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
Truth can be the victim when special interests determine who gets heard and who doesn’t.
An emergent alliance between interest groups such as corporations or activists, and intellectuals who produce narratives and arguments, is shaping the information ecosystem. Many intellectuals respond to incentives from the interest groups to argue for predetermined positions in exchange for money, prestige, and an audience. Arguments with no backers are not disseminated as widely and often go unheard. This piece uses several brief case studies to illustrate how this affects reporting and public discourse. An open society requires an awareness of why and how our information is produced and shared, as well as the wider social norms necessary to keep interest groups from overly polluting the information environment. As the paralysis of the American political system in recent decades has shown, these critical capacities are essential to ensure that partisanship and selective reporting do not drown out accurate analysis.
To make sense of the information and arguments we read, we have to understand where that information comes from. The ecosystem in which arguments are written and information gets distributed is complex, and it doesn’t only reflect the information’s truth or its justification or its importance, but also factors such as whether the information supports an ongoing narrative or whether the argument is useful for some faction’s goals.
A key recurring pattern is a symbiosis between, on the one hand, an interest group with an agenda—such as a corporation, activist group, or political party—and, on the other hand, intellectuals who produce arguments. The interest group will use its resources to boost and disseminate arguments useful to its goals. Intellectuals who produce these arguments will receive fame, jobs, interviews, book deals, and the pleasure of having their ideas matter. Every argument presented in major media outlets is necessarily shaped by this process, at least in part. In addition, most political arguments shared through in-person interactions or social media consist of people repeating arguments that were first spread widely by this process.
Far more often…the intellectual will bend themselves subconsciously, fitting themselves and their arguments into a mold cast by an interest group to which they are already sympathetic.
In some cases, an intellectual will deliberately “sell out,” aligning their career and arguments with an influential interest group or funding source in order to receive these benefits. In other cases, an intellectual will be uninfluenced by the prospect of these rewards and simply say what they think, and then the interest groups that happen to be served by their arguments will promote their ideas to a wider audience. Far more often than either of these cases, the intellectual will bend themselves subconsciously, fitting themselves and their arguments into a mold cast by an interest group to which they are already sympathetic. There is no need to ascribe malintent to this subconscious process; people naturally gravitate towards saying and doing the things that are, for whatever reason, well incentivized by others.
These motives are almost completely irrelevant to how this kind of intellectual production impacts society. Out of the mass of complex personal motivations, two trends emerge. The first is that the arguments that get amplified, true or not, are those that serve someone’s purpose. The second is that when a well-resourced group has a purpose, arguments will be produced to support it, and the most plausible-sounding of those arguments will then be amplified.
Of course, there are plenty of arguments that don’t serve any particular interest group or faction and cannot be turned to support any ongoing narrative. These arguments have a much harder time finding a niche in the information ecosystem, since there is no natural constituency for the dissemination of such an argument and no organized interest group willing to invest serious resources in promoting it. Before long, these arguments will usually fade away without being widely heard. To pick one example, many people arrive at arguments for reducing the length of copyright law, but these ideas have no organized backers who stand to gain from their adoption, and so receive little attention in the media which drives our discourse.
Frequently, the public discourse moves on before this process has time to run its course, and only a small handful of the initial audience sees the reliable results.
Sometimes, when an argument useful to someone gets promoted, it happens to be true and well justified; for example, manufacturers of electric cars arguing that their products result in less greenhouse gas emissions than internal combustion engine-powered cars. Or on occasions it can be false, misleading, or incoherent; for example, arguments that pallets of bricks near some Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020 indicated a widespread conspiracy to provoke violence. Sometimes the argument holds together within a particular narrative frame or context, but leaves out important complexity and misses alternate perspectives; for example, arguments that vaping tobacco is bad for public health because it is harmful compared to abstention, or arguments that vaping tobacco is good for public health because it is less carcinogenic compared to traditional cigarettes, without looking at actual usage patterns. In any of these cases, the social factors described above operate in the same way. The argument’s quality does play some role in how far it gets boosted—after all, a more plausible argument is a more useful narrative tool—but this role is far from overwhelming, as the examples below will demonstrate. In the short term, the push towards truth and plausibility serves mostly as a filter selecting against the truly egregious arguments. The deeper work that filters the genuinely justifiable from the merely plausible is a much slower process, often too slow to be perceived from the perspective of news cycles and public discourse operating on the scale of weeks or months. Frequently, the public discourse moves on before this process has time to run its course, and only a small handful of the initial audience sees the reliable results.
