Technology is Not Values Neutral: Ending the Reign of Nihilistic Design
We fail to take tech seriously when we do not grasp its full impact on humans | Jun 26, 2022 | 25 Min Read
Open Societies Must Evolve With the Information Revolution
The dream of a unipolar world order in which the United States, as a lone, democratic superpower stewards a world at “the end of history,” seems conclusively outdated. Even the most optimistic proponents of this fading worldview seem to have accepted the likelihood of a more complicated, multipolar 21st century.  Aside from the United States, which will remain a global power for quite some time, no other country will be as prominent in the new multipolar world as China. Yet in much the same way that the dream of a unipolar world order has proven illusory, so has the dream of a free and open China. How open societies around the world choose to act next will determine whether the 21st century becomes a closed or an open era. We have a choice, and our options are not merely to surrender to chaos or to adopt China’s authoritarian model. We can choose to reintegrate these technologies into our open society and become stronger for it. The emergence of this future depends on a societal consensus around revitalizing our culture of collective sensemaking, real dialogue, and civic virtue. To do this will first require an understanding of how open societies can coordinate to out-compete closed societies, and why we failed to integrate the internet productively the first time around.
One of the cornerstones of the new, democratic world order was meant to be the information technology revolution that began in the U.S. in the late 20th century, exemplified by the internet. However, as the societal implications of this revolution emerge we see that rather than being a tool of democratic liberation, the internet has been wielded by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), among others, as just another tool of state control. At the same time, rather than buttress the emergent order of open societies in the West, the internet has solidified existing divisions and allowed our epistemic commons —our shared public discourse and the norms and worldviews that govern and inform it—to become fragmented and polluted.
In closed societies like China, the internet has been integrated seamlessly by the state into the 20th-century industrial society’s system of governance.
Compared to China, it is increasingly difficult to ignore American sluggishness in core areas of societal competence, including domestic governance, and, most obviously, economic and industrial heft. There are even signs America may be starting to lag behind in important categories of technology as well. The West still benefits from dynamic cultural creation and innovation compared to China, but the default future on the current trajectory is nevertheless one in which the 21st century sees the further rise of China and other autocratic regimes that benefit from Chinese guidance. The Industrial Revolution made possible the model of the nation-state, in which geographic proximity—and the ethnic, linguistic, social, economic, and political bonds that naturally followed—was the key determinant of the most important socio-political relations. As was widely predicted, the digital revolution has undermined the nation-state—but only in open societies.
While technology has transformed many aspects of Chinese life, including payments by smartphone for virtually everything, and ubiquitous communication, China has not become an open society, in which democratic governance based upon the free exchange of information between citizens in public discourse forms the basis of legitimate government, but rather has stayed closed. In closed societies like China, the internet has been integrated seamlessly by the state into the 20th-century industrial society’s system of governance. Governance decisions are made behind closed doors in the hierarchy of the CCP and enforced top-down without debate, as they have been for decades.
As of 2021, China has experienced no internet-enabled upheaval. There has been no successful reprise of Tiananmen Square. The failure of the 2014 Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong and the following wave of pro-democracy protests in 2019and 2020, show us why predictions about the digital revolution failed to materialize. In response to the Hong Kong protests, at home in the mainland as well as in restive regions like Tibet and Xinjiang, the government in Beijing successfully deployed tried-and-true communist methods of political enforcement and population control. These included direct censorship, state propaganda, and mass internment, all of which were used to great effect. Rather than ban outright the new technologies and social forms enabled by the internet, or allow them to develop uncontrolled, the CCP proactively made them part of their strategy and systems for social control.  The “Great Firewall,” once expected to eventually fall, instead evolved into a massive Chinese Internet separate from the rest of the U.S.-dominated web. On the Chinese Internet, you may use what Americans might view as Chinese Twitter, Chinese Amazon, Chinese Uber, and so on, all operating within an online ecosystem under centralized CCP control.
