Todays Target the Era of the Expert

Image courtesy of Tribune International

Era of the Expert.  What is this exactly? It seems as if there are many experts around on all number of topics.  Content and Social Media Marketing come to mind initially. There is even an article on how to present oneself as an expert.  Everyone wants to be an expert and the internet has made it possible to appear to have expertise.

Take for example Amy Cuddy.  She has made herself an expert on something that she termed “power poses”.  Some doctored up research and a few TED talks later she is supposed to be some kind of expert. Problem is she and her fellow researchers engaged in shoddy research techniques and biased the study that she based her “expertise” on; and as it turns out; she has become more of a charlatan then an expert.

People set themselves up as “experts” so they can appear to have some handle on solving societal problems, but have in many cases have contributed nothing to actual solutions. This is also apparent  in governance as well.  According to the Arnold Kling writing for the Cato Institute a public policy research organization;

To summarize: We live in an increasingly complex world. We depend on experts more than ever. Yet experts are prone to failure, and there are no perfect experts.

Given the complexity of the world, it is tempting to combine expertise with power, by having government delegate power to experts. However, concentration of power makes our society more brittle, because the mistakes made by government experts propagate widely and are difficult to correct.

It is unlikely that we will be able to greatly improve the quality of government experts.

Instead, if we wish to reduce the knowledgepower discrepancy[1], we need to be willing to allow private-sector experts to grope toward solutions to problems, rather than place unwarranted faith in experts backed by the power of the state.

So if you want to present yourself as an expert keep in mind that individuals will always have the right to ignore you.  And of course, when you present yourself as a “know-it-all” there will always be critical thinkers who discriminate against your opinions.

[1] When knowledge is dispersed but power is concentrated, I call this the knowledgepower discrepancy. Such discrepancies can arise in large firms, where CEOs can fail to appreciate the significance of what is known by some of their subordinates. I would view the mistakes made by AIG, BP, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, and other well-known companies as illustrations of this knowledge-power discrepancy in practice.