One of the clearest examples of interest group influence in action is political think tanks. Their explicit purpose is to construct and publish arguments in favor of a predetermined position, partly in service of research, but also largely and explicitly in service of persuasion and advocacy. The arguments they create are frequently picked up by traditional media, online commentators, and average social media users alike, as well as by legislators directly. Partisans accurately—if selectively—point out that their opponents are biased because their funding and social position depend on staying in the good graces of donors with an agenda to push, but this does little to slow the uptake of their arguments.
In 2020, there were 2,203 think tanks in the United States. The industry’s annual spending is measured in the billions. On politically contentious issues, there are often opposing think tanks on each side of the debate, providing stable careers for people who produce arguments for their predetermined conclusions. These are some of the most stable niches in the information ecosystem, supported by a pipeline of money and talent to hold each other in place by their equal and opposite action. Because they are not directly in the public eye like elected officials or the news, these think tanks’ niches are largely unaffected by the public’s opinion of their track records.
The field of economics provides a more specific example of the very strong influence of interest groups. Compared to many other intellectual fields, economics is perceived to have greater-than-average authority when it comes to judging or making policy proposals on a very wide range of topics. As a result, politicians often rely on intellectual support from economics, and political needs can thrust convenient economic theories into the public consciousness. While the validity of any economic theory is beyond the scope of this article, the paths to prominence taken by some theories provide instructive examples of how certain narratives develop.
Once a political coalition emerges and people begin identifying with a new set of ideas, market demand from this new demographic can spur the production of ideologically sympathetic entertainment, without the need for elite backers.
Arthur Laffer spent much of his career as an economic advisor to Republican presidential administrations. In 1974, at a dinner with Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and the columnist Jude Wanniski, Laffer sketched a simple curve to illustrate the idea that raising taxes beyond a certain point could lead counterintuitively to lower tax revenue by stifling economic activity. Wanniski later wrote up the idea in the neoconservative journal The Public Interest, popularizing the idea of the “Laffer Curve.” This concept became one of the cornerstones of supply-side economics, which was championed by President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s to justify his administration’s economic policies and tax cuts. This curve has been a major subject of debate in academia and public policy ever since. In 2019, President Donald Trump awarded Laffer the Presidential Medal of Freedom, one year after Laffer co-authored a book called Trumponomics: Inside the America First Plan to Revive Our Economy.
A more recent case is Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), which argues that governments can normally pay their bills by printing money, rather than by taxation, without causing inflation. Many MMT advocates also favor using the money obtained this way to establish a federal program to provide guaranteed jobs to anyone who wants one. A handful of academic economists have spent two decades working on and advocating for the theory. A large community formed around blogs arguing for MMT, but the ideas remained relatively fringe until 2019, when it was thrust into the limelight by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), who also favors a federal jobs guarantee. Since then, MMT has been the subject of a great deal of academic debate and public discourse, much of it explicitly partisan. While its proponents have not yet achieved the power to determine American economic policy, it seems reasonably likely that more influential politicians whose policies require deficit spending might endorse MMT in order to justify their budgets.
In some cases, popular entertainment can also follow a similar pattern. Once a political coalition emerges and people begin identifying with a new set of ideas, market demand from this new demographic can spur the production of ideologically sympathetic entertainment, without the need for elite backers. In addition to swaying the undecided and galvanizing the believers, well-crafted politicized entertainment can bring its authors fame and wealth if a large segment of the public is receptive enough to consume it. In these cases, a coalition within the public uses its distributed market power to incentivize the production and distribution of a favorable narrative.
Bestselling examples of this kind of entertainment are common throughout American history. In the 19th century, Uncle Tom’s Cabin helped crystallize the growing abolitionist sentiment prior to the American Civil War. Two generations after that war, The Birth of a Nation sparked the revival of the defunct Ku Klux Klan and popularized the costumes that are still associated with the Klan today. More recently, Brokeback Mountain was released to widespread acclaim just as mainstream opinion was beginning to turn in favor of gay marriage in the mid-2000s.
