In today’s crazy world we can’t know everything, so we depend on Experts.
But it seems to me, that like other things, Expertability is being dumbed down.
A number of public figures come to mind, among them,
- Cable News Personalities
- Radio Talk Show Hosts
They really are experts in their chosen fields, which is what made them successful and famous. But they are not experts in some of the important issues of the day such as Economics, Health Care or the Environment. But they will talk about them and offer opinions; that’s what they get paid to do, and that’s how they earn their living.
Because there seems to be less ‘fact-checking’ on whether these folks are really experts in what they are talking about it behoves each of us to do our own sanity check on their credibility. In effect, that’s been outsourced to the listener; like checking yourself (and bags) onto a plane, and checking out your own groceries.
Is there an alternative?
Wikipedia has demonstrated that huge numbers of contributors can bring together massive amounts of timely information. It’s mostly accurate, but users must still beware. This is sometimes referred to as the Wisdom of Crowds.
Many in the New Media believe that “The Widsom of Crowds” will replace many of the functions traditionally performed by real Experts.
The Wisdom of Crowds … is a book written by James Surowiecki about the aggregation of information in groups, resulting in decisions that … are often better than could have been made by any single member of the group.
The opening anecdote relates Francis Galton’s surprise that the crowd at a county fair accurately guessed the weight of an ox … closer than any of the separate estimates made by cattle experts.
Its central thesis, that a diverse collection of independently-deciding individuals is likely to make certain types of decisions and predictions better than individuals or even experts …
But it’s still early days and there’s a lot to discover when it comes to Crowded Wisdom.
In the meantime we’ll just have to make do.
Bring on the oxes.