Tuesday, September 24, 2013

In the Long Run, You're Not Fooling Anyone

If I tried to deceive you, it would not merely be a matter of me trying to outsmart you. It would also be a matter of me trying to outsmart empirical evidence and the laws of nature themselves. In the long run, that isn't sustainable. Reality is absolute, which means that empirical facts are absolute. I can outsmart people in the short run, but I cannot outsmart reality in the long run.

A lie can persist for thousands of years. Since that is beyond my lifetime, it seems that a lie can persist indefinitely. But thousands of years is not the same as eternity. Even though you cannot observe everything for an eternal amount of time, it is still to logical to conclude that the long-term result for a deception is for it to be exposed eventually. Here is why I say that.

Suppose that you have a website. First I leave a post on your website as myself. My post shows my IP number, and you can see from my IP number that I'm in Hawaii. Now suppose that I create a sock puppet account and post while posing as someone in Croatia. And suppose that you see that the IP number is exactly the same -- it's the same Hawaii IP number. And you know that Stuart Hayashi is not sharing his ISP account with some Croatian. By noticing the evidence, you have busted me.

Every human action has consequences. This includes consequences that are byproducts of the action -- meaning that these consequences can be anticipated but that having these consequences occur was not the main end sought by the action. For example, if I walk through snow and leave footprints behind, leaving those footprints was not my main goal, and yet my action nevertheless caused the footprints to appear. These byproduct consequences surely leave behind evidence. My footprints in the snow are evidence of my having walked through the snow. Insofar as I am truthful with you, there is evidence to support that I have been truthful. Likewise, insofar as I am deceptive with you, there is evidence to support the conclusion that I have been deceptive. Consistent observation of the facts themselves, and consistency in understanding the context, will ultimately support true claims and undermine false claims. Therefore, insofar as people observe empirical evidence, the facts will always give true claims the advantage over deceptive ones.

When I tell you the truth, I am not trying to outsmart you; I have the facts to support me. Likewise, if I lie to you, I am not merely trying to outsmart you; I am trying to outsmart empirical evidence. And as reality is absolute, empirical evidence cannot be outsmarted.

Yes, it is true that if someone consistently practices deception, he can learn from past mistakes and learn to be more thorough in covering his tracks. If you have caught me using a socket puppet account, based on IP evidence, then maybe next time I might try to switching to a different IP number before I post on your page using a fake account. But no matter how thorough a con man may attempt to be in covering up every trace of his deception, it is not plausible to expect that he can cover up every trace at the noumenal level; reality is too complex for that. Therefore, no matter how sophisticated the deception, there will always be evidence of what really went down.

A deception might take thousands of years to undo. Someone might die before his lies catch up with him. But insofar as anyone observes the evidence and follows up on it, the deception is vulnerable in the short run and doomed in the long run. And insofar as a charlatan is able to get away with his deceptions, this is not so much on account of the charlatan being the cleverest man in the world, but more so on account of the people around him either (a) failing to observe evidence or (b) having observed the evidence of deception, failing to call the charlatan on it.