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Gaslighting, Trust, and Slow Innovation

In a world of rapid development of all kinds of technology, our innovation of trust is still crude. Trust is the foundation for almost (if not entirely) all social systems/institutions. Our society cannot rely on the merit of discovery alone, because some people are liars. Even people who are truthful in their discovery may be liars about other subjects, discrediting themselves. Even if they cannot tell a lie, perhaps they do not have the charisma or a piece of paper to verify their truth.

We are on the verge of physical technology creating an upheaval of never before seen equality or inequality depending on how things end up being utilized. Yet, with trust, we are not much far off from the caveman.

Seeing Red

Imagine being born into a world where you, and only you can see the color red. As a child, you are seen as having a vivid imagination. As you progress into adolescence, it starts to become a part of your identity – for better or worse. Maybe it’s something that makes you feel cool and different. Your friends think you’re special or ‘edgy.’ Or, maybe you are ashamed of it. Something is wrong with you. You try getting help from a doctor or clergy.

“It’s just a purple-ish gray color,” people say. You know what you are seeing is different from everyone else, but it seems like such a trivial part of life that you just press on trying to ignore it. With each minor argument about color, you begin to train yourself to simply stop talking about it. You avoid employment in creative or scientific fields that may put too much emphasis on the subject of color.

Moving through life, it continues to itch at you. You start becoming cynical and bitter. Why can’t people just believe you? Eventually, maybe you go through a rigorous process of measuring light. You find your own way to prove that red exists; however, you do not have a degree. You do not have connections in the scientific community. You do not have anything other than your word and your work. The work should be enough.

Still, no one believes you. Maybe you can’t show your work to the people with the expertise to know you’re right. Maybe they feel threatened by the fact that a lamen discovered a new color even though they made it their life’s work. Maybe you lack the social skills and they simply don’t like you, so they say you’re wrong.

Submitting to Powerlessness

Eventually, you give up. Maybe you make a few inventions that leverage your ability to see red when others cannot. Maybe you move on with life, forgetting this part of you. Maybe you become socially withdrawn and generally hostile toward authority and institutions.

…Or Not

Maybe you keep pressing on with your Red cause. Maybe you’re lucky enough that there were people before you that also saw red. Maybe they also went through the same struggles as you. Maybe their collective effort brought the concept of Red into the Overton window. Maybe you’ll be hailed as the genius who proved what many before you could not.

If you look at many innovations in our world that is adopted by the masses, a story like this can be found and repeated over and over. Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake for his claims of the now widely accepted infinite universe and supporting Copernicus’s heliocentric model. We now know the Copernican model to be wrong, but not completely wrong. Just as the universe may not truly be infinite.

Just as you know Red exists, you may not be able to communicate that there is many different types of red. Perhaps you identified an orange-y red of some kid as the ultimate red. You weren’t completely right, but you did the best with the tools and words you have available to you in your time.

Trust and Blockchain

Bitcoin/blockchain and the solving of the Two General’s Problem will likely eventually be seen as slightly incorrect as a system of trust. Even so, it is the first most profound solution for our society’s trust problems. I had a friend who lived in the midst of some of the most important innovations at a breakneck pace. Mass adoption of electricity, nuclear fusion, the internet, the list goes on. He remarked to me how AI is one of the few innovations of late to be truly world-changing. He did not include blockchain in this list of recent innovation.

I don’t blame him. Blockchain is boring. It’s rife with scams. Ironically, the system has been built as a system of trust yet overrun with untrustworthy people. Our sun may be the center of the solar system, but it is not the center of our universe. Blockchain appears to me as the equivalent of the invention of steel. Steel can make a great sword. Eventually, steel can be used for so many technologies. Used for architecture, machinery, tools, and so much more.

Is blockchain the center of trust? I doubt it. The Copernican model isn’t correct, but it was a start. Blockchain may not be correct, but it’s a start.

Innovating Trust Is Our Greatest Imperative for the Future

It seems likely that within our century, artificial intelligence may reach a singularity event. I wonder what that may look like if humans still cannot trust each other? What will we do when we yet again shut down someone who is seeing red? What if that red is the future blood spilled from the misuse of AI or other civilization-ending technologies? Many cynical fictions say we are cavemen with nukes. This is because we still do not know how to trust or be truthful.

It’s Not All Doom and Gloom, Though!

The wonderful thing is we can all as individuals be a part of the solution. In the climate crisis, you as an individual can save the world by reducing your waste and emissions. In our trust crisis, you can start being more truthful. Start by facing truths within yourself. We all lie. If you think you do not, you are likely right, but only half-right. If you are truthful to others, that might be correct, but chances are quite high you are still lying to yourself.

When you identify that you are capable of lying to yourself, you will begin to see that you have been lying to others all along. Whether you are a liar or not, start calling out the lies you tell yourself. This will make you surprisingly honest. Life gets easier. Harder in some ways as well, but there is a net gain. I know this because I have done it myself.

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