Decentralized Truth & What is Means for AI Regulations

Michel Foucault
All Photos © Aditya Mohan | All Rights Reserved.


In the realm of jurisprudence, the pursuit of truth is a foundational principle, guiding the intricate mechanisms of legal systems worldwide. Law endeavors to construct an objective framework, meticulously designed to sift through evidence, adhere to established procedures, and rely on judicious interpretation to unveil the truth. This system, predicated on the belief in an attainable objective truth, aims to administer justice in a manner that transcends subjective biases and individual perceptions.

Decentralized Truth

However, this quest for a universal truth within the legal domain encounters the inherently decentralized nature of truth in societal contexts. Societies are marked by a norms, values, and beliefs that define what is deemed acceptable or reprehensible. These social norms are not static; they evolve, reflecting the ever-changing landscape of cultural, ethical, and moral standards. The United States Constitution itself, a venerated emblem of democratic principles and rights, presupposes a particular societal culture and norms, illustrating how legal frameworks are deeply intertwined with the cultural fabric of the society they emerge from. Such specificity underscores the challenge in transplanting legal principles, including those enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, to societies with divergent cultural and normative landscapes.

Michel Foucault challenged traditional concepts of centralized truth, arguing that truth is a product of social, historical, and political forces and that power relations in society shape our understanding of what is true. This perspective suggests that truth can be decentralized, as it varies according to different discourses and power structures.

"Truth isn't outside power, or lacking in power... truth is a thing of this world: it is produced only by virtue of multiple forms of constraint. And it induces regular effects of power."

A photo of Michel Foucault delivering a lecture or engaged in a discussion would directly reference the philosophical underpinnings of the article. Foucault's work on power, knowledge, and the social construction of truth is central to the article's argument. 

This quote from his interview "Truth and Power" in the 1980 collection "Power/Knowledge" highlights Foucault's belief that truth is not a standalone entity, separate from power, but rather is produced through the operations of power within societal structures. He argues that what we come to accept as truth is the result of various forces and constraints operating within society.

AI Regulations & Truth 

The advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI) adds a new dimension to the discourse on truth and its societal determination. AI's capabilities, its ethical use, and the norms governing its deployment are not solely dictated by the technological frontier's bounds but are influenced by societal norms. Like the decentralized nature of truth, the application and regulation of AI technology are subject to the prevailing moral and ethical standards of each society. This variance is evident in the global debate on privacy, surveillance, autonomous weaponry, and algorithmic bias, where different societies prioritize distinct values and risks.

Friedrich Nietzsche also questioned the absoluteness of truth, proposing that "there are no facts, only interpretations." This perspective opens the door to the decentralization of truth, as it emphasizes the role of individual perspectives and interpretations.

Given the decentralized nature of truth and the diverse societal norms influencing the perception and utilization of AI, proposing a universal or even regional treaty to regulate AI emerges as a formidable challenge. The complexity lies not only in the technological dynamism of AI but also in the plurality of societal norms that guide what is considered an ethical application of AI. The variance in these norms reflects the broader challenge of reconciling diverse cultural and ethical standards within a globalized framework.

Regulations - Local or Global 

In the realm of law, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., an American jurist, famously said, "The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience." This reflects the understanding that legal truths evolve and are interpreted through the collective experiences of society, suggesting a form of decentralized development of truth within legal systems.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

In this respect, the regulation of AI, which can be achieved through existing common law, exemplifies the broader tension between the desire for universal principles to govern emerging technologies and the reality of decentralized societal norms. Just as legal systems strive to establish a semblance of objective truth within a complex web of subjective realities, the governance of AI requires a nuanced understanding of the interplay between technology and societal values. It necessitates a flexible, context-sensitive approach that acknowledges the diversity of norms across societies.

The journey toward effectively regulating AI, much like the pursuit of truth, is marked by the superficial goal for universal and centralized standards for either AI or truth itself, which is not possible due to the inherent diversity and decentralization of societal norms. As we navigate this terrain, the dialogue between law, technology, and society remains pivotal in shaping a future where the potential of AI is harnessed ethically and responsibly, reflecting the multifaceted truth of human civilization and its evolution. 

Further read