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Epistemic Debt Slavery
The economics of denial
We’re all born with imperfect knowledge and judgment, so we all end up building at least part of our lives on falsehoods. When we decide to become “truth-seekers,” we set out to replace those falsehoods with truths.
The more a truth requires us to change our lives, the more painful that truth will be to acknowledge.
The amount of pain that hides a truth from you, can be thought of as a debt.
Let’s call this epistemic debt.
When epistemic debt is so high we can’t possibly pay it, we are forced to defend lies to avoid the pain of acknowledging the truth. We can call being forced to defend lies epistemic debt slavery. In the same way that “debt slavery” is when all your work goes toward paying a debt, epistemic debt slavery is when all your intellectual work and thinking goes toward defending a lie.
When you’re in epistemic debt slavery regarding a certain topic, discovering the truth about it is impossible, intellectual honesty is impossible, and admitting all this to yourself tends to be impossible. An intellect in epistemic debt slavery is pure futility, as all its powers are used to defend the lies that protect it from intolerable truths.
Here’s the good news:
Epistemic debt is predictable — we generally know what creates it
Epistemic debt is finite — there’s only a limited amount
Epistemic debt is egalitarian — neither wealth nor intelligence can protect someone from falling into it
Epistemic debt is entangled — one person’s liberation contributes to everyone’s liberation
Epistemic debt is economical — you can pay it off like a debt
Epistemic debt is transferable — you can pay off the debts of others, and others can pay off yours
Will we treat of each of these in turn?