risks - even in my scientific minded world it would take days or weeks of research and in the end - I will still have questions and I may misunderstand a lot of the things "they" say, or I will doubt reports and authorities until I get so paranoid as to not dare to breathe. I have not researched other vaccines before - why should that one be any different? In fact, I have not researched so much of things I do everyday which relies on trust of people and groups of people doing their job honestly - why should a vaccine be any different?
How can I truly know there is no global conspiracy of chip manufacturing that is being put in the vaccines to control my mind? Seeing all the inadequacies of governments and corruption which gets exposed daily, seeing all the mindless restrictions, all the failed businesses, all the profiteering companies at the top level compared to that - how could I possibly trust people, science and society?
Here's the thing: Despite a global pandemic, climate change, inequalities, the world is getting a lot better in a lot of metrics that you don't hear too often. Take a look at Hans Rosling's Gapminder foundation to test yourself on how much you think the world is bad vs. how bad it really is (spoiler alert: it's actually quite good!).
It's insane how good we are but we still have long ways to go. We uncover things that we suck at that we would've never discovered if it wasn't for the systematic, methodological way of doing things - sometimes with two steps forward and 1.9 (or 2.1) steps backward. Maybe we overdid the restrictions. Maybe we sacrificed too much. Maybe it's extremely important not to go down the slippery slope of trusting authorities to take our rights of free movement, we shouldn't let governments tell us when to hug each other or when to cover our faces, making it hard to breathe.
I see these points. And we all changed our lives in the past year or so and may never get back to "before". The fact is, there is no promise of progress in humanity - we may have actually slid backwards in some measures of authoritarianism. Perhaps the virus was artificially created for some twisted domination of a random group of people. This will be hard to uncover (if ever) but despite that my conclusions were the same.
Could the vaccine be a sneaky way for some people to control us through chips or 5G? Unlikely. We live in a society the basis of which is that we trust immensely each other. What water should I drink if I don't trust people? What food should I get? Do I go living in the woods by myself? It's an option for many - but it comes with all the negatives of not having anyone else around. Instead of benefiting of all the human experience we have gathered painstakingly over many generations, should I get back to literally "reinvent the wheel"?
On the other side a complete blind trust in authority is also detrimental - we have seen real conspiracies being shown to be true. One can't trust everything because then you become a naive robot, devout of critical and self-thought. But too much self-thought in the wrong areas is also bad - for you become a paranoid, misinformed citizen. Misinformed - although some will claim that they have "the best words/information, because they think for themselves" - because then you are a slave to your own biases and missconceptions which humanity has cleared out for free for you to benefit from.
So where does one draw the line of trust?
Game theory vaccination
If I care about anyone other than myself, my best bet is to get vaccinated.
Game theoretically, my best outcome would probably be to "convince everybody else to get vaccinated but not get vaccinated myself". This way, I personally get all the benefits with none of the associated risks with vaccination or even getting the decease.
Assuming I'm willing to stay at home, not meet people while the pandemic is raging, wait it out and not meet with my parents or any other people that may have hidden condition that may get unlocked by Covid, it would be best to not do anything.
But I don't want to. I want to travel and see and hug my parents again. Not that I haven't during the pandemic but it was a risk. There is always risk - for anything.
There is risk for traveling. There is a risk for staying at home. There is risk for doing something or doing nothing. There is a risk for vaccinating and getting severe side effects, there is a risk for not vaccinating and getting Covid's side effects. There is a risk of the vaccine creating an unpredictable chain of reaction in my body that 10 years down the road kills me. There is a risk of getting Covid with or without symptoms, creating an unpredictable chain of reaction in my body that 10 years down the road kills me.
Here is a (stupid) unit called micromort that provides some estimate of risk of different activities. We, humans, are not good at estimating these numbers - we need historical evidence and statistics. If I try to estimate my risks I will almost certainly be wrong. Why? Remember the proverb - one dead human is a tragedy, a thousand is a statistic. Media and society will pay huge attention to a single gruesome death from a vaccine but not to the millions of protected. Have you ever heard the news "many people didn't die because they put their seatbelts"? Of course not - no one cares if people keep on living, we care when people die. We will even hear as a big news if people have died despite putting seatbelts on - because nothing is secure, things reduce risks but nothing, ever eliminates all risk for anything.