China’s government has not only weathered the rise of the internet and fortified its internal stability; it has continued to grow consistently in both geopolitical influence and economic power, both at home and abroad. The success of the “Chinese Dream” is hard to overstate: between 2000 and 2019, China’s GDP per capita rose from about $950 to over $10,000, a more than 10x growth rate. Comparatively, America’s GDP per capita did not even double. Over the same time period, the share of Chinese students studying abroad who would return home to China after graduation went from almost none of them to almost all of them. The image of China as gray, poor, and polluted has become outdated and, although this realization might not yet be evenly distributed, China is now increasingly an optimistic, prosperous, and pleasant place to live. China has stepped up investment around the globe and initiated wide-ranging economic and political projects like the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), going so far as to lead development of a railroad network that would connect the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Ethiopia, and South Sudan to the Indian Ocean, and therefore to China’s favored trade routes.
The 2010s saw significant political and cultural upheaval in the Western world, largely driven by the information and social media technology revolution.
In the early days of the digital revolution, Western experts and media both predicted and hoped that rising internet penetration in China would help bring about Chinese democracy and end the closed, communist system. Free access to information and peer-to-peer communication would circumvent the government’s old school methods of control. The West expected that the eyes of the people of China would be opened to their oppression, spurring civil society and new social movements towards liberal democracy. Perhaps it would not be unlike the Solidarity movement in 1980s socialist Poland or, a decade later, the mass movements that precipitated the fall of the Soviet Union. These hopes and predictions were especially salient when it came to China, where consistent and unprecedented economic growth was long expected to lead eventually to political liberalization. So far there has been plenty of growth but little liberalization.
It took Donald Trump, in office and following his 2020 election defeat, to reveal the full extent of the social upheaval wrought by the internet—disinformation, polarization, fake news, and all.
In an instance of great historical irony, it was instead America, the “leader of the free world” and liberal democracy par excellence, which had its social, political, and core epistemic norms turned upside down by the internet. The 2010s saw significant political and cultural upheaval in the Western world, largely driven by the information and social media technology revolution. The internet has been around in some form or another since the 1980s, and its societal effects are arguably no better epitomized than by the unexpected victory of Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
To be sure, when Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, he was termed the first “social media president.” But as true as that may have been at the time, the intervening years brought a much higher penetration of smartphone ownership, social media usage, and algorithmically-driven content. Between 2008 and 2016, monthly active users of Facebook were estimated to have risen from about 100 million to nearly 2 billion. YouTube went from 300 million to 1.4 billion users in the same time period. Reddit and Twitter, which barely existed in 2008, each had significantly more than 200 million monthly active users by 2016 and played a key role in the global information landscape.
In hindsight, the way the Obama team used Facebook to buttress his presidential campaign, or the way Obama pioneered a White House-led social media strategy, looks more like a curiosity than a revolution. It took Donald Trump to reveal the full extent of the social upheaval wrought by the internet—disinformation, polarization, fake news, and all. Trump, who used his personal Twitter feed to dominate the national and international legacy news cycle, was just the most obvious result of this upheaval. The former president’s use of Twitter coincided with all sorts of chaotic internet-enabled movements, some radically fringe like the alt-right or Antifa, others radically popular like Brexit, and some both, like QAnon.
But it would be a mistake to think, as is still common, that recent polarization and fragmentation were somehow directly caused by Trump, or would go away once Trump left office. Rather, such upheavals are structurally inherent in the way our society uses the information and communication tools of the digital revolution. Our free-for-all information environment is optimized for maximizing profits through an advertising model based upon time-on-screen and a competition for attention. The accelerated ease of communication makes it easier than ever for people to become sequestered into ever-smaller epistemic groups that match their preconceived worldview. In these “echo chambers,” broad consensus and a shared understanding of reality are disincentivized in favor of in-group engagement. As it turns out, polarization, tribalism, and outrage are the result of maximizing engagement within the digital public sphere.
In hindsight, we now see this moment as the beginning of a great crisis of fragmentation.
Within our current information ecosystem, contentious issues too often become flashpoints for misinformation, conspiracy theories, and irreconcilable partisan narratives rather than being objectively investigated and resolved. Nobody who is paying attention becomes more educated or informed, just more hostile and polarized. No broad consensus is reached on these platforms, though solid majorities can be found in polling on many issues, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting public health measures taken to solve it, including the efficacy, or even necessity, of lockdowns, masks, and vaccines. But despite the threat of the pandemic both to the individual and to our ways of life as a whole, rather than reaching a baseline of consensus to effectively navigate the crisis, the open societies of the West fell into epistemic morass—at great human cost.
