What is true?
true 1. in accordance with fact or reality. 2. genuine; not spurious or counterfeit.
– Oxford English Dictionary
Offline or online, the world is a wide web of truths. It’s a shopping mall. A huge marketplace of all kinds of truths. Little truths. Big truths. There are many, many truths. Millions of them. These truths live in brains and are, literally, hopping about from brain to brain via smartphones all day long, 24/7. Yes, 365.
There are all kinds of truths that want to live in your brain. Some are true and some are untrue. There are acquired truths. There are real truths. There are new truths and old truths. Unscientific and scientific. Low-probability and high-probability. Dormant and dominant. Lazy and busy. Simple truths. Complex. Vicious and virtuous truths. Dumb. Clever. Logical and lateral. Popular truths and secret ones. Fast truths and slow truths. There are convenient truths and inconvenient truths. etc. etc.
I’ve repeated the OED definition of true again at the head of this chapter because we can divide all these truths into two general categories: fake and real.
To paraphrase the OED, fake truths are spurious and counterfeit. Real truths accord with fact and reality.
There are hives of truths, megahives, There are places that host replicating truths. For example Facebook and Wikipedia and Weibo. Here there are millions of truths buzzing about from brain to brain on second-by-second
transactions at the speed of light across the wired world. Some truths are better at replicating than others. Some win. Some lose.
Remember, truths always need homes to live in and these homes are human brains. The most successful truths are the ones that are good at acquiring brains. They spread, virally, from brain to brain across the web.
Other truths are less successful and some may not even survive. This is the darwinian fate of truths. Replicate or die!
Now. This is the thing. Get ready for may what come as a big shock. Because the cognitive consequences of this next insight are huuuuuuuge!
The most successful truths are not always the real truths!
Fake truths often spread faster than real truths. Counterfeit memes are often more popular than facts. Convenient truths may acquire many more brains than inconvenient truths.
So, from now on, we may need to divide all the truths in the world into two general categories: fake and real.
- Real truths are those truths that are supported by facts and most accord with reality. They have the balance of evidence on their side.
- Fake truths are those that are simply good at getting replicated into your brain but are not real truths at all.