We, humans, get biased by the Internet articles we read, the news on the TV that we hear and we have very bad judgment as to what is really going on. Plane travel is the safest in almost any possible measure. But still we get more scared getting on a tube traveling in the middle of the air as if by magic, no matter the logical reasoning and statistics. We picture the unlikely and overly publicized scenario of a plane crash despite the facts that airtravel has been getting safer year after year. Reasons are many, compared to - let's say - car travel. You have much less control over the pilot. Feeling that makes you out of control is more scary, because you have to trust others. Car crashes and deaths are statistical measures in a country, unless a particularly nasty crash has happened today. But an emergency landing is almost always on the news - even if nothing really happened, no one was hurt and there was just a bad storm or abundance of caution by the pilots.
So there must be some trust, somewhere to get authorities to decide some things for you. And in an age where we trust less and less authorities - we see fake ads, fake promises, fake news - how the hell do we even begin to understand the ground truths?!
Why is it important to "get" science
Science in schools is (mostly) boring.
I believe almost every human is born with natural curiosity about the world around them and schools often manage to kill that. One way to look at science is that it's the structured way of humanity to resolve a lot of the curiosities that we have about the world around us. It doesn't necessarily show us "the truth" as truth is difficult to define. This is more the philosophy of science - what is true, what is real and so on.
However, a more realistic way to look at science is that progress happens when there is a frequently economical need for it to happen. Sometimes we discover things out of curiousity and not knowing what might turn out. Einstein couldn't have predicted GPS satellites would be enabled by his Theories of relativity. He was inspired by solving a much smaller problem - syncronizing clocks in cities. Computers weren't created to play games - it was created to break crypto codes in war times and do faster math in general. The Internet (protocols) were created so that communication can be resilient against nuclear strikes during the Cold war, not to watch funny cat pictures 24/7.
Science follows engineering but also enables new engineering in a loop. Some people working on it are driven by pure curiosities. But that curiousity wouldn't be possible in a modern world where all the low hanging fruits of experiments that you can do at home are taken, without the money enabling you to work in teams and have access to equipment to probe deeper into reality.
An almost universal among the people I talk to is that whether you like science is very much dependent on the teacher (their ability to teach in general and your personal like-ness/relationship) and environment in which you grew up. I have been fighting on-and-off this boring kind of education since high school.
Now, in times of pandemic we see the real world effects of the result of a lot of factors that have detached people from the pursuit of understanding what the world is like. While we try to employ free speech laws and rules to guard the possibility of free expression and prevent fascism, this results in encouraging everyone to come up with their creative narrative of what is really going on. It's still probably better this way.
However, we do see that some of the results is that a lot of conspiracy theories, spread around even more easily than before through the means of social media bubbles. We can't and probably shouldn't tell BigTech what to allow and what not - they are private companies doing their own thing, but the fact that there are billions of people on these platforms puts them in a special position, in some regards more powerful than governments.
The result of these conspiracy theories is real harm, causing people to doubt vaccinations intent, causing real suffering and deaths in the world. While there are some legitimate questions that should be posed for vaccines and how COVID came to be, illiteracy in scientific concepts like what is a virus, what is RNA and even more so - the unwillingness to learn about these real concepts because of bad experience with the scientific method drawn from schools - causes the real world harm that we see today.
So that's why I fight [g/G]od(s). Not the personal belief and comfort that you receive from the protective/parent-like concept of [g/G]od(s). I'm not even against the [g/G]od(s) of the gaps (the idea that what we don't know must be [g/G]od(s)). You can call these concepts whatever you like - prayers, self-motivation, hypotheses or whatever you want. I fight against the [g/G]od(s) of ignorance.
Progress in humanity is not guaranteed - we can slip into the dark ages and some people actually do, believing in [g/G]od(s) and other supernatural explanations where other, hard-earned explanations already exist.
There are real conspiracy theories - Snowden's NSA revelations hit the world particularly hard, at least in my field of expertise. Some conspiracy theories of today may well turn out to be true. A big problem of society today is to find the balance - how can you find out which are these are true and which are complete bollocks.
How do we know what we know?