As the information technology revolution and the economic rise of China both got underway in the 1990s and 2000s, these were widely interpreted not as warning signs of future fundamental crises, but simply as the expected results of a process of globalization that would bring material prosperity, unprecedented technology, and liberal democratic thinking to the whole world.
Maintaining an open society requires active effort on the part of all of its citizens.
Open societies are not intrinsically resistant to oppression or chaos. An open society is not the final stage of human development; once we have democratic institutions and a healthy epistemic commons, we cannot simply relax and stop thinking about how to maintain them. Maintaining an open society requires active effort on the part of all of its citizens. Without this vigilance, an open society will naturally decay into an oppressive or chaotic state. This is the normal failure mode of political culture, and it has been observed throughout history by the ancient Greeks, who termed it the kyklos (cycle) of government, from aristocracy to democracy to tyranny. The rule of law, backed up by the state’s monopoly of violence, is a fundamental feature of both open and closed societies. The difference is that, in an open society, the law is an expression of the will of the people through voting, rather than an expression of a powerful minority of the population’s imposed will.
When new technologies are invented and diffused through society, there is no guarantee that they will necessarily be used for good. Moreover, there is no guarantee that they will inherently support open society. Technologies are not values-agnostic, in that the design of technologies can elicit different forms of human behavior and the values that go along with them. But the design of new technologies and how we choose to use them is ultimately up to people, not machines. Without oversight from citizens using and integrating new technologies into society, it is arguably much more likely that new technologies will be used first by tightly coordinated, small groups looking for an advantage in influence and power—rather than for the betterment of democracy.
This trend may be seen clearly in the full spectrum of information technologies that have appeared in the last few decades. In the open societies of the West, information technologies have empowered fringe groups and anti-social forces, each of whom has used the new power of the internet to push their own agendas at the expense of democratic society as a whole. For the same reason, information technology has not led to a fragmentation of closed societies like China; as we have seen, the Chinese Communist Party figured out how to use this new technology extensively to their benefit. If they didn’t, perhaps fringe groups in China would have done it instead. But they did. This first-order effect of fringe empowerment also gives rise to a second-order effect, in which the social and ideological fragmentation caused by empowering fringe groups itself creates more social and ideological fragmentation, as small epistemic groups increasingly splinter into even smaller and more zealous groups. The opposing fringe views of all these groups combine to form an environment where the lack of clear agreement makes people more susceptible to fringe ideas. The end result is pervasive fragmentation, as opposed to a shared epistemic commons and an ability to reach societal consensus.
Since democratic , participatory government depends on a healthy epistemic commons and cannot flourish in an highly polarized and fragmented ideological environment, this problem becomes an existential threat to open society. This much has become clear to many people in the West, but the preferred solution has come to us via osmosis from China. While it is unlikely that we will see a central “politburo” or “ministry of information” that directs discourse in the West as we might see in China, there is still a temptation among our political and social elites to turn the small number of information technology companies—like Facebook, Twitter, Google, and so on—into a tight-knit oligarchy that controls information flows in a politburo-like fashion. This would solve the problem of internet-enabled social and ideological fragmentation, but it would do so by replacing the substance of the open society with a new information feudalism akin to a closed society, while merely preserving the legal forms of open society on paper.
We are already heading towards this point. The dream of a decentralized internet predicted by early digital pioneers has been laid to waste by Metcalfe’s law, which states that the value or utility of a network is proportional to the square of the users of the network. This logic means that whichever platform can attract the most users quickly enough will reach “escape velocity” and significantly outcompete all others, becoming extremely difficult to displace. For this reason, the mature internet of 2021 is not dominated by a wide-ranging bazaar of small, epistemically self-sufficient forums, user groups, and chat channels, largely uninterested in tribal conflict. Instead, the overwhelming majority of the internet’s activity, and especially socially and politically salient activity, takes place on a handful of networks owned by the same small number of Silicon Valley companies. The primary activity of this select group of powerful networks has become performative self-radicalization in opposition to others. The administrators and managers of these networks, from the CEOs and other executives, to dedicated moderation boards, have inherited outsized editorial power over the national and even international discourse. They have the power to determine who is a verified, “blue check” journalist. They have the power to remove a former president of the United States from their platforms. Moreover, the algorithms they use to organize and distribute user-generated content are themselves opaque editorial influences, operating constantly to curate information in a way that aligns with the company’s goals and values.
