This is my first in depth video describing the concept of truth as information with Value, or Information with Ability to Increase Effectiveness. Below is an approximation of the video content.
Welcome to the value of truth podcast. This is an introduction to the concept of truth that, I hope, is better able to be used to actually understand and describe the world. A concept of truth that much more clearly defines what truth is and more importantly, what it actually does.
Currently, truth is often thought of in terms of propositions, like sentences, and if they agree with, or correspond to, reality. Our conception of truth revolves around statements like “The puppy is brown”, and then calling the statement true if the puppy is actually brown, and false if it is not.
This is an introduction to a different way to think about truth that begins by defining truth in a different way. Truth, in the framework of true value theory, Is defined as Information with Ability to Increase effectiveness. Information that can help you complete real tasks in the real world. This is because truth is information that corresponds with reality. This concept of truth sees truth as a property of information. The carrier, or truth-bearer, can be light, sound, ordered symbols. Any kind of information can be truth.
First consider truth as some kind of statement that has something to do with reality. A statement is Information that corresponds with reality. True value theory takes it a step further. Instead of leaving truth as simply a true or false statement about reality, ask, what does truth actually DO. What can information that corresponds with reality DO in the real world. How is it helpful. Truth is helpful, because if you have information about the world, that actually corresponds to the real world, it helps you DO things more easily. Help you interact with, and predict the world around you.
In this way the important characteristic of truth is the effect truth has in the real world. Defining truth as Information with Value, or information with Ability to increase effectiveness, defines the concept of truth by its effect it has in the world. So what is a real example of this kind of truth?
The most powerful example of truth is your Visual information. Visual information is Truth, or information that can increase effectiveness, because it is information that helps you effectively navigate the world. You can complete almost any task more easily because you have the information about the world that your eyes provide. Vision is a very good truth because it is very helpful. It helps you wash the dishes, walk around your house, drive your car. This is because what you see with your eyes, has a very good correspondence with reality, of how reality actually works. It is therefore very objectively valuable information about the world. This property of being helpful, of making you more effective at completing real tasks, in the real world, is what PROVES that vision has correspondence with reality, and therefore what makes vision truth.
Pain is also a kind of truth. It is information about the world that helps prevents you from getting injured. If you put your hand in scalding water, pain information from your nerve cells will cause you to quickly take your hand out of the burning water, before any significant damage is done. Pain also makes you aware of harmful behavior so you don’t do it again. If you stub your toe on a step, you will be likely to remember that step and take action to not injure your toe again. In both cases, pain is helpful information because it alerts you to injury, and helps you prevent it in the future. In this way, pain is a kind of truth because it is, again, information that is objectively helpful, or valuable.
In this sense your truth, or information with value, is the information that makes up your conscious perception of reality. The way you picture reality. Having better truth, or better information about reality, allows you to more easily predict and interact with reality.
So what would it mean to have a bad truth? Or to have your truth taken away? Lets say you had to wear VR goggles all the time that played random, incoherent footage that had nothing to do with what was going on outside. Your visual perception, the information coming in from your eyes would no longer have anything to do with reality. If you were asked to perform a task in the real world, like walk around your house, you wouldn’t be able to do it, because the information from your eyes is no longer information that can help you navigate in the real world. Losing truth, by definition decreases effectiveness. Not having good information about reality stops you from being able to interact with reality. Having a poor truth, or no truth, is almost like a physical cage, in that it prevents you from being able to effectively do what you want, effectively interact with the real world.
So how do facts fit into this way of thinking? Facts are a kind of specific information that corresponds with reality. Facts are valuable, because they tell you something about reality, that you don’t have to find yourself.
In true value theory a fact is considered an accurate prediction of the outcome of an experiment.