Anything that "science" has "discovered" (I should stop putting quotes because almost any word or phrase can be vague) is of varying sure-ness level. Some things we know really well (e.g. the Anomalous magnetic moment of the electron is now known to one part in a trillion and recently huge experiments are trying to find new physics in some small differences there), some things we sort of speculate and still need more work (what is exactly the nature of Black holes or what is Dark matter) while others we completely don't even know where to begin with (what is consciousness). We kind of know what we know, we know some of what we don't know but we also don't know what we don't know - but that last one is probably always completely irreconcilable almost by definition.
But everything that we do know is extremely hard to demonstrate and verify. Even the simplest facts like "The Earth is (kind-of) spherical" requires knowledge and understanding of experimental evidence, geometry and math that a monkey would not be able to understand - and we are mostly monkeys individually. Only collectively the humanity is able to make assertions and verify these assertions so naturally that means that to really belief even the simplest scientific truths you need to trust that part of humanity that was able to verify it.
For some things you can come up with your own experiments to verify it for yourself - but with more complicated science you need more people around you to construct and understand each part of the experiment. Humans are "winning" over monkeys because we can communicate on a common natural language but also in more complicated languages like math and logic or even programming languages.
So if you rely on your "own independent research" you are likely to make errors, errors that have been made many, many times before by many different humans. Millions of lifetimes won't be enough for you to read and even less to understand what humanity has come up with. But how do you know who and what to trust?
Hypothesis vs. Theory
Ah, the ever-present semantics of said languages. In everyday talk we use the word "theory" to talk about possibilities. There is this dissonance that in sciences for the same concept we use the word "hypothesis". In most sciences the word "theory" is a stronger version of "hypothesis" - we have made a lot of theoretical and/or experimental probings of a given hypothesis and we call it a theory.
There is no "proof" in science. Scientists have never "proved" anything, despite writings in magazines and newspapers. They have just made better logical conclusions based on rigorous mathematical systems and/or experiments from one or several angles that provide some level of certainty to a hypothesis. After many years, many experiments, many probings (and failures) to disprove a hypothesis, many modifications to the original hypothesis, sometimes a hypothesis can graduate to a theory. But the word "theory" is also a bit of a historical thing - it doesn't really matter what you call a certain proposition in science - it can always get wrong in some circumstances. Even so called "laws" are also just hypothesis that historically have been found out early enough to have the arrogance to call them laws - like "Energy Conservation Law" or "Newton's Second Law of motion". These are also valid hypothesis in certain situations that can be broken (e.g. in open systems or in non-inertial / relativistic frames of reference) or that we have discovered that are coming from a more fundamental principle (e.g. principles of symmetry or quantum fields).
What is "True", "Fact", "Discovery"
Let's get down to truth as much as we can. Most scientists would not even begin to question mathematics - it is a pure conjecture of logic and every single science lies on the truth of mathematics. While experiments can be wrong, while "laws" of nature can be disproven at some point, the one thing that most scientists won't question is the perfectness of maths - it's not about probing reality, it's the fundamental tool to discover reality. So what if even maths may not be true can be faulty?
1+1=2. To know that you need to know what is
2. These are not real things that you can discover in the Universe in any way. These are not built in structures in our brains when we are born. We learn them and we agree on them. We agree that the symbol
1 represents a singular virtual quantity of something but not something in concrete - something abstract. That's insane amount of assumption and understanding that by itself is almost impossible to grasp when you peer into it. And that true statement on which all further mathematics is built upon - is true by definition.
Anything that you build on have to have something at the bottom that you trust or define to be true. These are called axioms. As far as I know there is no "axiom-less system of knowledge" or some kind of "recursively defined" system that doesn't need ground beliefs. So these abstract definitions like the numbers and what it means to sum up something are axioms. Of course, one can invent other axioms and build the
1+1=2 to be a consequence of these axioms rather than an axiom itself - but nevertheless, you need some unprovable truth at the bottom of it all.
So, what does it mean for something to be true by definition? Well, you could define that
1+1=10. And that is actually true in binary counting. Then
2+2=4 is not true - there is no
2 in binary, there are only
1s. One could also build some mathematics in which
1+1=3 and then define
3 to be
2 or what-not. Romans had
I+I=II which if we represent in our modern arabic digits would look like
1+1=11. So this simple "truth" we defined above is a truth by definition, it's true because we say so, not because it is really a law of the Universe.
