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The Death Of Expertise...and the Confidence Of The Dumb


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Solaria Goldshark wrote:

Ruminations on public discourse in the modern age.

 

It seems to me that one of the marks of a true expert is having so much knowledge about a topic that they can state their position so clearly and provide so much evidence to support that it will be obvious that they're correct to an unbiased observer.  If they can do that they shouldn't need to expect deference based only on their position as an "expert."

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Theresa Tennyson wrote:


Solaria Goldshark wrote:

Ruminations on public discourse in the modern age.

 

It seems to me that one of the marks of a true expert is having so much knowledge about a topic that they can state their position so clearly and provide so much evidence to support that it will be obvious that they're correct to an
unbiased observer.
  If they can do that they shouldn't
need
to expect deference based only on their position as an "expert."

I'm no sure anyone can be an unbiased observer. I'm not sure anyone can empty themselves so completely that they can be pure observation.  The observer is required to make a judgments based on the evidence given, which requires the observer to wrestle with established biases of their own knowledge, experiences, feelings and beliefs, and then follow the evidence.

 

However, I do have some evidence to support your position.  Observe!  Empty yourself!

Expertise.

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Theresa Tennyson wrote:

It seems to me that one of the marks of a true expert is having so much knowledge about a topic that they can state their position so clearly and provide so much evidence to support that it will be obvious that they're correct to an unbiased observer.  If they can do that they shouldn't
need
to expect deference based only on their position as an "expert."

You faith in humanity's ability to make rational judgements is truly admirable. Sadly, it's not very well supported by facts.

Communicating and persuading both require their own skill sets and knowing and understanding a lot about a certain topic doesn't necessarily mean you are good at explaining it to others. On the other side, some people are so good at arguing they can easily persuade you to believe the sky is green. ;)

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ChinRey wrote:

Communicating and persuading both require their own skill sets and knowing and understanding a lot about a certain topic doesn't necessarily mean you are good at explaining it to others. On the other side, some people are so good at arguing they can easily persuade you to believe the sky is green.
;)


I agree. I think my career success was more due to my ability to convince people than to my expertise. I think this because I often acted as if I knew things I didn't, believing that I'd be able to learn them if necessary. That belief led to countless all-nighters and a very early retirement.

Meanwhile, people who could easily shame me with their superior knowledge of things were unable to distill their thinking down to something anybody else could grasp. You are only an expert if others believe it. Otherwise you are a "so called expert".

Unfortunately, for many people to believe you are an expert, you must agree with them.

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Madelaine McMasters wrote:

I agree.

...

Unfortunately, for many people to believe you are an expert, you must agree with them.

You're a true expert, Madelaine. ^_^

But seriously, I think any easy answer here is almost by definition wrong. It's actually a very complex topic.

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Solaria Goldshark wrote:


Theresa Tennyson wrote:


Solaria Goldshark wrote:

Ruminations on public discourse in the modern age.

 

It seems to me that one of the marks of a true expert is having so much knowledge about a topic that they can state their position so clearly and provide so much evidence to support that it will be obvious that they're correct to an
unbiased observer.
  If they can do that they shouldn't
need
to expect deference based only on their position as an "expert."

I'm no sure anyone can be an unbiased observer. I'm not sure anyone can empty themselves so completely that they can be pure observation.  The observer is required to make a judgments based on the evidence given, which requires the observer to wrestle with established biases of their own knowledge, experiences, feelings and beliefs, and then follow the evidence.

 

However, I do have some evidence to support your position.  Observe!  Empty yourself!

Expertise.

As I'm familiar with Stevie Ray Vaughan, I can accept that he has expertise as a guitar player.

Now let's look at another video:

THIS video isn't  evidence of any given Monkee's expertise as an instrumentalist, though, because they didn't play the instruments on the audio track.

My big problem with the article was that the writer seemed to be using the word "expert" as "someone who is in a position where you'd expect them to have expertise" instead of "someone with expertise." For my thinking, an "expert" is like an "artist" - it's not something that you can be, but a status that flows back to you by what you do.

You can say that you're a medical doctor if you have a medical license; you can't (legally) say you are one if you don't. A doctor is something you can be. If you are hired by a university to do a certain job you can call yourself a professor. You'd think that the professor would be hired because they had expertise in a field, but I know from bitter experience that isn't always the case. I've worked with a professor who had less knowledge, experience and ability in certain aspects of what they were hired to teach than some of the undergraduate students in the program.