Freedom of speech on social media platforms comes with serious problems: conspiracy theories, polarization, foreign and domestic disinformation, and more, all pollute the epistemic commons. Open societies have always struggled with bearing the burden of free speech; how best to promote a healthy public sphere that avoids both anarchy and top-down oppression is a problem as old as democracy itself. Dealing with these problems without centralized oligarchic control can seem like an unenviable position, but it is one that is much more flexible and open to change than one in which a small number of Silicon Valley information monopolies control information flows. Fully ceding the responsibility of safeguarding the public sphere to Silicon Valley would create a power dynamic so asymmetrical that it might never be overcome.
The recent history of the digitized West presents us with a confounding dynamic. In the short run, the design of our discourse mechanisms leads to chaos and fragmentation. A reactive information feudalism then follows, enforced by the information monopolists. Ironically, this means that some form of information regulation is necessary from the outset in order to prevent the tech companies from maturing into bona fide information monopolies; however, what is really needed is a redesign of our digital environments and the business architectures that produced them.
Figuring out how we can out-adapt China may be one of the primary societal and national security issues of our generation, but there is a key nuance here: out-adapting China cannot rely on discrediting an opposing system. Rather, it will involve turning our focus towards developing a new model of information technology that is authentically democratic and bolsters open society. “Beating China” is not enough, and it should only be an incidental goal. The West’s task is to build a model that stands on its own, for itself, and not against any other model as its perverse mirror image. Nostalgic Cold Warrior desire to use China as a new USSR for domestic unity is a distraction and only prolongs our period of confusion and inaction. After all, if binary, hubristic, us-versus-them thinking brought us to this crisis of rudderless fragmentation soon after the West “won” the Cold War, why should it be re-adopted as a strategy?
We must have a national and even global population all capable of, and oriented toward, good sensemaking, real dialogue, and civic virtue.
The only way through is for open societies to think deeply and independently about how to integrate the information revolution into our worldview, social norms, and institutions. Open societies must reorganize to benefit from these technologies in a novel way—through an emergent and democratic, rather than imposed, order. As of yet, this remains an unsolved problem. To even begin to solve it, we must have a national and even global population all capable of, and oriented toward, good sensemaking, real dialogue, and civic virtue. There is no reason to think that this is beyond our ability to achieve, should we choose to pursue this goal. America may seem to be lagging behind China, and yet at other points in the past we seemed to be lagging behind closed societies like Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union—but when needed, we were able to unify, marshal our creative resources and the benefits of our diversity, and meet the challenges in time.
It is not hard to see how the very technologies that are destabilizing and fragmenting our society could be used instead to fortify it. What if Facebook’s algorithms were made to optimize for pedagogy instead of maximizing the amount of time eyeballs spend glued to the screen? What if Twitter promoted a culture of healthy skepticism and collective sensemaking, as some subcultures on that platform already do? What if the resources of Google were marshalled behind a project of building open-source governance tools available to all citizens, as the hacktivists partnered with the Taiwanese state have done? Information technology still has the potential to bring widespread sensemaking to historically unprecedented levels, but this will require us to make the active and informed choice, as a society, to use it that way.
The hardest, ultimate challenge will be discovering and inculcating the right civic virtues. Our current conception of civic virtue, insofar as we even continue to share one, dates back to the 1920s: this was itself an Industrial era, mass-media update to the earlier 18th- and 19th-century definition that focused on yeoman farmers in an agrarian republic. Our sense of civic virtue must be appropriate to the types of citizens to whom it applies and to the world in which they live. No longer are we a nation of 18th-century yeoman farmers who convene town meetings, or even of 19th- and 20th-century industrial laborers who must be made ready for mass mobilization within the new machinery of the political party and the media environment of the newspaper age.
In much the same way that the information age has made the nation-state obsolete, the information age has turned us all into a new type of democratic citizen, equipped with incredible abilities to communicate and coordinate with other people from all around the world, irrespective of geography or other pre-existing bonds. How can we make our open societies compatible with this new era? We have the choice, now more than ever, to explore this open question together and find a solution. But we will have to choose to do so. It won’t happen by default.
