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Spotting the Truth in a World of Lies

February 11, 2019

We expect white lies in our everyday lives and have become accustomed to not necessarily believing everything we hear. Whether it’s someone’s description on a dating app or a resume for work, we take what we hear with a grain of salt. Some people fiercely filter information for fabrications, exaggerations, plagiarism, white lies, and most of all: deception. But as one study suggests, we are on average only able to catch 54% of lies. Strikingly, in the same study, trained police officers, judges, and FBI agents weren’t that much better than the average person.

Lies are embedded deeply in the human experience. It is how we peacock to potential mates or toot our own horns to employers. Smaller scale lies, white lies, are accepted as norms to varying degrees in various cultures. For the intermediate stuff, we let individuals apply their education and critical thinking skills to filter for how much of a lie they are comfortable living with. Whereas on critical stuff such as health, legal, realty, financial, and security professions, we regulate and adhere to strict guidelines on truth; there are severe penalties in place for professionals that lie in these fields.

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The statistics above show how widespread lying really is, to the point that a majority tell a lie once every 10 minutes. Yet if each one of us can only detect 54% of those lies, then it’s hard to tell when we should be double checking for accuracy. As we adapt into the modern digital world, where people’s lies are discovered more often than in the offline world, we are seeing trends towards policing false information. Companies respond to false LinkedIn resumes by outsourcing HR or calling old employers and a variety of creative techniques. Similarly, social media and news outlets are grappling with fake news and their impact on society. Governments expend massive resources on deciphering fact from fiction in world events.

The internet is neither truth nor lies by itself; it is simply a tool for the rapid dissemination of information. Before Wikipedia, two people having a debate about some obscure topic would have to leave in disagreement or research it at the library. It used to be that any political candidate could say anything because there was no way to quickly fact-check their statements and inform the population when they were incorrect.

The web has helped bring truth to these areas and the broad access to information has created a culture where truth is severely sought after, since we expect it to be discoverable. One area where it’s still hard to identify truth is information about individuals’ experiences. We can’t really easily confirm that black belt you got as a kid or even whether you graduated from a specific university. There is no easy way to show your certifications, awards, licenses, or memberships without taking out a plastic card or trying to call an organization directly.

We take at face value some information and become critical of others. Why do we trust a New York Times article more than an unknown journal? And on the flip side, why do some humans just blindly agree with the first source that agrees with their worldview. This is because we humans often put our trust in institutions and organizations. We would like universities to issue degrees, employers to verify employment, news reporters to perform investigative journalism, and the DMV to issue driving licenses. Organizations thrive on their ability to be trusted.

This is where Merit comes in with an elegant solution for an assortment of problems. Merit lets organizations create and send digital merits to acknowledge and preserve every experience in a single space. By building on top of the trust we currently give to institutions, Merit verifies truthful statements made by those organizations regarding their users. This allows users to have a single spot that stores all their verified information that they can both have for their own history and also use for rapid verification whenever necessary; stopping the need to have a debate that ends in a draw.

Topics: Culture

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