Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Experts vs Generalists

The website thesaurus has the following antonyms for expert: “awkward, clumsy, green, ignorant, inept, inexperienced, unskilled, unskillful, stupid, unintelligent, amateur, inexpert, unknowledgeable, and untrained”. Clearly, there must be something (very) wrong with not being an expert.

Most people are, however, not experts in any given field (eg, aerospace engineering, medieval art). Experts usually label other opinions as pseudoscience (eg, Graham Hancock). This is similar to the not invented here syndrome: “the tendency to avoid using [ ] knowledge from external origins”.

When experts disagree with experts, the former often become outcasts in their field of expertise, like geologist Virginia Steen-McIntyre in my 2018 blog. It’s an early example of a cancel culture. Hence, experts tend to adhere to the commonly accepted views of more senior experts, regardless of their personal views.

I used to be an expert in auditing (eg, my 2017 blog). Latter field allows me to use my common sense regarding my other fields of interest (eg, archaeology, evolution, geology, history, viruses). I consider myself a generalist with a macro perspective rather than a specialist with a micro focus.

Experts tend to be specialists with a micro focus. Any discussion will be about details, on which they have a far superior knowledge. Their silo approach will often prevent any discussion on adjacent (scientific) fields. It’s like using a magnifying glass and being oblivious of your surroundings.

A Belgian virologist claims he “is allergic to hindsight experts” (eg, FD, Twitter). This seems fair. His public opinions are, however, often prone to conflict and competition (eg, details) rather than cooperation (eg, Standaard). It’s rather arrogant and ignorant to qualify a macro view as hindsight expertise.

I’m not alone. Mid 2022, a former senior judge on the Supreme Court of the UK wrote an opinion in The Times, entitled: “Little by little the truth of lockdown is being admitted: it was a disaster” and “Public fear was deliberately stoked to justify decisions made on the hoof and based on questionable advice“.

In my view, the micro focus of experts, including their inherent lack of a macro perspective, will often get dangerous once such experts are given power, like virologists during Covid-19.

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

A quote by American politician Robert G. Ingersoll but often misattributed to Abraham Lincoln (eg, Reuters, QI)

The Experts (1973) by Betty Wright
artist, lyrics, lyrics-2, video, Wiki-artist, Wiki-album

But oh, my tears keep fallin’ down like rain
Because I know I’ll never be an expert at anything
Except wanting you and needing you

Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless in quotes or stated otherwise.

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