20210419 RegTech: Knowledge, Belief and Suspicion and the trap of Wilful Blindness.

We are not here talking about so-called citizen journalists, bloggers (yes, I see the irony) and other so-called social media writers. We are talking about established, reputable media which is, at least in theory, supposed to present a balanced view of the stories they present or, if they don’t, to present them as opinion and declare that is what they are.

Media entertains guests, which it very often refers to as ″experts.″ TV programmes all too often describe the person they feature as ″the best.″ Or as ″world leading.″ That description is almost always hyperbole and very often wrong. The journalist presenting the story is trying to create a halo effect in which he looks good because he has someone ultra-brilliant to talk to.

So, why do we have this in relation to financial crime? It’s because there are the same central problems.

We all have to understand knowledge, belief and suspicion.

Knowledge comes from evidence and irrefutable fact. That’s easy, then. Because a fact is a fact, right?

Well, no. It’s not right. What about changing medical opinion? In the mid 20th Century, medical opinion was that moderate smoking of cigarettes (which did not have filters, remember) was good for you. But by the end of the 1950s, there was a small but growing body of opinion that it was bad. Soon, the fact that smoking is good for you became the opposite of a fact.

But, interestingly, it is a discredited fact that tried to come back more than half-a century later when CoVid-19 was found to infect via the nasal passages, there was a body of opinion that said that smoking would prevent the virus getting into the nasal passages. It was, of course, rapidly debunked, as were claims that the virus could be cured by drinking bleach and other improbable or downright dangerous suggestions.
The serious point, however, is that there were people who were convinced that such claims were true, that they were fact, that the facts we so strong as to be the basis not of belief but of knowledge.

We can look around the internet and find extremists, fraudsters and crackpots advancing all manner of theories and trying to establish them as ″fact″ and, if they are fact, that anyone who does not accept them as such, and therefore knowing them to be true, is dangerous.

Religions are referred to as ″belief systems″ precisely because we cannot prove the existence of God. Indeed, the strength of religions is that they require ″faith.″ This in an acceptance of something which cannot be proved, as if it were true.

Belief comes from information and demonstrable fact. The facts do not demonstrate the single most important thing: the existence of God. The facts demonstrate a tendency to establish some non-human force. It can be the appearance of the face of a deity in a potato, a statue that appears to cry, even something so beautiful that it is hard to conceive of it coming from the mind, much less the hand, of man.

However, while it may shore up belief, it is not proof, it is not demonstrable fact, it is not evidence.