a blog about things that I've been thinking hard about


7 March, 2022
We need a universal naming system for labelling new propositions.

A bit like hash tags.

Actually, just like hash tags, but where each hash tag is a whole sentence.

This will then make it easy to find arguments against new propositions.

The Spread of Disinformation

We live in a world of disinformation.

There is a hue and cry. Demands are made for action to be taken to halt the spread of disinformation.

Platforms de-platform the worst offenders. Posts are blocked. Or posts are marked as controversial, and links are given to more "trustworthy" sources of information on whatever is the topic.

But censorship is not the answer.

Because censorship is not a good thing.

The road to truth is not through preventing the spread of misinformation – it's through enabling the spread of relevant information.

And "official" sources of truth aren't the answer either, or at least they are not the complete answer, because who is to say what is the final authority on the truth of any matter.

Making the Not-Quite-So-Easy slightly easier

One problem with modern social media networks is that they make it too easy for users to share and like new "information", and they make it not quite so easy for those same users to discover counter-arguments to anything they see or hear online.

We could try and hold individual social networks responsible for the job of making it easy for users to find counter-arguments to possible new disinformation.

But any centralized solution to this problem is not going to be a very good solution.

What we really want is that any time anyone says something new on any social network, we need it to be easy for users to find relevant counter-arguments on any other social network or forum or search engine.

A new Naming System

The best say to do this is to provide a universal naming system for new propositions.

Actually, we already have something like this – it's called Hash Tags.

Hash tags are typically used to describe topics, and they are usually one, two or three words long.

The best way to use hash tags to label propositions is to convert the entire proposition into a hash tag.

These propositional hash tags will be longer than just two or three words – each propositional hash tag will have to be a whole sentence which is a self-contained and reasonably unambiguous statement of the proposition itself.

For example, "Gold is created by neutron star mergers" would become #GoldIsCreatedByNeutronStarMergers.

Once such a name exists for a new proposition, anyone posting counter-arguments (on any social network or forum or website or wherever) can label those counter-arguments with the same name.

So anyone wanting to post an argument against the proposition "Gold is created by neutron star mergers" would label their argument with the hash tag #GoldIsCreatedByNeutronStarMergers.

(Also people posting in favour of this proposition could use the same hash tag, and those posting arguments or evidence against might use additional meta-hash-tags like #against or #refutation.)

Who should do the naming?

Who should be assigned responsibility for defining the correct hash tag for any particular proposition?

In practice, this responsibility has to be given to the person who is promoting the proposition.

In other words, the person promoting evidence or argument in favour of a new proposition should also create a hash tag which concisely and unambiguously refers to that proposition.

Can we make people do this?

We can't.

But, if #PropositionalHashTags become a thing, then eventually anyone who wants their arguments or statements to have credibility will have to provide a relevant hash tag.

They will need to do this so that everyone reading, seeing or hearing evidence and argument for that proposition knows that they can quickly find the most relevant or popular or authoritative counter-argument from whatever source or sources of information they might prefer to use for that purpose.

If you are advancing some novel proposition, and you don't provide a useful propositional hash tag, then your audience will suspect that you have too much to hide – that you don't want to make it easy for them to find out possible reasons why your proposition might not be correct.

Make the names easy to share ...

Also, if propositional hash tags become a really big thing, then social media apps would have a motive to add special "Sharing" features that specifically act on hash tags, so that users can readily navigate to alternative sources of information on any particular new assertion that they see posted online in each app.

(In some cases that might mean subscribing to future items linked to a hash tag, given that, for any brand new proposition, it will take time for interested parties and commentators to discover and post relevant counter-arguments to the proposition in question.)

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