Yoda: Democracy, the Mob, & the Death of Expertise

Cultural Intelligence
Got Crowd? BE the Force!
Got Crowd? BE the Force!

Smart, half the story, this is.

The Death of Expertise

I am (or at least think I am) an expert. Not on everything, but on many things in a particular but wide area of human knowledge, specifically social science and public policy. When I say something, I expect that my opinion holds more weight than that of most other people, particularly laymen.

In fact, I have been paid by many institutions, academic and professional, to speak, based precisely on the assumption that my views on certain matters are worth paying for. And they are, generally.

Now, to most people that seems like a blindingly obvious thing to say. Unfortunately, an increasing number of other folks now reject every assumption in what I just wrote; they would whine that I’m defending the fallacious “appeal to authority,” they might then invoke the dread charge of “elitism,” and finally accuse me (or people like me) of trying to use credentials to stifle democratic dialogue.

But democracy, as I wrote in an essay about C.S. Lewis and the Snowden affair, denotes a system of government, not an actual state of equality. Having equal rights does not mean having equal talents, equal abilities, or equal knowledge. It means, instead, that we enjoy equal rights versus the government, and in relation to each other.

Read full article.

Phi Beta Iota: Although the author makes important points in the full article, he fails to address two factual counterpoints.

First, most “experts” today are charlatans — the think tanks are magnets for people ready to pontificate  on the basis of ideology and privilege access but totally lacking in field work or ethical research. Too many experts were last “educated” 20-30 years ago and have been spinning the same nonsense to captive (didactic) audiences ever since. When an expert is real, the expert should be listened to. The rest of the time, they should be treated as the snake oil salesmen that they are.

Second, collective intelligence is not the same as individual individual intelligence. The collective “swarms” an incredibly complex and hence gifted range of life experiences and common sense, and many studies have shown that when up against the collective, the “experts” tend to lose every time.

In fact you need both. A democracy is not about mob rule any more than it is about elitist “management.” A democracy starts with transparency, determines the truth using transparent methods, builds trust within the whole, and thereby is able to apply the full force of that democracy’s collective intelligence — augmented by experts who are truly experts.

See Also:

Collective Intelligence @ Phi Beta Iota

Democracy @ Phi Beta Iota

Experts @ Phi Beta Iota