The Rise of Stupid People (and fall of Expertise)

Discussion in 'West Mall' started by Mr. Deez, Jan 29, 2014.

  1. Mr. Deez

    Mr. Deez 10,000+ Posts

    I saw this article today, and this guy is so right. It's worth the quick read.
  2. pasotex

    pasotex 2,500+ Posts

  3. Larry T. Spider

    Larry T. Spider 1,000+ Posts

    It's interesting that you posted this, I was having a conversation with my father about it the other day. He is one of the worlds leading experts in a relatively small field. One of his more recent pieces of reseach was the most widely read in that particular domian in the world. His field occasionally come up in the news and they almost always they interview some random guy on the street with an opinion. Literally no qualifications, research, years of study, nothing other than an uninformed opinion.

    I blame both the right and the left for what I consider a very serious problem. The left's idea that everybody's opinion matters equallly is ********. My opinion on black holes is not worth the same weight as somebody who has spent their entire life studying that. Googling some basic information on a field does not qualify you as an expert. Some popular research suggests that it take 10 years or 10,000 hours to become an expert on something. Those years and hours are the beginning of being an expert, not the end.

    I blame the right for their anti-intelectualism over the past decade. I think Deez nailed it on a different thread when he said that as the party became more rural and more southern, the need for deep reasoning diminished. Not all liberal university profs are right about everything in their field, but not trusting their expertise based on political ideology alone isnt any better. The right has promoted that thinking any deeper than a slogan such as 'drill baby drill' might turn you into some elitist liberal, and we cant have that.

    There are certain areas that I would consider myself an expert in such as language acquisition in young children from a low income background. It is a large part of what I have done with my life for the past 10 years. That doesn't stop people that read one article a few years ago or just about anybody from having what they believe is an equal opinion.

    I think that one characteristic of highly successful people is that they seek out experts to maximize their time. They know they cant learn everything that they are capable of because of the sheer amount of time it would take. Thats when people that have spent their life doing something and are very good at it come it. Is there a chance that the expert is wrong and will make a mistake? Absolutely. But, reading a wiki entry and thinking that you know better than the expert is much more likely to result in a poor outcome.
  4. ProdigalHorn

    ProdigalHorn 10,000+ Posts

    Pretty much spot on.

    I have a friend that is very much on board with the anti-vaccination wave, and embraces all those various theories about what's going to kill us how.. and most if not all of them come from some blog on the internet, invariably written by people with absolutely no expertise other than their own reasoning and the Internet. Problem is that more often than not, when they find something that doesn't make sense, they don't turn to more research or other experts to help explain it, they simply stop investigating and claim that there's a cover-up in place.

    Part of the problem - I think - is that we've either lost the ability, patience or curiosity to investigate something thoroughly. And I'll admit I fall prey to that as well sometimes! It's easier to see something that grabs us, make a conclusion and end the investigation right there. But there seems to be a real lack of the ability to ask a good follow-up question or to spot gaps in knowledge or flaws in logic.
  5. Larry T. Spider

    Larry T. Spider 1,000+ Posts

  6. Uninformed

    Uninformed 5,000+ Posts

  7. Michtex

    Michtex 1,000+ Posts

  8. Uninformed

    Uninformed 5,000+ Posts

    I have too many degrees. I also have a PhD in molecular biology, an MBA, and a BS in ChemE and Nat Sci undergrad.
  9. pasotex

    pasotex 2,500+ Posts

    Why the MBA? This seems like an outlier?
  10. Uninformed

    Uninformed 5,000+ Posts

    I worked on the business side of the biotech and pharmaceutical industries. In business development (ie licensing) you have to be able to speak with scientists but you also need to understand how to create a successful deal. It would have also been helpful to have a detailed understanding of patent law, but I already had enough degrees.
  11. Monahorns

    Monahorns 5,000+ Posts

    I agree with the theme of the article but I think there is a balance. I don't think people should blindly follow experts. That would mean having other people thinking for you. We all need to critically think through what we are being told by everybody. That doesn't make you an idiot, it makes you a reasonable person. Specialization is needed aspect of our society. It is one of the reason for much of human advancement. I think we all get that. However, it is also true that in fields of study it is good to get outside opinions. We all miss things. We all get so involved in the details that we can miss bigger picture things or even details that fall outside of a narrow focus.

    You can be an idiot by ignoring experts but you can also be an idiot by not critically thinking through things yourself.
  12. wewokahorn

    wewokahorn 250+ Posts

    The article is interesting but I found these comments even more interesting:

  13. 2003TexasGrad

    2003TexasGrad 10,000,000+ Posts

    The internet has increased the access to information on any subject to immeasurable heights. It has also given every single person on the planet a venue to say whatever they want, and have it accessible to everyone on the planet.

    Things havent really changed then from 25 years ago. Back then, there was very little access to all information and only a select few had the mouthpiece to say what they wanted. Now its everywhere.

    I think overall, its a good thing. More and more people are considering alternative viewpoints than what CBS, NBC, ABC and Encyclopedia Britannica told you what to believe back when there were no other options.
  14. huisache

    huisache 2,500+ Posts

    One source of this phenomena is the exploding multiplicity of fields of expertise over the last fifty years. A generalist used to be able to talk with some expertise on a finite number of subjects with some confidence. Some still can.

    But as we become ever more reliant on splintered fields of expertise it becomes impossible for the generalist to confidently speak with authority on much of anything. He'/she cannot be sure he is listening to people who really do have expertise and the people who do have such expertise are often in serious disagreement about what conclusions can be gleaned in their field.

    I have long been interested in astronomy but have given up trying to figure out what the state of the art is------it explodes every few years with new terminology and theories and I cannot fathom what is going on.

    The generalist, as I use the term, has some understanding but is not expert.

    Into this broiling stew come people who are not even generalists but rather untrained, unschooled people who are informed only by their religious or political preferences and tend towards the bizarre and conspiratorial explanations of everything.

    IN the public sphere, their vote counts the same as the person who actually has a grasp of the particular field.

    Makes for some perplexing disputes
  15. Larry T. Spider

    Larry T. Spider 1,000+ Posts

  16. Mr. Deez

    Mr. Deez 10,000+ Posts


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