But once we accept that and believe in this, let's call it: "God of mathemathics" then following a set of consistent logical structures we are enabled to discover the true laws of the Universe. Math is perfect, there are just a minimum of a few things to trust and once you trust them - the Universe, or even - all the possible Universes that could ever exist (not merely the single one we can probe - that would be Physics) unfolds themselves in all their glory.
... and then of course it all got ruined. A badass named Kurt Gödel figured out in 1931 (when he was just 25 mind you!) that math is not consistent (or if it is, it can't prove that it is). Math is not even complete. Turing further discovered math is not even decidable. And not only our math - any math, any "consistent system of axioms (believes like 1+1=2) is capable of proving all truths about the arithmetic of natural numbers". Meaning there could be true statements in (any sort of) Maths that cannot be proven to be true. This blows out "completeness". He did a figurative 1-2 blow with the second punch being that any "the system cannot demonstrate its own consistency".
A simple example which is usually given is in the sentence "This sentence is false" - a famous paradox that I got to know as early as 10 years old. If the sentence is false, then that means it's true. But if it is true - then it's false. So it's inconsistent ad infinitum. Of course, Gödel stuff are much more complicated but the gist is kind-of the same.
So - if I ever meet (any) God - I will immediately ask him of His resolution to the Omnipotence paradox which is usually stated as "Can You create a stone that you cannot lift?" - assuming of course He knows English, gets meaning and all the other caveats. We as humanity "discovered" maths and also have claims about all sorts of possible maths and that's as far as our slightly-better-than-monkey intellect goes. Maybe there is "something" beyond that, the equivalent of us explaining our simple
1+1=2 rule to a dog and assuming we succeed, asking it to derive Gödel's incompleteness theorems (which by the way, took a surprisingly long time for humanity - we have "discovered" Special and General relativity and most of the postulates of Quantum mechanics was there before we figured out Maths is inconsistent!).
And that's what so much of what we know is build upon? What could we possibly trust?
Communication is impossible
Let's shake of a bit of our existential crisis of knowledge and assume I discover some truth. How do I put it out there at all?
Well, I write a paper and publish it, or to get even simpler - I want to check with my friend that I'm not a looney and send them the paper to review. But then how do I know if they have received it? Well, then they can send me a letter to acknowledge that they have received it. But if I don't get that letter - how do I know if they have received it and sent the letter or if the letter got lost? Well - in that case, once I receive the letter of receipt, I will send them a letter that I have received the receipt. But if they don't receive this second confirmation, how could they know if I have received their confirmation or the first one got lost... They could retransmit but each of the retransmissions could suffer the same problem of unknowability...
This of course is a variant of The Two Generals' Problem - and guess what - there is no solution! The mindful and computey-geeky of my readers would say "Then how does TCP solves it if it's impossible - there is the 3-way handshake thing?" (TCP is on some level how the Internet works btw). Well, TCP doesn't solve it - it provides some guarantees of liveness but it cannot solve it, because it's a paradox that is proven to be unsolvable and you can see the proof in the wiki page above.
But then - imagine we forget about letters and meet on a zoom/jitsi call. Then I can see their expression and know if they have received the information. But then you know what's next - "Hello, do you hear me?" "Yes, I do, do you?" - and this solves it for the previous message, but not for any further - the connection can drop at any moment and each of the one could be speaking to the blank connection - and then we need to reastablish our "hearing each other" again.
OK, screw tech, let's meet face to face (with masks maybe). Then we can surely know that communication happened, right? Well, then the medium is the air between us. And we can assume hearing happens, but the other person can get a stroke at any time, become deaf or just blank out - invisible to us. They can pretend that they listen, but we cannot know if they hear us.
Communication is impossible!
But let's go even further! We don't even want to talk to anybody, just to ourselves. How could we possibly know that we hear our own thoughts and get receipts and confirmations of thoughts. Then the problem is our connectome, our neurons sending these same confirmations of receipts, same two generals' problem but in our own head, happening a billion times a second.
Now if you understood all of that and you are not in an existential crisis, I don't know what could possibly put you in one!
I think therefore... am I?
