Truth vs Consensus
Truth can be thought of either as something which we can prove by experiments or it can be the result of a consensus. A scientific fact is arrived at by the process of conducting scientific experimentation. A mathematical fact is discovered by finding a proof. Consensus is discovered by analysis of sentiment (or by voting) to determine what the majority currently believes at a point in time about a subject. The truth of the scientists might not match up with the popular consensus at the time. The mathematical proof might say one thing but a majority of people might agree to disagree with the math. We have seen this happen in the past and this blog post is a discussion on that topic. Particularly for Tauchain we have the question of what is the truth and what is more important? Do we care more about the truth or more about consensus?
Tauchain offers helpers in the form of reasoners and logic to improve the quality of discussion. These helpers will not necessarily work unless people agree to accept the results generated. In addition, the bias people inherently have could influence what they discuss in the first place which could create a consensus but not necessarily an improvement.
Consensus as Truth
According to the "truth by consensus" paradigm the truth is produced by consensus gentium. Consensus gentium means agreement of the people. In my previous post I discussed exactly this topic: Consensus Morality and Tauchain | Consensus Gentium. To be specific we can think of consensus gentium to mean: "the truth is what everyone currently believes". In this model of truth we can only get the truth by finding out what everyone believes but how do we determine what people believe? It is a challenge to find a way to determine what people actually believe in a blockchain context. One method of attempting this is called Futarchy which provides an economic reward and an economic cost for having correct or incorrect beliefs. In essence under Futarchy the people must bet on their beliefs rather than just vote. Under Futarchy prediction markets are used to apply market elements to produce a market consensus truth.
Consensus gentium in an environment where there is persecution and or coercion can result in widely held "beliefs" which are enforced into existence such as the belief in geocentrism. Victims of this kind of persecution may include Galileo who was forced to recant his beliefs or face the inquisition. Ancient Greek philosopher Anaximander proposed that the universe revolved around the earth and this idea caught on. Once the idea caught on it became the gospel truth and over time it became blasphemous to dispute this belief. We continue to see this happen even now in the cryptospace with for example the belief of "code is law" or that "blockchains must be immutable", but these too are beliefs based on a particular set of values which the holders of these beliefs hold dear.
Consensus as a regulative ideal
A descriptive theory is one that tells how things are, while a normative theory tells how things ought to be. Expressed in practical terms, a normative theory, more properly called a policy, tells agents how they ought to act. A policy can be an absolute imperative, telling agents how they ought to act in any case, or it can be a contingent directive, telling agents how they ought to act if they want to achieve a particular goal. A policy is frequently stated in the form of a piece of advice called a heuristic, a maxim, a norm, a rule, a slogan, and so on. Other names for a policy are a recommendation and a regulative principle.
In this case we have a distinction between the way things are and the way things ought to be. Policies can be directed to shape the way things ought to be.
The problem with consensus as truth | argumentum ad populum
If consensus equals truth, then truth can be made by forcing or organizing a consensus, rather than being discovered through experiment or observation, or existing separately from consensus. The principles of mathematics also do not hold under consensus truth because mathematical propositions build on each other. If the consensus declared 2+2=5 it would render the practice of mathematics where 2+2=4 impossible.
A big problem is that of coercion. Another big problem is that popular opinion can in fact lead to really bad outcomes. If something is true at a point of time merely because a lot of people believe it then we are basing our decisions merely on what a lot of people believe. This can result in decisions which satisfy what is popular yet also unwise. A lot of people believe a lot of crazy wrong stuff but this does not mean they do not passionately believe it. The question of truth is more about what is true even if not very many people believe it. Geocentricism turned out to be false even though a lot of people believed it at some point in time. On the other hand the laws of physics appear to be true for 13 billion years even during times when a lot of people didn't believe it.
The State, or the ruling government, has the special role of taking care of the people; however, what distinguishes the Chinese ruling government from other ruling governments is the respectful attitude of the citizens, who regard the government as part of their family. In fact, the ruling government is "the head of the family, the patriarch." Therefore, the Chinese look to the government for guidance as if they are listening to their father who, according to Chinese tradition, enjoys high reverence from the rest of the family. Furthermore, "still another tradition that supports state control of music is the Chinese expectation of a verbal 'message.'" A "verbal message" is the underlying meaning behind people's words. In order to get to the "verbal message," one needs to read into words and ask oneself what the desired or expected response would be.
The power of ambiguity and of ambiguity minimization in communication. By Dana Edwards on Steemit. June 1, 2018.
Formal communication benefits from ambiguity minimization.
So what exactly do I mean by formal communication? Well when we think of how human beings communicate with machines it is in a formal language. This formal language requires minimized ambiguity for security analysis (how can we analyze code if we cannot effectively interpret it?). The other problem is that the machines require for example that if... then... else and similar conditional statements are well defined and unambiguous.
