Saturday, January 2, 2010

Unleashed comment: dreams for 2010

Ministry of Truth

Unleashed comment: dreams for 2010

I hope this is the year, or at least the decade, when we get serious about discovering the facts on matters affecting public policy. Is rising levels of CO2 a serious problem, and if so what, if anything will work to turn it around? Is the end of cheap oil something we need to address proactively, or will the market sort it out? How much vitamin D do people need and does sunlight have other health benefits to set against its dangers?
In all such cases there are winners and losers from any government policy response. And this starts up the engines of disinformation on both sides. Groups form who define themselves as "the people that believe X" thus trapping themselves in a social structure. Experts give opinions and are then unwilling to change their position. Politicians tie themselves in knots.
We need a Ministry of Truth. The literary reference reminds us of traps to avoid. It needs to be staffed my technical experts, particularly mathematicians. The subject matter of Mathematics is how to think clearly about problems. It needs to conduct open, vigorous, well-funded investigations of the facts, with substantial powers. It needs to get the two sides to address each others points instead of shouting past each other. Its investigators need to avoid having known opinions which they might be tempted to defend for ego reasons.