Thursday, July 18, 2013

The truth is out there (ED504)

We played a game called “Twenty Questions and Two Lies” in class the other day. It was standard game of Twenty Questions, with the caveat that the answerer was allowed to tell two lies. There were some other rules, but we wouldn’t go too far into the details. The game was thought provoking.

I wonder what the best strategy is. I was thinking from that start that it would be worthwhile to ask each question twice. If we asked ten questions (twice) it would just be a matter of determining the one case where he lied or possibility dealing with two ambiguous cases. Another thought would be to use conjunctions to speed up the process of error checking. We could have asked if the person was alive. Question two would have been about if the person was born in the twentieth century. Then we could have asked if the person was alive and born in the twentieth century. While we couldn’t ask “Are you telling the truth?” we could have effectively gotten the answer just by the creative use of conjunctions. If P is true and Q is true, then the P (triangle) Q has to be true.
Aside from the exercise in logic, the game did relate to the internet. The key difference is that people on the internet are not limited to two lies. I can write whatever I want to up here. Maybe we didn’t play a game called “Twenty Questions and Two Lies”. It is up to you to figure out a method for verifying what I say. How would you verify that? The short answer is sources. The more sources we can find that agree, the more confident that we can be in our answers unless. . . .it turns out that truth isn’t probabilistic. So, while we can find multiple sources, analyze their credibility and make a judgment call, we could still be wrong.
That leads us the decision to be skeptical. Unlike the cynic, the skeptic believes in truth. It is just a matter of understanding the difficulty of finding that truth. “. . . now we see in a mirror, dimly. . .”

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