For example, When you say it is a fact that the tree is 30 feet high, what you are really saying is, I predict that when you measure the height of this tree, you will get a value of 30 feet. If that prediction turns out to be true, if when you measure the tree it is in fact 30 feet high, the fact proves itself accurate. What is crucial to understand is that no facts HAVE to be true. Nothing that anybody says or thinks about the tree has any effect on the tree’s actual height. The tree could be 33 feet high even if everybody in the world thinks it is a fact that it is 30 feet high. The way reality actually is never has to align with the way we say or think that it is. Facts are useful information about reality, because they tell you information that accurately predicts the outcomes of experiments, without you having to find the information, or do the experiments yourself. If you are told, for example, there is 3 blocks down the road, It allows you to find the store much more quickly than if you had to search for the store yourself. It makes a prediction about reality, about the location of a store, that you verify when you actually go to the store.
This way of thinking about truth, as information with value, actually sets a higher bar for truth than simple face. It actually sets a higher standard. Truth also has to do with HOW the information is communicated. With what intention it is communicated. When considering truth as information with value, think of it as information with value to you. Information that is maximally helpful to you. That is fully in your own best interest. If information is not fully valuable to you, and communicated in a way that is in your own best interest, it is not fully truth.
This is the case EVEN if the information is factually correct. Consider the case of Advertisement. Advertisement is a kind of information that is not truth. An advertisement, by definition, is information presented for the interest of a company, to influence you to buy a product. The way the information is presented, and the intention behind the information is not in your best interest, it is in the company’s. Think about a coca cola ad for example. These ads are designed to serve the interests of the coca cola company, not your own. They are crafted to get you to consume their product, a sugary soft drink. Is the consumption of soft drinks really in your best interest, or is it in theirs? When you are exposed to the information from advertisements, you are essentially getting information about the world designed to get you to think and do things that are in the interests of others, and not your own This gets you to actually think and act in ways that may be harmful to yourself, while being in the best interest of others. This is why being in a non-truthful environment can be so objectively harmful.
In order to be truth to you, information must be presented and communicated in a way that it is maximally beneficial to you. With your best interests in mind first and foremost. Only then is the information maximally valuable to you. Only then is it fully truth.
How does this concept of truth work when expanded out over all of human civilization? To ask, what is humanity’s truth is to ask, what is the information that human civilization knows, that has ability to increase human effectiveness. This is our information with value. Scientific and technological information are both powerful sets of truth. This information enables us to interact with and predict the world in very precise and powerful ways. We know scientific Information is truth, that it is information that somehow corresponds with reality, because it is information that allows us to more effectively interact with reality, and predict how reality behaves. Scientific information is truth because it is information with ability to increase human effectiveness.
In the same way, the information used to design and build technology is truth, because the technology actually works in the real world to increase people’s effectiveness. For example, we know that the information used to design and build cars is truth, because the cars actually work in the real world to help transport people from place to place.
Humanity’s truth in this way is also the information that allows us to more effectively live and work together. Our laws and customs, morality and values are part of our truth. Moral truth can be considered as information that makes human beings behave more effectively together. In this way moral truth is information that increases the effectiveness of human societies. Caring about each other, not stealing, killing, or telling lies, are basic social truths, because they are collectively a set of information that allow human societies to be more effective. They correspond with the reality of social interaction.
Finally, humanity’s truth lies in our understanding of ourselves as individuals. Our ability to understand and respect who we are what we need. The knowledge and skills required to be effective human beings on an individual level is a fundamental human truth. What we need to eat, what we need to know about ourselves
In this way truth is the single most valuable thing humanity has. Without our truth, our valuable information about our world, our civilization could not exist, our technology couldn’t exist. Our own understanding of ourselves, who and what we are couldn’t exist. Truth isn’t just information. Our truth is how we see the world, and it is ultimately who we are.
Understanding this, understanding how valuable and precious our truth really is, that it is this truth that allows humanity to thrive and grow, is key to understanding how to get to a better future. Letting private interests control information, control what we see, hear, and think about the world, is damaging the most important thing we have as a society, our valuable information about ourselves and the world.