In many criminal trials there are "expert witnesses." If it's a fairly big trial there may well be "experts" on both sides with completely opposite interpretations of a certain piece of evidence. And there have been a number of trials where "experts" on one side or the other were either incompetent or flat-out lying.

http://truthinjustice.org/expertslie.htm

If someone shows expertise in a field I will probably defer to their opinion, but if their claim for expertise is based on the position they hold instead of what they've done I won't defer automatically. From reading that article, the author is one of the people I won't defer to automatically because he failed to show me that he had any real expertise about what he was saying.

 

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Theresa Tennyson wrote:

THIS video
isn't 
evidence of any given Monkee's expertise as an instrumentalist, though, because they didn't play the instruments on the audio track.

That's true, they don't even try very hard to mime convincingly. ;) But to be fair, the Monkees did know how to play their songs, they did it on stage after all. Using the Wrecking Crew rather than the band on the label in studio was common ptactice in the LA recording industry back then. Everybody were doing it and I think one of the reasons the Monkees were the one who had to take the heat was that they were the band that refused to keep quiet about it.

 


Theresa Tennyson wrote:

My big problem with the article was that the writer seemed to be using the word "expert" as "someone
who is in a position where you'd expect
them to have expertise" instead of "someone
with
expertise."

Wem Gott ein Amt gibt, dem gibt er auch Verstand

One of the most infamous factoids in history. Has it ever been translated into English?

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The "Day of the Expert" has died because of...

 

Self Proclaimed Experts, often in Pseudo Sciences, those Ivory Tower Academic Faculty Timewasters, who see a masters degree in something subjective and largely useless as the key to a cushy career and a fat pension.

 

Look at the Talking Head crowds of minor proffessors from 3rd rate backwater cow colleges, who get 10 min slots on cheap documentaries for US Discovery/History.

 

Making a explotation documentary about ancient egypt, show some libreary footage of pyramids, camels and the nile, inbetween 5 min bouts of some guy from Buttburg Agricultural College, who apparently is their emerritus proffessor of old stuff...

 

Two mins into his spiel even a non academic like my self with some casual knowledge of the subject can see the guy is a piss poor fake.

 

Professors of 'Medieval Studies' from Boston, who can't find Europe on a damn map, proffessors of economics entering a yearly prediction contest at the LSE, and no team ever won the thing 2 years in a row, and no school of economic thought wins 2 years in a row, leading to one LSE faculty member admitting in a Channel 4 interview that 'Economics' is as scientific as Alchemy

 

An infamous professor of Philosophy, John Norman - Author of Gor... who can't spell the name of what he claims are his "two favorite greek philosophers".

 

And last and by all means least, Proffessors of various forms of "social alchemy' pseudo subjects like the author of this article linkewd in the OP.

 

Expertise lost face when people started getting degrees for papers which have titles (and content) that are semantically NULL.

 

Idiots who insist that the Rules of College Debate Class Logic are a substitute for Actual Thought.

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Klytyna wrote:

Look at the Talking Head crowds of minor proffessors from 3rd rate backwater cow colleges, who get 10 min slots on cheap documentaries for US Discovery/History.

Not just on those channels, all of the internet too. It's not that long ago we had fun on this forum butchering some really shoddy quasi research done by some professors at a backwater university named Harvard. ;)

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ChinRey wrote:


Klytyna wrote:

Look at the Talking Head crowds of minor proffessors from 3rd rate backwater cow colleges, who get 10 min slots on cheap documentaries for US Discovery/History.

Not just on those channels, all of the internet too. It's not that long ago we had fun on this forum butchering some really shoddy quasi research done by some professors at a backwater university named Harvard.
;)

I'm skeptical that "The Death of Expertise" is coming at the hands of academia. Shoddy quasi research has been around longer than good research. For the most part, the scientific community stumbles towards the truth and it's important that people take contrary views to poke the system. Although there are problems with that Harvard research, I think they're still on the right track in teasing out implicit biases. The detractors who question any assumption that such biases lead to discriminatory behavior are providing the checks and balances that are inherent in science's pursuit of the truth.

That whole topic is worth researching as we're on the cusp of potentially transferring our unexamined biases into autonomous systems that will silently discriminate in ways we may not desire. It's already happening... https://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/10/upshot/when-algorithms-discriminate.html?_r=0

I generally agree with the article cited in the OP. Rather than some recent increase in bad academic research, It seems more plausible to me that the Dunning-Kruger effect is being fed by the recent arrival of narrowcastingfilter bubbles and ideological balkanization via the Internet. All of those are positive feedback mechanisms and, as an engineer, they worry me. In my world, positive feedback often yields oscillation or saturation, and sometimes self destruction.

