Truth is highly subjective and depends on the individual context, likes, personality, and ethical values of a person. What is “truth” for you depends in whom you trust and in whom you believe. If you are a farmer and Republican voter of Donald Trump in the rust belt of the US, you believe China needs to be punished for ripping of the US and you trust the words of Donald Trump and are willing to sacrifice sales of your grain or pork to China for the greater good of your country. If you are a Chinese Communist party member, you believe the US is striving for World domination and is using whatever means available to subdue China, you trust the words of Xi Jinping and are willing to bring personal sacrifices for the greater good of the Chinese nation. The same split perception of what is “true” applies to many other issues, from the effectiveness or dangers of vaccines, miracle cures against the Coronavirus, to when the world was created (4.54 billion years ago according to science, less than 10,000 years ago according to creationists). As nobody can actually go back and check for themselves, we have to trust and believe either the scientists, or the spiritual leaders of the Christian fundamentalists. To back up their claims, both the creationist leaders and the scientists show us long chains of “facts”. “Facts” can be photos of fossilized dinosaur feet stepping over human feet, proving according to creationists that dinosaurs and humans lived at the same time, about 8000 years ago. “Facts” can also be the physical formulas that prove the existence of spacetime curvature predicted by Einstein. Both of these “facts” are impossible to verify for the person on the street, and so believers of a particular “fact” take them at face value thanks to their trust in the people coming up with these “facts”.
Ethics and Personality Define How to Interpret Somebody’s Claim to Truth
Depending on our motivation, we will apply a different definition of truth to solve a particular problem:
- Donald Trump’s mantra is “truth is what gets me re-elected”. If he says that hydroxychloroquine will cure Corona virus infection, this is because he assumes that having a cheap and easily available "miracle cure" will increase his chances of re-election.
- A sales guy’s mantra is “truth is what sells my product”. If a pharma vendor of hydroxychloroquine says that hydroxychloroquine will cure Corona virus infection this is because the sales guy wants to sell more of his pills.
- If a doctor tells a patient that hydroxychloroquine will cure her Corona virus infection this might be because this is the only drug he has available to help the sick patient.
What Donald Trump, the sales guy, and the doctor do, is closely tied to their ethical values.
It has been shown that particular personality characteristics go along with certain ethical values and professions. For instance, using the FFI personality test, agreeability and conscientiousness is prevalent in highly religious people, while academics show very different personality characteristics: A scientist will be open to new ideas, and willing to question existing beliefs and authority, but will be much less agreeable and less conscientious. A creationist will value tradition and authority over progressive ideas. As “birds of a feather flock together”, creationists will all believe similar facts, and they will show similar personality characteristics. In other words, they will flock together in “virtual tribes”.
4 Main Belief-Systems define alternative realities
In an earlier blogpost I introduced a belief system based on digital virtual tribes which has now been extended to four categories:
- Fatherlanders – like to maintain the status quo, they do not like change, and they very much distinguish between “us” and “them”. Not surprisingly, fatherlanders show the same characteristics as highly religious people. Usually their value system combines “god and fatherland”. On a side note, over the course of human history more people have been killed for “god and fatherland” than for anything else.
- Nerds – are believers in science and progress, looking for solutions to their problems from new insights in science and technology. At the same time, many nerds are also shrewd investors converting their technological savvy into personal fortunes, just look at Bill Gates, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Mark Zuckerberg, and Elon Musk.
- Treehuggers – are environmentalists fighting for the protection of nature and the environment, against global warming, and against unfettered growth and robber capitalism.
- Spiritualists – believe in supernatural forces, and in the power of their own mind to achieve a higher level of awareness, mindfulness, and happiness.
A challenge to a deeply ingrained belief will only be accepted from an established leader in the same belief-realm. This means that if a Nobel-prize winning scientist would tell another person, another nerd with a similar personality and belief system that “the world has been created less than 10,000 years ago”, this would be far more credible to the nerd than if a fundamental Christian would say the same thing. On the other hand, fundamental Christians will accept the claim that the world was created less than 10,000 years ago as a fact, as it is supported by their spiritual leaders, while they don’t really trust science, speculating that many claims of science might be just a ploy to justify world domination.
The Belief System Predicts Individual Behavior
To predict how somebody will react, we thus will need the believe system of a person. If I know your personality and your ethical values, I will. know what is truth for you. The picture below shows how the four different tribal belief systems lead to four different truths about curing a Corona virus infection.
Knowing your virtual tribe we can predict what you will do if you fear you are down with the Coronavirus: if you will go buy Remdesivir, you are a nerd; if you will pray for healing, while maybe swallowing a few pills of Hydroxychloroquine, you are a fatherlander, if you will scour the web for herbal remedies – a Madagascan herb (artemisia annua) seems a current favorite – you are a fanatic treehugger, and if you muster the inner forces of your body through meditation to fight the virus you are a spiritualist.
Can we Discover your Ethical Values and Personality?
It would be great if we could put a magic bracelet on anybody, and then know what their truth is – this will also relieve their need to lie, as their magic bracelet will show their truth to the world anyway. Well, there is such a bracelet. Over the last four years, based on prior work using sociometric badges, we have developed the Happimeter, which measures the body signals of an individual such as heartrate, movement through accelerometer, and speech patterns (no content) from sound, and location changes through the GPS. It works with smartwatches (the current version runs with Android Wear and Apple Watch) and will predict your personality characteristics and ethical values.
As second way to discover ethical values, personality, and belief system of an individual is through the words that one uses. We have shown that word usage in e-mails predicts ethical values, personality characteristics, and tribal belief system.
This means that using AI and machine learning, the way how you talk, and the way how you move your body will predict whether you say the truth – that is, what you believe is the truth, and nothing but the truth!