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Agent provocateur translates to “inciting incident” in French. It is used to reference individuals who attempt to persuade another individual or group to partake in a crime or rash behavior or to implicate them in such acts. This is done to defame, delegitimize, or criminalize the target. For example, starting a conflict at a peaceful protest or attempting to implicate a political figure in a crime.
Ideological polarization is generated as a side-effect of content recommendation algorithms optimizing for user engagement and advertising revenues. These algorithms will upregulate content that reinforces existing views and filters out countervailing information because this has been proven to drive time on-site. The result is an increasingly polarized perspective founded on a biased information landscape.
To “cherry pick” when making an argument is to selectively present evidence that supports one’s position or desired outcome, while ignoring or omitting any contradicting evidence.
A general term for collective resources in which every participant of the collective has an equal interest. Prominent examples are air, nature, culture, and the quality of our shared sensemaking basis or information commons.
The cognitive bias of 1) exclusively seeking or recalling evidence in support of one's current beliefs or values, 2) interpreting ambiguous information in favor of one’s beliefs or values, and 3) ignoring any contrary information. This bias is especially strong when the issues in question are particularly important to one's identity.
In science and history, consilience is the principle that evidence from independent, unrelated sources can “converge” on strong conclusions. That is, when multiple sources of evidence are in agreement, the conclusion can be very strong even when none of the individual sources of evidence is significantly so on its own.
While “The Enlightenment” was a specific instantiation of cultural enlightenment in 18th-century Europe, cultural enlightenment is a more general process that has occurred multiple times in history, in many different cultures. When a culture goes through a period of increasing reflectivity on itself it is undergoing cultural enlightenment. This period of reflectivity brings about the awareness required for a culture to reimagine its institutions from a new perspective. Similarly, “The Renaissance” refers to a specific period in Europe while the process of a cultural renaissance has occurred elsewhere. A cultural renaissance is more general than (and may precede) an enlightenment, as it describes a period of renewed interest in a particular topic.
A deep fake is a digitally-altered (via AI) recording of a person for the purpose of political propaganda, sexual objectification, defamation, or parody. They are progressively becoming more indistinguishable from reality to an untrained eye.
Empiricism is a philosophical theory that states that knowledge is derived from sensory experiences and relies heavily on scientific evidence to arrive at a body of truth. English philosopher John Locke proposed that rather than being born with innate ideas or principles, man’s life begins as a “blank slate” and only through his senses is he able to develop his mind and understand the world.
An orientation towards a reality that is neither epistemic nihilism nor epistemic hubris. As opposed to an ethos of knowing, it is an ethos of learning, which The Consilience Project suggests is needed for grappling with the unique challenges of 21st-century sensemaking. This ethos implies curiosity and a motivation to pursue further learning, embracing facts and truth where these are possible to attain, but always remaining open to further learning—refusing to commit to absolutism or fundamentalism.
This form of nihilism is a diffuse and usually subconscious feeling that it is impossible to really know anything, because, for example, “the science is too complex” or “there is fake news everywhere.” Without a shared ability to make sense of the world as a means to inform our choices, we are left with only the game of power. Claims of “truth” are seen as unwarranted or intentional manipulations, as weaponized or not earnestly believed in.
Epistemology is the philosophical study of knowing and the nature of knowledge. It deals with questions such as “how does one know?” and “what is knowing, known, and knowledge?”. Epistemology is considered one of the four main branches of philosophy, along with ethics, logic, and metaphysics.
Derived from a Greek word meaning custom, habit, or character; The set of ideals or customs which lay the foundations around which a group of people coheres. This includes the set of values upon which a culture derives its ethical principles.
A category of risk that denotes the complete and total elimination of humanity or the planet. Example: Earth killer asteroid impacts
Discourse oriented towards mutual understanding and coordinated action, with the result of increasing the faith that participants have in the value of communicating. The goal of good faith communication is not to reach a consensus, but to make it possible for all parties to change positions, learn, and continue productive, ongoing interaction.
Processes that occupy vast expanses of both time and space, defying the more traditional sense of an "object" as a thing that can be singled out. The concept, introduced by Timothy Morton, invites us to conceive of processes that are difficult to measure, always around us, globally distributed and only observed in pieces. Examples include climate change, ocean pollution, the Internet, and global nuclear armaments and related risks.