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Madelaine McMasters wrote:


ChinRey wrote:


Klytyna wrote:

Look at the Talking Head crowds of minor proffessors from 3rd rate backwater cow colleges, who get 10 min slots on cheap documentaries for US Discovery/History.

Not just on those channels, all of the internet too. It's not that long ago we had fun on this forum butchering some really shoddy quasi research done by some professors at a backwater university named Harvard.
;)

I'm skeptical that "The Death of Expertise" is coming at the hands of academia.

The problem isn't "Academia" as a whole, Hard Science still does it's job according to scientific method, Engineering, still does it's job, Medicine still does it's job.

 

The problem is the Liberal Arts Pseudo Subjects, academics like the author ofthe article.

 

Reading that article I got a very real and repeated sense of Academia Pseudo-Subject Entitlement... 

"You respect Doctors, and Scientists and Engineers for their knowledge, therefore *South Park Cartman Voice* You Will Respect Mah Authority!"

 

The problem is people who got their Doctorate Sheepskin for an 18 page semantically null thesis paper entitled "The Effects of Pumpernickle in determining Gender Identity roles in grass-weaving handicrafts amongst Uncontacted Stone Age Tribes" ( which is none as said uncontacted tribes don't live near a German Deli ), and used the resulting combined degree in "Sociology & Macrame" to get faculty tenure as an "Emeritus Professor of Culture" someplace, which entitles them to write appalingly reviewed coffee table books on the "Libtard Induced Decline of Modern Civilisation", and appear on the Faux Network's weekly "Murican Intellectuals Debate" show, who then feel aggrived when they don't get the same degree of respect as Newton, Faraday, Einstein, Bell, Edison, Marconi, Werner von Braun, Kurt Tank, Christian Barnard, Barnes Wallace, and many many more, who had actually had real knowledge, and actually did real science.

 

The problem is then compounded by people who assume that being a Professor of anything makes you an automatic authority on everything. Back when I moderated in Atheist forums, there were always people who'd firmly inform you that "many scientists support creationism", and when asked to identify them would name professors of sociology, or business studies, or modern history, or philosophy,  and claim that these people were obviously experts on "stuff" and thus smarter than the "dumb atheist biologists, cosmologists, paleontologists and archeologists".

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Klytyna wrote:


Madelaine McMasters wrote:


ChinRey wrote:


Klytyna wrote:

Look at the Talking Head crowds of minor proffessors from 3rd rate backwater cow colleges, who get 10 min slots on cheap documentaries for US Discovery/History.

Not just on those channels, all of the internet too. It's not that long ago we had fun on this forum butchering some really shoddy quasi research done by some professors at a backwater university named Harvard.
;)

I'm skeptical that "The Death of Expertise" is coming at the hands of academia.

The problem isn't "Academia" as a whole, Hard Science still does it's job according to scientific method, Engineering, still does it's job, Medicine still does it's job.

 

The problem is the Liberal Arts Pseudo Subjects, academics like the author ofthe article.

 

Reading that article I got a very real and repeated sense of Academia Pseudo-Subject Entitlement... 

"You respect Doctors, and Scientists and Engineers for their knowledge, therefore *South Park Cartman Voice* You Will Respect Mah Authority!"

 

The problem is people who got their Doctorate Sheepskin for an 18 page semantically null thesis paper entitled "
The Effects of Pumpernickle in determining Gender Identity roles in grass-weaving handicrafts amongst Uncontacted Stone Age Tribes
" ( which is none as said uncontacted tribes don't live near a German Deli ), and used the resulting combined degree in "
Sociology & Macrame
" to get faculty tenure as an "
Emeritus Professor of Culture
" someplace, which entitles them to write appalingly reviewed coffee table books on the "
Libtard Induced Decline of Modern Civilisation
", and appear on the Faux Network's weekly "
Murican Intellectuals Debate
" show, who then feel aggrived when they don't get the same degree of respect as Newton, Faraday, Einstein, Bell, Edison, Marconi, Werner von Braun, Kurt Tank, Christian Barnard, Barnes Wallace, and many many more, who had actually had real knowledge, and actually did real science.

 

The problem is then compounded by people who assume that being a Professor of anything makes you an automatic authority on everything. Back when I moderated in Atheist forums, there were always people who'd firmly inform you that "many scientists support creationism", and when asked to identify them would name professors of sociology, or business studies, or modern history, or philosophy,  and claim that these people were obviously experts on "stuff" and thus smarter than the "dumb atheist biologists, cosmologists, paleontologists and archeologists".

