EAI OnTheQuestForTruth

Since ancient times, man has always asked such questions as "do gods exist?", "what is good, what is bad? how can I know?", "should I stay or should I go?", or "what shall we have for lunch today?"; and he's been looking for answers, he's been looking for the TruthTM(?). Such is his perpetual quest, in all matters, be them metaphysical, ethical, practical, trivial, or else. These questions are not gratuitous; at least they are not generally meant to be. One seldom wonders about such questions as "what's the color of my neighbour's grandmother's doctor's socks?" one usually asks questions whose answers, or lack thereof, will influence one's behavior in the surrounding physical and social world. Basing action, both in the short run and in the long run, upon an elaborate persistent knowledge structure, thinking and making plans before to act, these are what distinguishes higher-level lifeforms from lower-level ones, and what bestows man his physical superiority upon the rest of the world.

As human beings, we make mental models of the world from the information we gather so as to be able to react in ways more adapted to our goals, whatever these goals be. Actually, all life forms use internal models of the world so as to adapt their behaviour: sometimes very crude simple models, sometimes very sophisticated models, but always partial models, for the world, being much bigger than we are (it contains us, after all!) requires more information to faithfully represent than we can ever remember and take into account. Our mental models are certainly not the whole of the way we intern information about the world; the human body reacts to its outer environment in lots of physiological ways, most of which are still mysteries even today; even the way our minds build their representations of the world is mostly a mystery, and the part which we can observe and act upon either externally, or by our limited capability of reflective introspection, is but the tip of the iceberg. Still, this visible part of mental process, the one accessible to communication and reasoning, plays a crucial part in our lives, for it is the one that allows us humans to learn from each other, negociate with each other, and build not just societies, but civilizations.

Truth, in this light, appears as an hypothetical ideal state of perfect knowledge of the objective world that surrounds us. Like all ideals, it needs not be effectively realizable; it merely needs be possible to get ever nearer to it, near enough to take appropriate actions depending on answers to questions we ask. Even though no possible state of our minds can possibly embody a complete or exact truth, "Truth" still indicates a direction in which to strive. The very concept of "Truth", if it does not necessarily directly reveal anything deep about the structure of an objective Universe, most likely reveals something deep about the structure of our minds, or at least the structure by which our minds can analyze themselves; hence it is an essential concept to understand how we may interact with the Universe, as far as we can know.

Sketching the elementary theory of the information that we gather about the Universe, how we acquire it, how we accept or reject it, how it evolves, and last but not least, how we base our actions on it, that is, growing a reflective conscience of the way we interact with the rest of the Universe, exploring the inter-relationship between Ethics and Information, such is the goal of this essay.

This page is linked from: Ethics and Information