Truth Is Not as Easy as It Seems

We are all concerned about the lies, denials, and ignoring science and facts that we are experiencing in our economic, political, social and personal experiences. I argue that the common prescriptions of science and fact are not enough. Specifically, there are many examples of truth being difficult to determine:

A common issue in determining truth is the parameters we assume. For example, everyone has an opinion about how the stock market has performed recently but defining reality is not always simple. In 2018 the total value of S&P 500 was $ 21 Trillion dollars. In 2021 it was $40 trillion and in 2022 it is  currently about $ 30 trillion. Thus in 2022 the index lost over 20 % but between 2018 and 2022 you gained about 30 %. Which truth is more relevant?

Similarly in discussing population trends, many express concerns that population growth in developed countries is both slowing down and getting older. However, the African population is growing at a rate of 2.5 % per year. In addition, 40 % of the African population is under 15 years old compared to about 25 % in developed countries. Thus, even static factors like population estimates are dependent on the universe we define.

Truth is also greatly affected by our distortions of information. Bias, cognitive dissonance, prejudice and pre-determined opinions can all affect our perceptions of truth. As stated in To Kill a Mockingbird, “People generally see what they are looking for and hear what they listen for. “  

Even the simple question of “How are you?” can be distorted. Some say fine regardless of their situation, others enhance every ailment, and listeners frequently ask to be polite rather than caring about the answer. Diabetics in particular pursue normal lives and downplay the inconvenience of their disease.  

Truth is also greatly determined by probabilities and priorities. We frequently make mistaken estimates and ignore warning signs of failure. Similarly, we fail to calculate the value of the reward in relation to probability. 

Truth is also greatly affected by the importance of different factors. We tend to analyze the factors we think will help us the most rather than the ones that are most important. For example, much of our analysis can be based on numerous irrelevant and time periods that are inappropriate. Current analysis must include careful consideration of the pandemic on results from 2020 to 2022.

In general, we do pursue truth and the proper tools to analyze it. However, we must also be cognizant of the challenges in analyzing and adapt to them.

Related: Can Risk Create New Opportunities?