The Tyranny Of Truth Vs. Crowdsourcing The Truth:

An Ancient Battle In A New Form

A screenshot of an episode of Jason Goodman’s podcast entitled “Crowdsource The Truth,” during which he interviewed the former CBS correspondent Sharyl Attkisson.

Part 2: Crowdsourcing The Truth: An Ancient Principle & Practice Returning Just In Time

Immediately below the title to this post is a screenshot of a podcast called “Crowdsource The Truth” (Twitter handle: @csthetruth) produced by Jason Goodman. The title “Crowdsource The Truth” is an appropriate one for Goodman’s podcasts since he typically invites one or more guests to participate in person (I have participated in one along with Charles Ortel) and in addition he incorporates into each podcast questions and comments he receives from his internet audience in real time. Each of his podcasts is thus a demonstration of crowdsourcing the truth.

Based on the topics Goodman’s podcasts have recently focused on it might seem as if crowdsourcing the truth is a methodology that plays to a conservative agenda. Indeed, given the polarization of political opinion in the US, playing to or for a ‘crowd’ could easily be stigmatized as betraying fascist tendencies. The word ‘crowd’ and terms closely associated with it can have strongly negative connotations. “Ochlocracy” is the fancy ‘SAT’ word derived from ancient Greek for ‘crowd’ (ochlo-) rule (-cracy) that in antiquity was considered to be the antithesis of any form of rational rule. Nevertheless, ‘crowdsourcing the truth’ is an ancient principle and practice, and it is one that, far from deserving to be left behind and forgotten (as it has been for millennia), is returning just in time.

As is suggested by the connection of crowdsourcing with ‘open source’ computer code (which is a type of language) what is ancient about crowdsourcing relates to language.

Exactly how language evolved is not clear, though it is fair to characterize it as ‘evolving’ given its vital importance to human evolution. As I have written about in other posts, its evolution appears to have been closely related to the use of fire and thus cooking food: people sitting around a fire cooking, eating and talking. Well educated ‘PhD’ guesses are that it may have been as recently as 40,000 years ago, but perhaps ten times as long ago as that — a half million years ago — that humans began doing that.

The Surprising Relevance Of Taste To Crowdsourcing

Some analogies from what is known of this prehistory of humans to modern practice are obvious: the glow of computer screens — large or miniaturized on phones — has displaced the fire. As often as not ‘talking’ is done remotely and by silently typing. Yet, it would seem that given the realities of modern food production and preparation, the cooking and eating element is of little relevance to crowdsourcing.

Nevertheless, as is readily apparent from how often online discussions turn to exchanging pictures of food and recipe ideas crowdsourcing is definitely used in connection with cooking and eating. There is, moreover, a deeper connection that relates to what can be characterized as a special, personal type of ‘crowdsourcing.’ Based on recent neuroscience it has been established that thinking itself is to a great degree influenced by the sense of taste and that this is largely because taste, far from being just one sense, actually is the synthesis of all other senses: sight, sound, smell and touch. That is, thinking itself is a byproduct of a process analogous to crowdsourcing, only the members of the ‘crowd’ are the various sensations experienced in eating.

Though this has been announced as if is a new discovery, it is apparent that for some early Greeks before Plato it was deemed imperative — effectively a religious obligation — to pay attention to each and every sense in deciding what was right or wrong. One way this was manifested was in the adoption of one type or another of a vegetarian diet. Yet it also was manifested in the recognition of the unique importance of what women sense relative to what men sense. Only women experience pregnancy and childbirth and to the ancient Greeks before Plato this meant that they were uniquely qualified to manage all aspects of what is known today as Family Medicine.

Crowdsourcing The Truth As An Article Of Faith

Though surely others share the blame, based on available evidence it is Plato who can be blamed above all for the turn away from the physical senses and thus the ‘crowdsourcing’ of sensation and the denigration of women and specifically the crowdsourcing of medical thinking and practice that is attested in ancient Greek culture before his time. This turn was not absolute and evidence of resistance to it can be identified especially in religious beliefs and practices. Christianity, for example, emerged at a time of intense interest in language theory and its implications for political practice (about which Julius Caesar, for example, had written). It can be interpreted as having in part been a deliberate response to or rather revolt from the top down authoritarianism of such theory and practice (the other side of ‘the coin’). The fact that the New Testament has not one, but rather four, versions of the ‘news’ of its ‘truth’ attests to its having originally been crowdsourced. Such crowdsourcing derived from another, earlier crowdsourced tradition: the ancient Greek oral poetic tradition responsible for the emergence of democracy (‘good news’ = eu-aggelion (to evangelize) originally related to poetic storytelling (the ‘good’ related not just to what was said but how it was said (i.e. it had an adverbial sense ‘well said’)).

In this regard Christianity is not unique. It is generally agreed that religious ‘texts’ of practically every tradition were not written down by any one person but rather represent a crowdsourced combination of sayings and stories of many people at many different times. The Bhagavad Gita is one example. Less obvious in part because of the deceptive way in which it has been marketed in the West is that the Tao Te Ching is an anthology of sayings. Some religious traditions have no problem acknowledging their roots in crowdsourcing: Buddhism is notable for embracing the notion that any one text, any one poem, should be interpreted as but one strand (cf. sutra) of a larger fabric of stories and sayings.

Other religious traditions, however, do not acknowledge such roots and have instead institutionalized the suppression of them. One example is the attribution to Solomon of the book in the Bible now commonly referred to as the Song of Songs. Consensus among Biblical scholars is rare, but there now seems to be at least close to a consensus among such scholars that Song of Songs derives from an oral poetic tradition among Jewish women. That tradition appears to have been strongly influenced by an even earlier tradition: an aspect of the ancient Greek oral poetic tradition attested by the surviving remnants the wedding song poetry of Sappho. Nevertheless, notwithstanding the reverence there is for Song of Songs among all those who identify with the Abrahamic religious tradition, women in general are marginalized if not denigrated by the organizations that purport to represent that tradition.

What Happened To Crowdsourcing? — The Totalitarianism Of Information Technology

One reason that history has been marginalized by those who promote information technology (IT) in its modern form as being effectively a necessary ‘good’ rather than perhaps a more or less necessary evil, is that they want to mask the extent to which IT derives from the widespread adoption of writing about 3000 years ago. To the extent the history of the adoption of IT merely as writing is even taught at all it is invariably presented as an advance that offered only benefits without any negative side effects. To buy the latest iteration of IT is in effect to buy into the latest chapter in the story of how IT supposedly provides only benefits without any negative side effects.

This ‘all good’ story is nonsense. Until the very late 20th century IT systematically excluded at least half of all humans — women — from participating in it at any stage — from being an idea to being a communication and ultimately becoming an activity based on or inspired by communicating. It has thus been until very recently the very antithesis of crowdsourcing the truth. Not only was the publishing industry controlled by men (i.e., the industry of which titans of IT today such as Google, AMZN, Apple & FB are effectively the modern representatives), it was an industry that used slave labor (or the economic equivalent thereof) and hence was more often than not a tool to subjugate the poor while further enriching the wealthy. The legal principle of ‘copyright,’ for example, is hardly democratic and in fact derives from the notion of royal privilege (hence ‘royalties’).

[MORE TO COME]

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