Our minds on media.

Musings on the effects of media on cognition.

Fact as Asymptote

A recent CNET article talked about how someone injected a fake article into Wikipedia for the purpose of adding a clue for an ARG (Alternate Reality Game) prompting the web to re-visit a debate on the reliabilty of information on the web. I propose that the problem with specific chunks of fact on the Internet will solve itself. Part of my research into information and memetics has led me toward a model of information that is not precisely like the solid true/false nature that you tend to see on a micro-information level. What I call the macro-information model is more like the averaging of information bits across various sources. Information in this sense is less like a fact and more like a fact facet (apologies for the silly consonance).

A Fact would be something that can be considered to be objectively true, the end result of a deductive process say. All men die. Socrates is a man. Therefore Socrates will die. This sort of logic (deductive) is relatveily unassailable because if you agree with the premises (the first two statements) then you must logically accept the conclusion. But even a Fact arrived at in a deductive process is dependent upon the information of its premises. And more so in the case of a Fact derived from inductive logic. An example of inductive logic would be “The sun has come up every day so it will come up tomorrow.” In inductive logic it is easier to see how information builds toward a conclusion. The more days the sun has come up that you have on record the more likely you are to be in possession of a Fact.

So, what I’m driving at is that infomation contributes to a Fact. The more information you have, the closer you are to the Fact and intuitively I would say that this process is asymptotic in nature. The larger amount of information you gather, the closer you are to the truth, but you can never entirely get there because you can never have all of the information about anything. Your information’s accuracy will accrue but it will never be perfect. Also, after a while, any extra bit of information you can gather is worth less. Perhaps Value is a better term than Quantity here but I think the picture is complete enough to move on.

Wikipedia is an aggregation of information. It will never be perfect but it also will never likely stop growing at this point. Despite the seeming choas of so many people contributing at once to something like a gathering of facts, Wikipedia will essentially ferret the facts out becaues of its increasing density. I think some people worry that outliers of information won’t be able to be a part of this growing resource but given that it is an aggregation in nature I see no reason why disputes can’t be noted. It’s as if to say, “Well, A is what everybody thinks is the case about X although some people believe B instead.” It’s an encyclopedia and opinion should be beyond the realm of its concern.

The truth gets sussed out this way. Our courts have never been perfect institutions but they do a fantastic job of gathering evidence to ponder. They assure us that more evidence leads us closer to the truth — never all the way but always hopefully close enough to be safe.

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