The Post-Truth Calculator 3000

 

Sorry, gonna break out my outer nerd here and propose something…

What happens if you get an email for instance with a subject like, “NYT Reports Hilary C Gave Birth to Siamese twin sister night after election,” but don’t feel like hitting politifact to determine if its “real” yellow news (eg fake news) or not. Derp.

The answer to these sort of questions got me pondering recently (not about the whole Siamese thing, I think I got my answer, thank you National Enquirer) and the answer is, of-course, that we need an app man!

Namely we need an application for any kind of thinking machine- smart phone, tablet, laptop, and, if we get really carried away, human implant (that last option planned for the 2.0 version, also known during development as code name “People of Earth”) that can essentially automate the fact checking process and remove the droll and so very ‘painful’ process of having to actually fact check data ourselves. So, without further ado let me introduce a concept for “The Post-Truth Calculator 3000.

Here’s how the Post-Truth Calculator 3000 would work.

The basic design, functionality, and usability would borrow heavily from virus scan engines. The application would look at incoming email, websites, application data (eg a Facebook plugin) and bounce that information off an FCD or Fact Check Definition library. The FCD would consist of an ever expanding universe of known information viruses– suspicious emails couched in inflammatory email subjects, yellow news, total bullshit sources etc. Business logic would also perform “heuristic” type reviews or scan for typical semantic and natural language patterns in reporting “BS “information such as word patterns. as well as look for more basic stuff such as if citing sources and/or if arising from certain websites of ill repute or report. In addition fact check experts (eg human researchers) would populate the database with the information they create. All of these various inputs would conspire to create a burgeoning, learning dictionary of fact checked information.

The information scanner would then indicate in the email or on the app that it found something that smells bad, perhaps on a scale of “relative factual smell” and indicate that fact with the display of corresponding icons; for instance show a “rose” if the facts seemed right or a dog terd if wrong; the user could then click for amplifying information if wanted or cared. But the point is that this application would eliminate the need to manually bridge the gap between reading an email or browsing news and hitting a fact check website. I would like to see added enhancements such as where the email originated from (as in the name of the author or originating location, eg “Macedonia” = bad).

So at 100K view the main components envisioned are:
1. plugins for different browsers and apps (such as facebook) would parse data and feed to a …
2. fact Check engine installed on laptop, tablet, smart phone etc which would do heuristic checks for common “information smell” and call an…
3. application programming interface with hooks into…
4. fact check database – populated by Fact Check sites like snopes, other. There could also be an api that allows different organizations like that to build applications for contributing to the database. The key here, IMO, is the…
5. fact check schema – which defines a standard way to representing and qualifying fact checked information such that different fact check experts can provide the information in a consistent manner. Side note: I think this could be VERY powerful if done right. A good schema for defining this problem space is a subtle but critical aspect of how different fact check systems agree on what essentially makes fact check information. An organization that could define, publish and demonstrate how to use this (as well as provide an open api for generating results and reusing facts which other development projects could use) could IMO quickly take ownership of this problem space.  Anyways, the fact check engine, based on call through api and underlining data would produce…
6.  fact check result  – I imagine some kind of fun iconography at the bottom of browser, facebook, email or wherever which indicates that the page or email someone is readying a) has been fact checked and b) visual indication (such as dog poop) indicating that information to be, um, dog poop (would also be good if there was a way for user to request a fact check on something if there data that has not yet or may appear to require fact check).
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Another key ingredient is obviously that you have an organization or group of people committed to the truth who, however tempting, resist the urge to take a political, ideological, social, religious etc position…computers are probably best at remaining neutral but are not (yet) rational beings. However I think you could probably create a ruleset that would help with that impartiality if that direction was chosen. For instance, any bit of information arising from former eastern block country “x” + american politics = suspicious dp (dog poop).

I think this kind of application could have utility in other areas… for instance for people researching cancer options.

Alright I’ll wrap this up.

Its nearly impossible to trust a lot of what we read anymore. So I think this idea has, as my Dad used to say, a nice pair of gams…it might have some legs.

Sure companies like Facebook might hate the the PTC-3 because it might drive down the number of shares driven by clickbait articles. But I believe there is, or at least should, a backlash coming for all post factual political and other crap out there. People want a return of or at least the appearance of journalistic integrity and objectivity; in the absence of that a fact check engine could be a useful gadget. And sure, perhaps people like me should be more disciplined and devote more time to checking and verifying sources of information make it easier and pull something like snopes right into those applications for one stop, no bs shopping?

So if you’ve got some 2017 $$$ cash you want to invest into this project let me know…or you can simply steal the idea from a stage iv cancer patient and pretend it was yours…at least the idea is out here now in the universe…perhaps this butterfly can flap its wings and cause a hurricane.

 

 

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One Thought on “The Post-Truth Calculator 3000

  1. I ran my chrome extension BS detector against this page and it returned GTS.

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