Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

The truth about lying

Yesterday’s blog was about artificial versus human intelligence and its 4 main areas: facts, intuition, beliefs and imagination. The one area that is likely to separate artificial and human intelligence is imagination. Imagination also includes deception. The human nature of lying is a field in Science & Technology (eg, detection, psychology). Also see my 2015 Lying Eyes blog.

PT: “In a 1996 study, DePaulo and her colleagues had 147 people between the ages of 18 and 71 keep a diary of all the falsehoods they told over the course of a week. Most people, she found, lie once or twice a day“. A 2014 British survey confirms this number: “The average Briton tells more than 10 lies a week“.

A June 2017 National Geographic article gives a truly interesting overview on “Why we lie: the science behind our deceptive ways”. It mentions what types of lies (eg, white lies, serious lies, big lies), the ages when we lie (all ages!) and to some extent why we lie (ie, 44% to promote ourselves, 36% to protect ourselves, 11% to impact others, 9% unclear).

Friedrich Nietzsche once stated: “The lie is a condition of life”. This provoking thought seems fair. Our habit of lying must have been successful in evolution, else it would no longer exist. Deception is not even a specific human trait because deception in animals is also common (eg, camouflage, concealment, crypsis, feigning death, mimesis, mimicry).

An elephant is a strong animal that lives in a herd and has no external deception (camouflage). The skin of a cheetah, a solitary strong predator, is perfectly camouflaged. Birds, fish and insects use swarm behaviour for confusing and deflecting predators. There seems to be a natural relation between external deception and the type of living arrangements (group vs solitary). 

There is a Dutch proverb that translates like: the one who isn’t strong, must be smart. Humans aren’t particularly strong and do not have natural camouflage. Humans live in groups (tribes) and are smart in internal deception (eg, ambush). Human smartness also translated in using animals (dogs, horses) and tools (bow and arrow, spear) to advance in hunting prey.

Deception appears to be crucial in the “survival of the fittest“. Deception may advance our chances in all areas of society: relationships, sports, study and work. Deception is found in each of the 7 Belief systems: Love, Money, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Science, and the Truth (the latter often through self-deception). In Friedrich Nietzsche‘s words: “The lie is a condition of life”.

I caught myself on a white lie today. I was trying to protect someone for whom I care. It’s unusual for me to lie as I have no problem telling the truth. I am not smart enough to remember my lies. I also know someone who is probably a pathological liar. It’s still hard for me to accept that bitter truth. I suppose the rest of you must be the average person who lies ten times per week.

“I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.” Quote by Friedrich Nietzsche

Fade to Grey (1980) by Visage – artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2


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