I'm not the first person, by far, to try to figure out what we know and how could we know it. Rene Descartes's famous "Cogito, ergo sum" is what he describes as ""we cannot doubt of our existence while we doubt" which for my read is his attempt to construct Principia Mathematica in human language - this is what Russel and Whitehead tried to achieve just before Gödel came to the stage to ruin it. They tried to make maths consistent by attempting to remove all possibilities of inconsistence such as "the set of all sets that don't contain themselves". But even though they've written an insane amount of dense pages full of mathematical consistency, Gödel proved that they will fail, even if they succeed writing 100x the text that they began with.
So, no, sorry, Descartes - this won't work even if we wanted to. Even our own thinking may approximate our belief in existence but we will never be able to get a consistent, complete and decidable grasp on reality.
Back to reality - how do we discover things at all?
Okay, forget all this philosophy of impossibles. Let's get a bit closer to our world. Assume we have maths, assume we have communication - what is a "fact" at all?
Let's take our favorite green apple. We point at it and say "this apple is green".
This is "a fact". Or is it?
Assume we even know what is "green" and what is "apple" (we will tear apart this argument soon enough, don't worry). Remember the dress?
Do you see it "blue and black" or "white and gold"? It seems half of the population sees it one way, the other half - the other. It's an interesting visual perception illusion that divided the Internet back in 2013, defusing a World War III by mere luck. Of course, there are many, many, many more visual illusions that demonstrate we cannot possibly trust our sight in many ways, e.g. - the squares below are the same color:
Sight is not our only sense that can be lied to. So can our hearing.
All right, but that's why we have computers and equipment right? We can probe reality and demonstrate what the "truth" of something is without relying on our imperfect senses.
That helps! Somewhat... And that's how we come up with physics, chemistry, biology and all the in-between natural sciences. Both our senses and engineered technology helps us demonstrate from multiple experiments in multiple ways what is real, measurable (up to some errors and statistical significance analysis which is all a field within itself). It is extremely time consuming process...
Back to trust
...that anyone can also cheat. I can write a paper describing I've done some experiment that I haven't, received some result that I haven't, do a wrong analysis on the numbers to prove my point, gather people to do the same, convincing them that this is the right thing to do and so on. This happens - and more often than you think! Scientists are incentivised to write papers in order to get grants/money.
Then the question is of consensus and trusting. Google ranks the search results that you see based on the same idea that scientists trust each other. How many times a paper is cited is a proxy for how trustworthy the paper is. Google calls it pagerank and is a recursive algorithm that values a certain webpage X higher, the higher ranked webpages (Y,Z,A,B) point to the the X one. It's recursive, because "the higher ranked webpages (Y,Z,A,B)" are also ranked in terms of their links from other "higher ranked webpages". So it's a kind of a network of interconnected pages that rank themselves.
And the same is used for scientific articles that cite others. The higher the authority of an author (which is judged by how often one is cited) the higher the authority of the papers that they cite in their current paper.
Of course, the algorithm is not perfect. Google bombing is an early cheat on the search engine that was able to push false information in a higher ranking. Link farming and Content farm are other problems that Google and other search engines fight daily. There is no perfect mathematical solution to trust (as we have seen previously). There is a constant game of cat and mouse. Rich entities (billionaires, governments, interest groups) can create click/link farms and other forms of manipulation techniques.
Translated into the scientific world - we know of the tobacco's industry conspiracies in the 70s that turns out to be true. They "coordinated activities to promote the social acceptability of smoking". This was legitimate equivalent of content farming in the world of scientific research - create uncertainty and doubt, apparently ruining the consensus of scientists. Same with the lightbulb conspiracy that today may still be true in planned obsolescence.
(Un)fortunately, there is no real Google for scientific concensus. There is no ranking of which scientific theory is more correct and the fight that Google pulls of for search results is on the scientific community and media to demonstrate validity of true science and invalidity of bad actors.
I said (un)fortunately because even when we do have Google as the authority for the web - why should they be? Google is a private company, with incentives to get more advertising $$$ from other companies, with responsibilities to their shareholders. It's not a non-profit, it's not an all-good/all-knowing entity as much as it tries to be.
There is another problem when as we see recently when we have such an authority for the web...
Google/Facebook/Twitter are banning Free speech!
As I said: Facebook/Twitter (and Google/YouTube) are private companies. The websites that you visit are created by these private companies. These are their properties, albeit virtual. They are the equivalents of houses, offices, private land or other kind of property in the physical world. They allow you to express your opinion there but they can ban you, oust you or if they want - completely shut down their sites tomorrow. Would any private company allow you to write any graffiti on their buildings? This is the equivalent of all of the above companies.