Is it possible to show that a grammar is unambiguous?
To show a grammar is unambiguous you have to argue that for each string in the language there is only one derivation tree. This is how it would be done theoretically speaking.
In computer science, an ambiguous grammar is a context-free grammar for which there exists a string that can have more than one leftmost derivation or parse tree, while an unambiguous grammar is a context-free grammar for which every valid string has a unique leftmost derivation or parse tree. Many languages admit both ambiguous and unambiguous grammars, while some languages admit only ambiguous grammars.
Specifically we know that deterministic context free grammars must be unambiguous. So we know unambiguous grammars exist. It appears the strategy is ambiguity minimization with regard to formal languages (such as computer programming languages).
For computer programming languages, the reference grammar is often ambiguous, due to issues such as the dangling else problem. If present, these ambiguities are generally resolved by adding precedence rules or other context-sensitive parsing rules, so the overall phrase grammar is unambiguous. The set of all parse trees for an ambiguous sentence is called a parse forest.
The parse forest is an important concept to note. All possible parse trees for an ambiguous sentence is called a "parse forest". This concept is key to understanding the strategy of ambiguity minimization. So we can in practice minimize ambiguity and we know for certain that deterministic context free grammars admit an unambiguous grammar but what does that mean? What are the benefits of unambiguous language in general?
A benefit of ambiguity minimization
Simple English is a form of controlled English designed to minimize ambiguity in English. This is important because by using simple English to codify the rules or write the laws it puts it in a language where there is less of a computational expense (in brain power) to process and interpret the statements.
In one of my older blogposts @omitaylor commented and in one of her future posts she asked about the topic of love. In specific her post was titled: "What Does LOVE Mean To YOU"
Her post highlights the fact that there are different love languages and that we don't all speak the same love language. Ambiguity here is actually not a good thing but the simple fact is when someone speaks about love how do we know they are talking about the same thing? As a result we often seek an agreed upon or formally defined "love concept" where we all agree it's love. This is not trivial to find and as a result a topic like love is not easy to discuss in any serious manner. Unambiguous communication or to be more precise (minimized ambiguity) would allow Alice to discuss with Bob the topic of love in a way where they both know exactly what the other is referring to in terms of behavioral expectations, emotions/feelings, etc.
If Alice agrees to love Bob then Bob has no way to determine what Alice means unless he and she agree on a mutually defined concept of love. This highlights how agreement requires very good communication and how minimizing ambiguity can be beneficial at least in this example.
Ambiguity minimization makes sense when you are following a principle of computational kindness. That is if Alice would like to reduce the computational burden on Bob then she can reduce or minimize the ambiguity of her sentence. This is because in order for Bob to interpret an ambiguous sentence Bob must in essence sort all possible interpretations of that sentence from most likely interpretation to least likely interpretation, and before he can even sort he must first search in order to find all possible or at least plausible interpretations.
This is very computationally expensive for Bob but very cheap for Alice. Alice knows exactly what she means but Bob has no clue what Alice REALLY means.
A benefit of ambiguity
There are other examples where increasing ambiguity could be beneficial, such as perhaps when the communication is less than formal, or to share a stream of consciousness without turning it into a formal communication. Humor for example rides on ambiguity and a good joke may have multiple layers. Art also leverages ambiguity because it's perhaps meant to be interpreted 20 different ways all to produce a certain desired affect.
Ambiguity allows more meaning to be packed into fewer words. This in a sense is a sort of compression scheme. So if a sentence has multiple possible meanings the levels or meanings are still finite. It's a fixed amount of meanings and so theoretically speaking a search can be conducted. In fact this is what a human being does when interpreting natural language where a sentence can have multiple meanings (they do a search for all possible interpretations of that sentence). The problem with this is that it is computationally expensive as a process at least for the human being to try to figure out all possible interpretations of a sentence.
Lawyers when they do their work are working with a specific knowledge base of common legal sentences and common interpretations known in their profession but the rest of us might see a sentence in lawyer-speak and not really know what it means because we will not know the common interpretations. This is a big problem of course because to form agreements between two parties both parties need to have a common understanding (a kind of knowledge symmetric understandability) allowing them both to interpret roughly the same sentence to mean the same thing.
Logo by CapitanArt
Enlaces / Links
Logo by CapitanArt
Archivos / Archives
Suggested readings to better understand the Tau ecosystem, Tau Meta Language, Tau-Chain and Agoras, and collaborate in the development of the project.
Lecturas sugeridas para entender mejor el ecosistema Tau, Tau Meta Lenguaje, Tau-Chain y Agoras, y colaborar en el desarrollo del proyecto.