Information warfare is a primary aspect of fourth- and fifth-generation warfare. It can be thought of as war with bits and memes instead of guns and bombs. Examples of information warfare include psychological operations like disinformation, propaganda, or manufactured media, or non-kinetic interference in an enemy's communication capacity or quality.
Refers to the foundational process of education which underlies and enables societal and cultural cohesion across generations by passing down values, capacities, knowledge, and personality types.
False or misleading information, irrespective of the intent to mislead. Within the category of misinformation, disinformation is a term used to refer to misinformation with intent. In news media, the public generally expects a higher standard for journalistic integrity and editorial safeguards against misinformation; in this context, misinformation is often referred to as “fake news”.
A prevailing school of economic thought that emphasizes the government's role in controlling the supply of money circulating in an economy as the primary determinant of economic growth. This involves central banks using various methods of increasing or decreasing the money supply of their currency (e.g., altering interest rates).
A form of rivalry between nation-states or conflicting groups, by which tactical aims are realized through means other than direct physical violence. Examples include election meddling, blackmailing politicians, or information warfare.
Open societies promote the free exchange of information and public discourse, as well as democratic governance based on the participation of the people in shared choices about their social futures. Unlike the tight control over communications and suppression of dissenting views that characterize closed societies, open societies promote transparent governance and embrace good-faith public scrutiny.
The theory and practice of teaching and learning, and how this process influences, and is influenced by, the social, political, and psychological development of learners.
The ability of an individual or institutional entity to deny knowing about unethical or illegal activities because there is no evidence to the contrary or no such information has been provided.
First coined by philosopher Jürgen Habermas, the term refers to the collective common spaces where people come together to publicly articulate matters of mutual interest for members of society. By extension, the related theory suggests that impartial, representative governance relies on the capacity of the public sphere to facilitate healthy debate.
The word itself is French for rebirth, and this meaning is maintained across its many purposes. The term is commonly used with reference to the European Renaissance, a period of European cultural, artistic, political, and economic renewal following the middle ages. The term can refer to other periods of great social change, such as the Bengal Renaissance (beginning in late 18th century India).
A term proposed by sociologists to characterize emergent properties of social systems after the Second World War. Risk societies are increasingly preoccupied with securing the future against widespread and unpredictable risks. Grappling with these risks differentiate risk societies from modern societies, given these risks are the byproduct of modernity’s scientific, industrial, and economic advances. This preoccupation with risk is stimulating a feedback loop and a series of changes in political, cultural, and technological aspects of society.
Sensationalism is a tactic often used in mass media and journalism in which news stories are explicitly chosen and worded to excite the greatest number of readers or viewers, typically at the expense of accuracy. This may be achieved by exaggeration, omission of facts and information, and/or deliberate obstruction of the truth to spark controversy.
A theory stating that individuals are willing to sacrifice some of their freedom and agree to state authority under certain legal rules, in exchange for the protection of their remaining rights, provided the rest of society adheres to the same rules of engagement. This model of political philosophy originated during the Age of Enlightenment from theorists including, but not limited to John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. It was revived in the 20th century by John Rawls and is used as the basis for modern democratic theory.
Autopoiesis from the Greek αὐτo- (auto-) 'self', and ποίησις (poiesis) 'creation, production'—is a term coined in biology that refers to a system’s capability for reproducing and maintaining itself by metabolizing energy to create its own parts, and eventually new emergent components. All living systems are autopoietic. Societal Autopoiesis is an extension of the biological term, making reference to the process by which a society maintains its capacity to perpetuate and adapt while experiencing relative continuity of shared identity.
Used as part of propaganda or advertising campaigns, these are brief, highly-reductive, and definitive-sounding phrases that stop further questioning of ideas. Often used in contexts in which social approval requires unreflective use of the cliché, which can result in confusion at the individual and collective level. Examples include all advertising jingles and catchphrases, and certain political slogans.
A proposition or a state of affairs is impossible to be verified, or proven to be true. A further distinction is that a state of affairs can be unverifiable at this time, for example, due to constraints in our technical capacity, or a state of affairs can be unverifiable in principle, which means that there is no possible way to verify the claim.
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