Digital era and power of fiction, deception


THERE is no doubt that we are living in digital world where there are so many technological breakthroughs empowering human race.

The human connection through mobile technologies and social media is beyond easy explanation and so is the merger between man and machine.

The machine can tell you how sweet or agony is your sleep going to be because it can predict dreams. However fiction is increasingly featuring into our social, economic and political lives the way digital technology does.

Fiction can never be muted by technology because they are complementary. In our world today, there are digital technologies empowering your life; automating most of your stuff and fiction making you happier if not miserable. Everything is increasingly becoming fiction; the aim is to make you smile or to get you phished.

There is steady rise in the popularity of science fiction movies, artificial reality shows and post-truth politics.

Proliferation of fictional statistics and fictional deals is the evidence that we are living in post-truth era. Fiction has become the integral part of our lives. It is dotted everywhere in businesses, nonprofit organisations, government, interpersonal relations more significantly in ourselves.

Frankly, I am not the big fan of fiction in businesses because it tends to serve greed of the few people who want to become filthy rich at the expense of the majority. Unfortunately, firms are getting highly sophisticated at lies which sometimes make brilliant regulators look like kindergarten kids.

In business world, lies are incentivised. A classic example of this is that: a typical real estate transaction in developed countries has got at least four players the owner (seller), the buyer, the bank and the appraisal guy whose job is to conduct valuation of a property for the buyer.

Since the appraisal guy is paid by property owner there are incentives to lie in favour of him. It’s simply known as “appraise as instructed.” in which the appraisal guy gives no real value of a property, but good value from sellers’ point of view.

May be there is “audit as instructed.” If true, I guess this was the deal between Acacia, the mining firm recently caught in a mineral concentrates scam and TMAA (Tanzania Minerals Audit Agency).

The two mineral sand reports unveiled that Tanzania lost trillions of shillings in underreported revenues worse yet you had TMAA working as if everything with Acacia’s dealings was perfectly clean.

Even worse, you have got Tanzania Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (TEITI) trying hard to make the scheme look officially credible and superficially great. It’s better to have fake drugs in the black market than to have a TFDA (Tanza-nia Food and Drugs Authority) certified fake drug in the market. Believe me, certified lies do much more harm to the society than to their peers operating in the black market.

The 108 trillion losses, as stated by the government’s probe commission, incurred by Tanzania through Acacia’s fraud dealings could be higher than total revenues lost in minerals sold in the black markets in the last 19 years of Acacia operation in the country.

There is a conventional wisdom that economically successful democracies have got balance and checks in place. But I have come to realise that true checks come with political will.

Firstly, you need to have the state seriously working for the benefit of its citizens by establishing right regulations, fully enforced and honestly facilitating transparency.

Secondly, there should be the parliament particularly parliamentary committees working for national interest by ensuring that there are perfect contracts and regulations in place and perfectly enforced.

Otherwise all processes; the audits, transparency initiatives and the jury become a game of perpetual falsehood, a gradual process to serious fraud. Fictional statistics are also on the rise; recently, I came across a library poster written: “come to our library, we offer great readings from trusted authors”. Its underline was: be a conscious reader because there are fictional statistics elsewhere.

I once worked on deforestation project and part of the study was to do a comparative analysis of rate and extent of deforestation in sub-Saharan Africa and some few countries in South Pacific Asia.

Believe me once again, there are huge data variations between FAO and governments’ reports particularly on the question “how many hectares have been deforested in the last decade”. Surprisingly enough FAO has got different estimates of the areas covered by forests from the governments’ estimates.

May be one of them is lying intentionally or both are caught in the game of appeasement to voters or to donors in FAO’s perspective. But we have got to get serious with deforestation studies, because climate change is real.

That’s the downside of the broad realm of fiction. What is the real value of lies? Psychologists tell us that we are happy because we tell a lot of lies to ourselves and that people who tend to have realistic view of their lives end up depressed.

In fact studies indicate people who are depressed once recovered they become less honest. This makes me think that though we hate lies; they are increasingly becoming necessities of life.

I guess they’re like air and water to human being. When I was a kid, I used to read only true stories; biographies, and natural and applied sciences. The likes meant nothing to me; I was in love with the actuals.

I hated fiction; thrillers and science fiction movies. A decade later I got addicted to science fiction movies. I have unusual affection to lies told in novels whether thrilling or not. You know what?

When you get to your mid 20’s, things you considered science fiction a decade earlier become innovations, sometime threatening your only means of survival, challenging your beliefs.

That changes everything; lies become your dream Island when confronted with inconvenient truths. In interpersonal relations, lies have a social value because truth creates inconveniences to us.

Truth makes us feel uncomfortable thus we love to be told stories that appease to our beliefs. For instance, when we ask colleagues to appraise our performance on certain activity, in real sense, we want them to say well done which isn’t actually true but a convenient answer. We don’t like to have friends who are too blunt because they tend to be too honest, thus they are rendered antisocial.

In all spheres of life, fiction makes truths enjoyable, trust me, I’m not lying. Lies bring hope to most of us, they are cure to depression. You got to get lies doing the right job because they can reduce your health bill.

Surprisingly, People are not good at them; they need to be trained to create good lies and detect harmful lies. At last, I hope some genius guys are going to invent Fiction Crafting Institutes and in secondary schools, students are going to be trained not just literature analysis but fiction science; learn to make lies work for them and not the opposite.

It was an “aha” moment for me learning that sometimes dishonest works almost perfectly as honest. What about you? Johaness Siong’o is a social and economic commentator based in Mara.

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