In recent decades, we have also seen a rise in celebrity political talk show hosts such as Jon Stewart and Glenn Beck, whose broadcasts blur the line between news and entertainment. The niche occupied by these non-fiction shows is much the same as with fiction. There is a substantial audience for this self-conscious propaganda—which is to say, many people very naturally want someone to explain how new events fit neatly into their existing worldview, and how apparent challenges to their ideology can be justified. Competition for these established audiences guides the output of many entertainers towards ideas that some specific faction will find appealing.
To understand how an idea fares in the information ecosystem, we must understand each of the ecosystem’s major parts, including consumers of information, producers of information, and sources of funding and legitimacy. To carve out a niche that will enable it to survive, any narrative must have appeal to some group within each of these three categories.
These narratives and their supporting arguments are meant to create a constituency behind some action—political, economic, social, or otherwise. Sometimes the goal is to get the constituency to do something directly, such as smoking in the 1920s or, later, not smoking. More often, the goal is to mobilize voters, or to gain more nebulous popular support in order to influence third parties such as school boards or business leaders.
Less frequently, this process of spreading ideas is achieved through informal networks, such as the intellectuals and scientists who collaborated to publicize the idea.
The whole process therefore involves three groups: the interest group, the intellectuals and influencers, and the mass public. The interest group wants to make some change to mass belief or mass behavior, yet it cannot do this directly. The public will not change their beliefs or actions merely because some interest group tells them they should. It takes arguments and justifications from the intellectuals—the writers and speakers and pundits and commentators—in order to persuade. By amplifying convenient arguments and setting up career incentives to create new arguments in favor of the position it seeks, the interest group creates the levers needed to move public opinion.
Interest groups usually act through formal organizations. An example is the late 20th-century campaign to reduce cholesterol levels. The narrative in this case involved changing diets and selling profitable new statin drugs. While much of the impetus came from the drug manufacturers, who funded sympathetic studies and spread a great deal of money throughout the medical profession, the campaign was rarely framed in these terms. The American Heart Association marketed to the public, raising awareness of cholesterol as a threat to health. Meanwhile, most medical professionals deferred to the gold-standard recommendations on the use of statins from the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) within the National Institutes of Health. This position, however, was gradually reversed after a 2004 scandal in which journalists revealed undisclosed payments from drug companies to the authors of NCEP’s recommendations.
Less frequently, this process of spreading ideas is achieved through informal networks, such as the intellectuals and scientists who collaborated to publicize the idea of “nuclear winter.” In the early 1980s, many scientists opposed the proliferation of nuclear weapons around the world and sought to slow or reverse their spread. Preliminary computer models suggested that a nuclear war could send smoke and dust high into the atmosphere, blocking sunlight and rendering the Earth uninhabitable. A conference of about one hundred scientists discussed the hypothesis in April 1983. In October of that year, scientists including Carl Sagan and Paul Ehrlich began a campaign to popularize the idea and use it to argue against the use of nuclear weapons. They began with a widely-published newspaper supplement, followed days later by a feature on ABC News, before publishing in December in the academic journal Science, and the following year in the pop science book The Cold and the Dark.
The public-facing arguments and persuasive narratives are often crafted after the decision has been made to push for a particular position.
In an effort to prevent nuclear war, these and other scientists presented nuclear winter as though it were a proven theory rather than a plausible hypothesis, and most media reports followed their lead. However, the climate models used to support the hypothesis depend on a number of speculative assumptions. In particular, there is continued debate over whether or not nuclear attacks are likely to loft smoke high into the atmosphere, which would be required in order to produce a lasting cooling effect. Notably, while most of the people behind the idea were apparently more motivated by altruistic desire to prevent global catastrophe than by partisan or personal goals, the dynamics of information creation and spread were much the same.
Many members of the public are willing participants in this process. This stems partly from trust in authorities or narrative leaders, but also from the daunting complexity of the world in which we live. It is far easier to receive narratives uncritically than it is to think through every subject thoroughly, seeking out comprehensive information and considering motives. As with the intellectuals who subconsciously bend themselves to an interest group’s mold, there is no reason to ascribe malintent to the public here either. People are busy. Rigorous thinking, evidence collection, and sound argumentation are frequently time-consuming and by no means instinctive or simple tasks.
