Knowledge vs. Values, and Where We Stand
People derive knowledge from empirical evidence. On the other hand, they acquire values in so many ways we can’t identify them all. Let’s imagine that each type of understanding was somehow codifiable and copied into separate stores, the knowledge store and the values store, respectively. We at Trusted Origins, founding members of the Disinformation Resistance Community, strive to offer a platform for honest and civil discourse, so we require adherence to certain rules. We intend these rules to constrain members’ behavior, to assure honest and civil discourse and to ban dishonest or uncivil behavior. So the rules reflect some of what we know and value about both knowledge and values. We don’t shy away from admitting our position.
First, we consider empirical knowledge the most valuable product of humanity. Improvements in knowledge make amazing things possible and open new vistas of opportunity. Economic progress over a decade or a century mostly exploits improved know-how. Society values many other products of human prowess as well, including especially the arts and extraordinary physical skills.
We seek knowledge because it enables us to accomplish things, better and cheaper than we could otherwise. Knowledge gains value every time it resists disconfirmation when it predicts events correctly. When knowledge makes predictions, it exposes vulnerability. Failures to refute vulnerable predictions raise our confidence in knowledge. We prize knowledge that reliably makes unrefuted but vulnerable predictions.
The preceding makes clear that we value knowledge more than anything else, mostly because civilization employs knowledge to progress. We cannot know in advance whether a particular kind of progress will be good or bad, but we certainly appreciate having options for advancement made possible by improved knowledge.
When it comes to values in general, honesty, civility and transparency seem the most vital to supporting knowledge as a product of humanity. When we speak of honesty in this context, we mean that people need to promote beliefs based on credible evidence and logic. So, it’s honest to say you believe in something because it follows logically from other facts. As a simple example, you can say you believe there will be an eclipse of the moon on a certain date in the future, because you have seen that forecasted by a model that correctly predicted all eclipses in the last century.
When people disseminate unsubstantiated beliefs or, worse, spread lies, we view that as dishonest. Honest people tell others what they believe and why, and they distinguish opinions from knowledge. Dishonest people say whatever they want.
When we speak of civility in this context, we refer to basic tenets of politeness and courtesy. So we expect that people may disagree, but we do not permit them to behave disagreeably toward others. We punish uncivil behavior by warning or banning the offending member. We expect our community will quickly detect and eliminate such behavior, leaving all remaining community members to share their safe place for meaningful interactions.
Transparency means all members can view and comment on members’ knowledge bank contributions, trustworthiness endorsements and challenges, and community governance decisions such as adjudications. We aim to assure that published materials and assessments persist so people can see how knowledge evolved.
So, we give priority to honesty,civility and transparency. This naturally leads us to reject lying, bigotry, racism, scapegoating, shaming, name-calling, anti-Semitism, mysogeny and other hateful behaviors. That makes us despised by hate groups and sponsored miscreants. We don’t hide our trustworthiness assessments or erase earlier errors. We are an open book so that people can rely on our members to contribute honest and civil knowledge.
We commit to emphasize the values that best enable community progress in knowledge and understanding. In our communities, honesty, civility and transparency will prevail by design.