In recent years Americans have experienced a range of assaults upon the truth. In The Constitution of Knowledge: A Defense of Truth (Brookings Institution Press, 2021), Jonathan Rauch describes the various ways in which our understanding of truth has come under attack, and the mechanisms that exist to fight back. As Rauch explains, the challenge of determining truth is as old as civilization itself, with the system we use today a product of concepts formulated in the 17th and 18th centuries. Today this system faces an unprecedented challenge created by the digital revolution, which has inverted the social incentives on which the reality-based community depends and fractured reality for millions of people. The consequences of this today can be seen today in both the numerous agenda-driven disinformation campaigns and the coercive conformity of “cancel culture” that challenges diversity of thought. Yet for all of the threats posed to the Constitution of Knowledge, Rauch argues that within it are contained the tools with which people can fight back successfully in order to maintain our social system for turning disagreement into truth.
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