A concept invented by Robert Heinlein in his novel Stranger in a Strange Land. A Fair Witness is a professional observer; a person with eidetic memory and keen observational skills, admitted to testify in court about any factual aspect of a situation e was retained to record. A Witness could be thought of as performing a function similar to that of a notary public, but much more so. Unlike notarys, the members of the Fair Witness Guild are highly respected professionals, and obviously guild members are held to extremely high standards of integrity and ethics.

In addition to perfect recall, the hallmark of a Fair Witness is that e will never render any opinion about what e observed, nor infer anything that e did not actually see or hear.

The book was first published in 1961, and some people might suppose that the concept of the Fair Witness has been rendered obsolete by the march of progress; that the ubiquity of audio, visual, and other types of recording devices would make them preferable. (For example, in The Truth Machine by James Halperin, there comes a time when virtually everybody wears a life recorder that records, and stores in a huge central repository, emselves and eir surroundings virtually every minute of the day.)

However, it seems possible to me that, with the advances in the techniques and availability of manipulation of digital data, we may yet find that we are more willing to put our trust in such people than in images and sounds the veracity of which we no longer can take for granted.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.