Sunday, November 09, 2008

Current topic: Core values, and some tenets.

After a three-day weekend of strategic planning for American Mensa, I've been spending today thinking about my core values, i.e., the values I hold that I would not give up, even in the face of severe or crippling penalty. What got me thinking about core values is Twitter.

I follow some amazing people on Twitter; I was blessed early on by finding @xenijardin and started following the people she followed. I built it from there.

Tenet 1: Cool, smart, and interesting people associate with the same.

The one person I would follow on Twitter, were I ever limited to only one, is @timoreilly. I don't know him, and he doesn't follow me. I don't care. His information is solid, interesting, reliable, concisely presented, clear. I value the way that he values information and communication. His respect for the meaning of information--the act of its conveyance as well as its value-as-thing--is consonant with one of my core values.

Tenet 2: Information is neither repetition nor drivel.

I am less patient than I should be with others; I do not secretly regard this as a virtue and preen myself with it. Most of my impatience comes from wasting not my time, but my attention. I waste my time extravagantly; I do not waste my attention so. One of my core values is that intellectual weight lifting is part of The Good, and as such, its goodness should be self-evident.

Tenet 3: Information is a force just as the truth is a force.

I am unsure whether some political and intellectual principles are resistible. Milton seems to believe, at least as he presents it in Paradise Lost, that grace is irresistible. I believe that the truth is irresistible; perhaps that is because I come from a culture steeped in proselytizing and teleology. I believe that one can have the truth, and that information (as defined above) erodes intellectual blocks of whatever the making. I understand that it is not tony to speak of the truth. I don't care about that, either.

Tenet 4: The truth, once presented, becomes permanent.

Satyagraha: The energizing force of the truth. Gandhi based action on this. I think this is what's behind the notion that information wants to be free. There's already a lot of free information available; what's desired is some kind of constant, some compass, that gives information significance. Truth values, perhaps expressed as trust, give information significance. Information paired with energy leads to change. Satyagraha.

Tenet 5: We can't be good skeptics without believing in the truth.

Some of my early blog posts were about the relationship between scientific research and parody. The common ground is the truth. Parody and research both ask us to compare one thing to another and evaluate them. In other words, we're asked to take the truth and compare it to either a joke or the results of an experiment, then assess the outcomes. Skepticism is a similar matter: We've got to have something as a basis of comparison, and whatever truths we have at a given moment are good enough.

Our understanding of the truth can be neither monolithic nor immutable, though the truth itself may well be. People like to claim relativity, wave away the value of those things that form the foundation of the truth, then dismiss the notion entirely. They'd better hope that scientists remain unconvinced.

What does any of this have to do with Twitter?

Trust and authenticity. So far, and with the caveat that Twitter is still in the early-adopter stage, trust and authenticity can't be faked on Twitter. It takes too much thought to limit a statement to 140 characters. This doesn't mean there aren't plenty of casual comments and posts of low significance; I would argue that those posts are as authentic as any. This also doesn't mean there aren't sociopaths and charlatans. So far, there's nothing to be gained, other than fleeting Internet celebrity, by such practices. There's plenty of room for information and, perhaps, some truth.

11 comments:

Jere said...

I have a slight problem with Tenet 4: The truth, once presented, becomes permanent. and it seems you do as well from later in the entry.

I don't know how many truths I've held in the past that have been at least amended. (e.g. the structure of atoms, whether dinosaurs were cold-blooded.)

I might agree that however "permanent" it is, a truth becomes an anchor point, a place from which to stand. (nod to an old Greek).

Heather (mensan98th) said...

Agreed, Jere. Rereading the post, what I now realize I mean was that the truth's presence becomes permanent, i.e., once we've been exposed to it, the memory of that exposure stays with us. I think that to some extent, the content also remains.

Anonymous said...

I just want too take some time too Thank everyone for doing what you do and make this community great im a long time reader and first time poster so i just wanted to say thanks.

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