This post summarizes Jonathan Rauch's 2018 essay in National Affairs, The Constitution of Knowledge. It expresses the view that what counts as a fact is determined by a process of free enquiry, dialogue and vetting. In broad strokes, that is true, but in the details, it is wrong. Or, perhaps I should say that it is changing, because what it means "to organize social decision-making about what is and is not reality based on a governance framework and a set of principles" no longer means what it used to mean. Why? Because replication fails in chaotic and dynamic environments, because specialization fails when every discipline is connected, because scientific societies fail when they represent only vested interests, because voting fails when consensus matters, and because civic virtues fail when our leaders are bad actors. Rebuilding this will take time, and will require that we flip the script: we no longer say that the (one) community defines how we reach consensus, but rather, how (the many ways) we reach consensus is what defines communities. Image: emergent objective reality, Rotman.
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