What is an expert?

I decided to delve back into the archives of Edmund Berkeley’s magazine ‘Computers and Automation’. I’m looking for a specific vaguely recalled item that I haven’t re-located yet.

Meanwhile, this editorial from May 1969 deserves sharing.

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Title: The cult of the expert.

It is an old human habit, when you are puzzled and do not know what to do, to ask somebody else to say what he thinks about your problem. Out of this perennial situation grows the notorious conflict between the ordinary man and the expert, and the cult of belief in the expert.

The ordinary man says “Should we have an anti-ballistic missile system-what is it any way?” The expert says, “Yes, of course you should. It will cost you a great deal of money; it may not work, but there is a chance that it will increase your security, and you know how dangerous the world is, and besides I am an expert, and I can give you good advice!”

Or the ordinary man says, “Should I have a management information system in my business? I don’t really know anything about computers, but everybody around me seems to be getting computers, and here is a statement by the president of a big business firm that I have just read: If a business does not have a management information system by 1973-1975, the business will just not be able to compete.

And the expert says, “Yes, of course you should. It will cost you a great deal of money; it may not work well for a while at the start, but there is a good chance that it will increase your ability to compete, and you know how dangerous the world of competition is, and besides I am an expert, and I can give you good advice!”

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Substitute Bitcoin or VR or Lockdowns or Muzzles or War Against Russia…. Oops, the latter isn’t a substitute. Some things don’t change.

Berkeley’s point, which is obviously true but too easily forgotten: Paid experts are salesmen. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. There are unpaid experts who genuinely try to give real balanced advice, but nobody listens to them. The paid experts own all the channels and all the conversations.

This week’s Nobel to Bernanke proves the point beautifully. Bernanke claimed to be an expert in the history of economies, but LIKE ALL PAID ECONOMISTS, he is simply a salesman for the Dow. He even admitted it, but the subexperts in the media carefully erased his admission.

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