Truth value as magnitude of predictions

George Hosu
17 min readApr 5, 2020

This article was originally published on my blog: https://blog.cerebralab.com/Truth_value_as_magnitude_of_predictions

The best way to discern truths from lies is to see if they have a probability and a margin of error attached to them.

The second best way to do so is to ask when the people holding those potential truths were able to bring them to bear to alter the course of the world.

Once you get past the silly phenomenological and metaphysical layers (i.e. “Do chairs exist ?” Style questions) the problem of truth becomes rather interesting.

In that “truth”, as we commonly use it, will always be dependent on the context, the individual thinking or saying it and the inherent errors in the ways we determine it.

Sometimes (usually) we consider the errors or the probability of it being “true” as being negligible, other times we go to great lengths to determine them.

When looking at a chair it’s rather obvious that the mental map we have for any given chair will differ between individuals. If two people were to strive towards perfectly describing a chair there might be some amount of difference between their description, but the difference would be of no consequence. Thus, we don’t ascribe any error bars to the truth of an object being a chair.

When looking at the data resulting from the collision between some particles, the instruments will have collected certain things that we consider to be truthful insights into the events… and indeed, one could argue they differ much less than the mental pictures two individuals have of a given chair.

However, we still try our best to determine the potential errors our instruments might induce and account for them, thus attaching a margin of error and a probability to the observation, because even minute errors in particle physics are going to be much more consequential than even glaring errors in two individual’s conception of a chair.

That’s also why discussions around gathering and interpreting data from particle accelerators is a much more pertinent subject than a discussion between a myope and a hyperope regarding their mental image of a chair. In a way both of these discussions involve truth claims, but the former is a “truth” that’s worth defining more clearly. I would argue that, the very reason why we might feel like this is so, is how we can end up creating a better definition…

--

--

George Hosu

You can find my more recent thoughts at https://www.epistem.ink | I cross-post some of the articles to medium.