“…truth isn’t outside power, or lacking in power:… truth isn’t the reward of free spirits, the child of protracted solitude, nor the privilege of those who have succeeded in liberating themselves. 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. Each society has its regime of truth, its ‘general politics’ of truth: that is, the types of discourse which it accepts and makes function as true; the mechanisms and instances which enable one to distinguish true and false statements, the means by which each is sanctioned; the techniques and procedures accorded value in the acquisition of truth; the status of those who are charged with saying what counts as true.” (Foucault 131 “Truth & Power” from Power/Knowledge 1980)


I found this quote to be strangely relevant in creating the “system” for memory particularly because I am trying (and I believe we in this class are often trying) to pull pieces of “truth” out of a multiplicity of regimes and find how they might intersect.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about sets of micro/macro, digital/analogue, analytic/wholistic  systems of looking & trying to make truth out of our experiences of the world.


About Sarah Goetz
By day, I teach Wired! Workshops, builds responsive websites, and creates work for the Link Media Wall at Duke University. By night, I am an artist who makes sewn paper installations, experimental films, and abstract watercolor paintings. I have the passion of an artist and the humor of a web designer, and I am soon to take over the world, or at least your vision of it

One Response to Truth

  1. eah13 says:

    This is an excellent quote. I think that Foucault and Wittgenstein can give pointed guidance to the nature of the intelligence that artificial intelligence might possess.

    The thing I want to emphasize here, though, is that truth systems that surround us are insidious and hard to parse. I have this sense that the truth-systems that Foucault is referring to above are composed of two co-evolutionary components: Truth, as defined, adjudicated, etc within the system, and the ‘multiple forms of constraint’ within which that truth makes sense and which are the structures within which truth and its adherents operate.

    These ‘multiple forms of constraint’ are the most directly accessible to designers of neosentient systems. The constraints must be dynamic so that they can form a co-evolutionary relationship with the truth they produce, but the truth is largely emergent.

    To bring the discussion back to earth, I want to mention that the forms of constraint I’m referring to can include: sensory perceptions, pain/pleasure, beliefs, images, etc. These can also be substrate for more subtle constraints such as loyalty, nationalism, self identity, group identity, etc.

    Within these constraints, ‘truth’ becomes hardly distinguishable from thought, language, and action (and perhaps most noticeably memory!). And now we’re extremely close to the realization of our undeniable but imperceptible subjectivity. I don’t read Foucault as proposing or advocating a ‘lifting of the veil’ of our subjectivity, just an extortion to take active ownership over this mechanism of truth. Similarly, if we’re to achieve benevolence in a neosentient system, we’ll merely aim to give the system a subtle control over its truth-systems. When these truth=systems include a possibility of empathy (perception of other as other-self), benevolence will emerge.

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