Moral Relativism, Truth, and Social Breakdown

Years ago I took a philosophy class on issues in morality in college. At one point we discussed how many moral truths were universal and how many were dependent on culture. Philosophers have studied this idea and they have come up with lists of moral principles that are universal across societies because they are fundamental to the functioning and cohesiveness of basic social groupings. One of the fundamental principles is the acknowledgment of the value of truth-telling and the condemnation of lying. Society cannot function if people can never make the assumption that most people are telling the truth most of the time about most things. So what happens when groups have an interest in deliberately lying to the public and it is difficult to tell the difference between a truth  and a lie? This is what Western Democracies face when an onslaught of fake news, which may be skillfully produced and disseminated by AI in the near future, overwhelms the modern communication channels.

Advances in the near future, widely reported on, will allow the seamless spoofing of video and audio. In our “post-Truth” society, and with modern propaganda sowing doubt and mistrust, how will it be possible to believe any damaging or otherwise important revelations? Even if there are digital footprints which can reveal meddling, they can be easily dismissed by partisans. In addition, it will allow important people and politicians to deny that they made statements, saying that they are fabrications, when in fact they are true.

Free society will be turned against itself, what will be the remedy to libel and slander that is impossible to prove one way or the other? In order to cut through nonsense and partisanship, focus will have to be kept on issues and policy themselves, something which is currently proving impossible. Debate over policy cannot occur if people are debating over the true nature of reality. Solutions can only exist if people avoid reports about the conversations or videos of leaders or they are dismissed in favor of actions. The other result of this change in our social dynamic, of questioning whether or not anything is real, is nothing less than the absolute dissolution and dismemberment of society. Post-truth society eventually has to face the realization that it will eventually lead to social destruction and chaos if left fundamentally unchecked.

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