It is important to note that many of the arguments offered in favor of a given position are not the proponents’ real reasons for holding that position. The public-facing arguments and persuasive narratives are often crafted after the decision has been made to push for a particular position. This is of minor importance to most consumers of arguments, whose most immediate motives include having talking points for discussions with ideological allies and foes. A large collection of weak or tangential arguments serves this purpose almost as well as strong arguments.
This process of interest groups influencing intellectuals, who then influence the public at large, is far from the only thing that determines which information gets shared and distributed.
This process is far from foolproof, and just because an interest group has marshaled its case and amplified its message does not mean it will successfully persuade the public. Many of these campaigns flop. Once the intellectuals have marshaled their best arguments and spun their best narratives, the result might simply be far-fetched and unpersuasive, or it may be too far beyond the limits of comfortable public thought. For example, while there has been a good deal of public advocacy in favor of vegetarianism for reasons of environmental conservation or animal welfare, these arguments have generally not changed people’s behavior, and the proportion of Americans who are vegetarian has remained constant over the past two decades.
A narrative might be directly countered by a more successful campaign from its opponents, such as the Intelligent Design movement, which achieved significant popular and political support in the late 1990s and 2000s due to think tanks like the Discovery Institute, but has since been relegated to the political fringes by the efforts of biologists, science communicators, and atheist activists.
Or, as is frequently the case with aspects of impassioned political activism, a narrative might achieve support from one faction but be unable to influence the faction that actually makes the relevant decision. This was colorfully captured by Kurt Vonnegut: “During the Vietnam War, every respectable artist in this country was against the war. It was like a laser beam. We were all aimed in the same direction. The power of this weapon turns out to be that of a custard pie dropped from a stepladder six feet high.”
This process of interest groups influencing intellectuals, who then influence the public at large, is far from the only thing that determines which information gets shared and distributed. Other concerns also play their roles, from profit-maximizing sensationalism to a genuine desire to inform the populace. Certainly, the influence of interest groups can be overridden in individual cases. Still, this process is among the strongest factors at play in determining the topics of public conversation.
How, then, should our society respond to this phenomenon? We cannot simply do away with interest groups altogether, nor can we expect them to stop pursuing their interests. Rather, a healthy information ecosystem occurs when the interest groups are constrained by strong epistemic norms, and when individuals are intelligently analyzing the information available to them.
On an individual level, it is important to track the whole process by which a narrative or a piece of information reaches you. Why was it paid for? Why was it written? Why was it broadcast? Why was it shared? What were people’s motivations for taking the actions that led to this information reaching you? Answering these questions about an article or video can sometimes reveal more than the actual content. It can reveal which perspectives are being promoted and which are being left out. Coupled with the uncomfortable willingness to realize when we are wrong, it can let us notice when our picture is distorted, incomplete, or simply false. For any individual this takes both work and a degree of personal humility. We suggest that this work is worth doing, not only to enhance our understanding of base reality, but also to enable better collective sensemaking. Without the ability to understand where our information comes from and why it is reaching us, we are less able to work together to seek the best outcomes for society.
The challenge, then, is to get there from here.
On a wider level, public debate should place far more importance on rationality and good faith. While no one can achieve perfect objectivity and fair-mindedness, those who strive for it get far closer than those who do not. This is true at both the scale of an individual and the scale of a society. Certain social norms can help in this process, including respect for reason, considering issues from opposing perspectives, and valuing the ongoing search for ever-better approximations of the truth, while viewing partiality and cliquishness as embarrassments that diminish one’s stature. The worst arguments will find less traction in such an environment, and people will find it easier to abandon positions when they become untenable.
No society can remain functional if its key decision-makers are focused on debating trivialities and ephemera, or if their debate cannot reach well-justified conclusions. In a functional democracy, the key decision-makers are the public. A functional democracy, therefore, requires healthy public debate. If interest groups are able to flood the public sphere with noise and nonsense, if we let ourselves be carried uncritically by the tide, then public debate will be unable to make progress on the important issues. Democratic political institutions, which depend on public debate and consensus, will then grind to a halt. We have seen this paralyze the American political system in recent decades.
The challenge, then, is to get there from here. How do we become better at interpreting the information we receive or seek out? How do we form a culture that instills skepticism over tribalism? How do we build institutions that police each other in the direction of truth and good faith? These are the questions we must answer to resolve our society’s epistemic crisis.
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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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