There is no "free speech" there. Of course, free speech itself is a construct with a lot of asterisks and it is very different in each country what you can say and where without reprecautions. We are relatively more free to express our thoughts and opinions without governmental prosecution but that's not even remotely true when you start looking into the details even into "freedom" countries like the US. The a look into the US free speech exceptions, a short list is:
- False statements of fact
- Child pornography
- Threatening the President of the United States
- Speech owned by others
- Commercial speech
and others. And all of these require interpretation as there is no law in the Universe what is "free speech", any "universal human rights" are vaguely defined based on historical and cultural rules that certain groups of humans has made up, just like how countries and money are made up concepts.
Whose responsibility is it anyway to tell you the truth in a democracy?
Unofficially - the media. It's not the government - they should be kept in check by the people. But what is "the media"? Is it the pagerank-like authority-based trust model? Or is it every single person to make up their own mind?
On the one side societies in which people are considered equal should have the right to make up their own mind. We are, of course, not equal (blasphemy, I know) by whatever definition of equal you want to put. There is no way a 2-day old baby is equal to 32-year old person. There is no way that even the magical 18-year old person is equal to any other 18-year old person - each have their own experience and expertise. Some people understand maths more, some people understand art and history more. Some people have schizophrenia, others have dementia, some have one sort of genitals, others have the other, some have both. So naturally, each trying to discover "the truth" by whatever definition is going to be biased in their own way.
On the other side - trusting the authoritative media - is at an all-time low. Attention span is low so people read the titles of articles, scrolling to the next one on Facebook. So the most bombastic, angrying or annoying article gets attention, gets shared - not necessarily the most true (again - whatever true is). Media gets defunded, noone visits their websites to click on ads, everyone is on Facebook. No one buys newspapers, everything is online. The media is highly concentrated in many countries, some have ties with the government. Freedom of the press tries to measure that.
Then of course, people are unhappy. People are emotional, searching for someone to blame, searching for reason and meaning. They stop trusting big media authorities, because they provide with a scientific, dry, slow arguments - and people want to blame someone or something on their unhapiness. So they turn to "alternative media". Who is to say which one is more correct than the other? Once upon a time you could see "yellow newspapers" full of shit sayings - now these same are a click away, shared on social media, consumed by people who want to be more unique in understanding the world - and the rest are sheep who follow whatever mainstream media and government tells them.
Then there is the Dunning Kruger effect - the less you know, the more likely you are to overestimate your abilities. So if you read something untrue (like that 5G causes covid simptoms), you don't understand even the basics (how electromagnetism works and germ-theory), you look for semantics (theory - meaning it's not proven), adjust to your emotional state (someone is doing this evil on purpose because you need an agent that you can blame, instead of nature being nature) - then you start believing in your own little bubble of understanding and the less you understand, the more likely you are to be firmly entranched in your beliefs - and possibly also spread them.
And then with Facebook/Instagram/Youtube - you find people just like you - so you don't think you are crazy anymore. Other people reached your conclusions, so who is to say what is right? A mental virus in itself.
But which one is more correct? There are true conspiracies that may not be found out immediately by the mainstream. But amongst them there will be a ton of false conspiracies, many, many more and then it's up to each one's filter to figure out which one is true, based on their own psychotic and emotional situation.
A picture is worth a thousand words. How about a video then?
There are lies, there are proofs. And today it's easier to find proofs for whatever you want to believe in. Deepfakes allow us to create images and video of people saying things. Alternative media can use this easily, spreading it, playing on people's weaknesses.
The motivations can be propaganda by a state actor or a crazy uncle somewhere. Anyone can create a Facebook page. You don't pay for hosting like websites and with the right message - get a lot of followers. The right message is not necessarily true in any sense - but it can get a lot of attention.
I don't know where this is going
This post is a brain dump of shitty writing that I almost threw out. But I will put it out there just in case someone learns something new.
I don't have anything conclusive or optimistic to say right now. There is no solace in what I have described. We live in a post-truth world and I have no idea how we get out of it. We are all doomed.
Now I really want to install Windows.
Have a nice day!