Beware the Expert
Some people joke that the internet makes experts out of all of us. Anyone can create a "personal brand" and market the contents of their blog posts, tweets, and Facebook status updates as "expert advice."
But most of us are too smart for that. We know that bonafide experts develop and share expertise offline, too. They have real credentials – education, experience, and accolades that aren't preceded by an @ sign. They're the people we should really be listening to, right?
Well, no. Not exclusively.
In Information Age has created a greater dependence on experts than ever before. Because so many problems appear technical, people forgo talking to their non-specialist peers or just using their own common sense. Instead, they listen to the “experts” – who often speak in unintelligible jargon – and then they do what they are told.. Economist Noreena Hertz's TED Talk,"How to use experts – and when not to", cited an experiment that used MRIs and found that brain activity associated with independent decision-making stopped when adults listened to experts speak.
History has shown that trouble comes when everyone “just follows orders.” Consider the Nazi
death camps, the Stanford prison experiment, the 2008 financial crisis, or the abundance of unnecessary surgical procedures performed in the U.S. each year.
This is because experts make mistakes. Accountants are more likely than a layperson to make errors on any given tax return. For every ten patients a doctor sees, four are misdiagnosed. And oops, these doctors sometimes amputate the wrong limb.
Experts also have their own agendas. They're subject to politics, greed, and the demands of the status quo. Great minds often think alike, because how else would they keep their jobs?
This isn't to say that people should dismiss expert advice. Instead, they should consider what they hear and ask questions. Then they should get a second opinion – their own.
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