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America must come to grips with the difference between truth and belief

America must come to grips with the difference between truth and belief
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The term “singularity,” popularized decades ago, describes a future event when artificial intelligence surpasses human intelligence. At that moment and beyond, humanity’s fate cannot be predicted. Many embrace technological advancements for bettering our world. Others fear unimpeded advancements will lead to human extinction. But one thing is clear: There are no foreseeable forks on this continuum toward singularity. The trend line eventually will reach a point. The question is whether it will be a point of no return.

More immediately, we are confronting a sort of “Inverse Singularity” that is damaging our country’s politics and policies and threatening our survival. I am speaking of a fissure in how we define and value truth. For some, facts are absolute. The Earth is round, not flat. Face masks help stem the spread of viruses. Joe BidenJoe BidenFive examples of media's sycophancy for Biden on inauguration week Drastic measures for drastic times — caregiver need mobile health apps Boycott sham impeachment MORE defeated Donald TrumpDonald TrumpMore than two-thirds of Americans approve of Biden's coronavirus response: poll Sarah Huckabee Sanders to run for governor Mexico's president tests positive for COVID-19 MORE.

For others, facts demand alternatives. A majority of Republicans believe Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaNASA demonstrates why rocket science is still hard with the SLS test Joe Biden might bring 'unity' – to the Middle East Extremism in the U.S. military MORE won the presidency illegally, while half of Donald Trump’s supporters believe the president is trying to topple a child sex-trafficking ring led by prominent Democrats. Verifiable truth does not matter to these believers. All that matters is what they believe. One former QAnon adherent recently acknowledged his brief foray into this conspiracy theory “gave me comfort” while it “slowly disconnected me from reality.”

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This mass departure from reality has consequences.

The mob assault on the U.S. Capitol yesterday is a good example.

We are witnessing a ripple effect, as hundreds if not thousands of elected GOP officials nationwide — including a frightening number of U.S. senators and congresspeople — vehemently reject truths that have been self-evident throughout American history. To them, the absence of election fraud matters less than the possibility all election officials and judges are wrong. Even if we had individual videos of the legal processing of all 158,383,935 votes cast, alternative truthers would insist the videos in Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Georgia were manipulated.

In August 2016, a focus group of Trump supporters were shown fake Trump ads presented as real ones. One ad called for locking Mexicans in houses and then transporting them across the border. Another called for establishing legal “abortion zones” in poor cities. After each fake commercial, the focus group members performed mental gymnastics to justify what they believed were real ads. They schemed how to lure Mexicans into small spaces so they could be deported. They suddenly supported a woman's right to choose.

All because “Trump” approved of it.

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Singularity supposes the coming of sentient technology. Inverse Singularity reflects the rise of insentient humanity through the rejection of conscious thought.

Today’s alternative truthers trust like-minded messengers more than themselves. They sacrifice honesty, integrity, and decency in exchange for blind allegiance. They defend the baseless simply because they’re supposed to. That’s how they’re programmed.

And “programmed” is the key word. We are still better than robots. But if our country — and humanity as a whole — is to survive, we have to keep it that way.

B.J. Rudell is a longtime political strategist, former associate director for Duke University’s Center for Politics, and recent North Carolina Democratic Party operative. In a career encompassing stints on Capitol Hill, on presidential campaigns, in a newsroom, in classrooms, and for a consulting firm, he has authored three books and has shared political insights across all media platforms, including for CNN and Fox News.