Demonetisation & Godel’s Theorems of Incompleteness

Posted on November 27, 2016


The demonetisation exercise has precipitated so much discussion, assertions, name calling, etc. that it is hard to not pay attention to it. Broadly speaking folks seems to fall into two camps:

Those that believe that the:

  1. inconvenience that this exercise has put 90% of the population who are honest is not worth any amount of black money unearthed, or
  2.  corrupt must be punished and inconvenience is the price we must pay for delivering this justice.

Both camps are trying hard to convert the other to their viewpoint but with no success.

I made some unsuccessful efforts to see if there were objective measures to use to convert folks from one camp to accept the other camp’s viewpoint. I wasn’t the only one; others tried too and failed. The failure has given rise to a lament on how we live in a post-modern, post-truth world where folks simply inhabit echo chambers, never to have any meaningful discussion with those that disagree. I learnt the meaning of two new words:

  • Post-modern – There are no truths, only interpretations.
  • Post-truth – Similar to post-modern but a lament that we are doomed to our respective opinion camps with no hope of advancing our thinking.

Which brings me to Kurt Godel and his Theorems of Incompleteness. I have read and heard of how mighty is Godel’s insight embedded in his theorems. I knew that it rivalled and ran parallel to the Theory of Relativity but I never did truly understand how awesome Godel’s insight was.

Einstein conclusively proved that our experience of the physical world was relative and perhaps the only Truth was the speed of light. Godel established similar underpinning of relativity to our metaphysical world and laid to waste all our efforts to articulate and argue absolute Truths. Godel proved that there can never be any Truths, just multiple truths each valid in a particular frame of reference. Godel provided the logical rigour to the post-modern school of thought. And it is only now that I can really relate to or fully appreciate the insight that is Godel’s Theorem.

The two camps arguing their respective positions on the demonetisation decision are unsuccessful in convincing the other because both are convinced that they argue for Truth where in fact they argue just for their truth. One’s belief in a truth can not and will not invalidate or change other’ belief in their truth. There can never be common mutually acceptable measures to compare and contrast these truths. It is the nature of these truths that may not be measured or compared.

This then brings me to the next question. How does one live, respond and make decisions in a morally relative world? If I am my belief in my truth then how am I to ever test its validity and applicability? What if there is indeed a better response than that guided by my truth, how am to access it if I am unable to compare, contrast and repudiate my truth? How do I ever make the decision to demonetise or not?

I understand that some of my truths will fall away over a period of time as I am exposed to thoughts, people and experiences but this process can only be gradual. In the meantime I continue to be guided by my current truth-set into actions that might be suboptimal for me at best and might bring lasting pain and grief for others at worst. But live, respond and act I must. So am I doomed to an existence wracked with doubt, tentativeness and “buyer’s” remorse?

Posted in: Misc.