Saturday, August 04, 2012

The Picket Project - Surrendering Intellect by Over Trusting Experts

Here we are, Saturday again and time for another post from the Picket Project.  It's testimony to a point I often try to make - we need to think for ourselves.  As usual it takes my point and digs much deeper.  Enjoy.

When someone claims to have the right answers for solving a problem, the origin of their solutions is rarely obvious.  Every agenda may bring with it any number of unanswered questions:
  • Is their reasoning for pushing this agenda valid?
  • What do they know that I do not?
  • Are they attempting to manipulate me for personal gain?
Since even well meaning, intelligent people make mistakes – it is important to challenge any agenda before accepting it as true.

Trusting Experts

While it is reasonable to assume that a person experienced in national and statewide decision making would be an invaluable resource for finding the right answers at the right time, the real question should not be about how much experience a person has had, but what have they learned from their experiences.  This is, however, much harder to gauge because experience does not always lead to expertise.  And even expertise is not a guarantee of infallibility.

Noreena Hertz talks about experts in a similar light. She discusses how we, as a people, rely too much on experts as a whole; that we surrender our uncertainty for the illusion of certainty. Experts in any particular field are prone to negative group thinking, close mindedness, over confidence, and a dismissal of outside opinions.

Even in the sciences, experts do not entirely base their understandings on strict, unchangeable natural laws – but also on ever-changing models that best represent what has been observed.  But these models are not perfect, and without proper analysis and criticism, they can contribute to a ‘tunnel vision’ mentality where obvious factors and beautiful solutions sometimes go unrecognized.  Over reliance on these imperfect models can solidify a certain way of looking at the world, creating a misguided interpretation of the facts.

While we cannot dismiss expertise entirely, we each need to do our own research to verify and validate the claims we are given.  To challenge what you are told, as well as what you already know, is a healthy decision to make.  This is a very reasonable and intuitive idea.

It is by challenging experts and asking the big questions, that we dig behind their expertise and recognize that their methodologies can easily be flawed.  By creating a space for actively managed dissent, new and diverse ideas can be brought into the discussion and analyzed in their own light.  It is by embracing the notion that non-experts can have a unique perspective on the problems at hand, that critical factors can be discovered which may normally be missed.

We at the Picket Project embrace the idea that whether a claim is made by a PhD or an accomplished government official, an expert’s opinion is only as good as the support he can provide for that opinion.  We each hold the right and the duty to challenge those claims. As we do, we foster knowledge in ourselves and promote better solutions for everyone. There is no place this idea is more important than in political theory and policy making where, more so now than ever, the best solutions are needed. 

As always, we look forward to hearing your opinions; we will be regularly updating our content based on the conversations started here through the comment system on the blog, our Facebook page, and Twitter using the #PicketProject hashtag.


1 comment:

Margie's Musings said...

Verrry interesting! It is possible to get very plausible opinions from both sides and it's often impossible to tell which side is most correct. Sometimes, there's a grain of truth in both sides of a question. That makes it even harder.