Again, those "Professors of anything" have been around forever, I had several of them in college. So that doesn't explain this new "Death of Expertise". And bad research and bad behavior in the hard sciences have been around as long as the hard sciences. The Scientific Method is designed to overcome the messiness of human endeavor and has a pretty good track record so far, but it's not perfect.

Vaxers, climate change deniers, those who'd have us believe the world is more violent than at any time in history, and people who think the laws of thermodynamics are a hoax aren't making reasoned critiques of scientific research, they're misinterpreting data, ignoring facts they don't like and using their "gut" to determine what's right and wrong. This is not a matter of people proclaiming expertise in some area where they have none. I can't count the number of politicians or Jenny McCarthy clones who've said "I'm no scientist, but..." and then go on to mis-explain in layman's terms the very science they admit they don't understand, because "common sense" is all anyone needs. This is an appealing argument because common sense is something we all know we have, right? Dunning-Kruger to the rescue!

Like you, I roll my eyes at pseudo-science (if/when I can detect it), but if the "Death of Expertise" is new, it seems to me it's not caused by something perpertual.

ETA:  You said: "The problem is then compounded by people who assume that being a Professor of anything makes you an automatic authority on everything."

If the "people" in that statement are the public, that argues against "The Death of Expertise"? If people are presuming that non-experts are actually experts, that's a sort of perverse "Rise of Perceived Expertise", isn't it? I think there really is a "Rise of Perceived Expertise", but not in that way. It's just the Dunning-Kruger effect taking hold of the masses. We all think we're experts. And of course, if we think we're experts, but we're incompetent, we're unable to discern who the real experts are. We then gauge people's expertise by how well they agree with us.

Or did you mean that people who become professors think they're experts at everything? I'm sure that happens sometimes, but I don't think that's the primary mechanism at play here, simply because the masses outnumber the professors.

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See, the 'Death of Expertise' isn't a NEW thing, it's been going on for decades, it's just that modern communications makes it a lot easier to spot.

 

Take TV documentaries for example, more TV channels thanks to digital satellite, means more airtime to fill, and a lower share of the advertising revenue to fill it with, so those old 1980's style high quality BBC documentaries, are too expensive, cue instant shows cobbled together from stock library footage and a days worth of filming in a rented micro-studio in Seattle with some talking heads talking crap...

 

Then you have the Rise of the Wikis... The idea that you can arrive at knowledge by some online ideological popularity contest to determin 'facts' or worse, vested interests pushing their own agenda.  Look at the wikipedia entry for "Hydrostatic Shock" and you'd be forgiven for thinking the term had nothing to do with hydraulic engineering, and that you really can buy 'magic bullets' that will instantly kill a 10 point stag even if you shoot it in the foot.

 

Most people checking that page never realise that its written by a husband and wife team who run a business selling 'magic bullets' to hunters who cant shoot worth a damn, and that most of their 'evidence' is deliberately misinterpreted or just made up.

 

As for the peverse Rise of the Expert... Yeah the people whgo assume a professor of stuff knows all the non-stuff too, those people are the public, or more accurately PART of the public. If some noisy minority famed for their ignorance all claim the support of a non-expert expert, that discredits said expert and others like them in the eyes of the majority, because "everyone knows those so called experts are no such thing and are just patsys for the [insert viewpoint here] brigade", 

 

Pretty soonh Mr. Average Joe in the street doesn't have a clue who knows what they are talking about and who doesn't, hence masses of people who don't , for example, believe that aviation kerosene in large quantities with a strong updraft, can reach the 1500-2000 degrees Centigrade needed to melt structual steelwork like butter, because "metal don't burn and mah cookpots last fine on the camping stove", that "common sense" thing you mentioned.

 

Stupid people will always be stupid, and always have been stupiud, this isn't new, all that's new is that NOW the stupid can out publish the smart, courtesy of Dumbfones and the World Wide Weird.

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Madelaine McMasters wrote:

Again, those "Professors of anything" have been around forever, I had several of them in college. So that doesn't explain this
new
"Death of Expertise".

The flood of information is a very obvious explanation. I think I'll go back to my first two posts:

"The way I would put it is everybody are experts in something but nobody are experts in everything."

and:

"Communicating and persuading both require their own skill sets and knowing and understanding a lot about a certain topic doesn't necessarily mean you are good at explaining it to others. On the other side, some people are so good at arguing they can easily persuade you to believe the sky is green."

Who are the ones most likely to be heard in this choir of discord? It's not the people who are experts on the topic in question, it's the ones who are experts in communicating their view and arguing their case.

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