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Thinking about experts...
"I think the people of the country have had enough of experts"
It was one of the most striking, memorable quotes of The Brexit Years.
As with everything in that period, it proved divisive. 👇
🗣 "How could he say that. I mean what IS a country without experts?"
🗣 "He's right. We HAVE had enough! NO MORE IDIOT EXPERTS"
Although the quote stuck, there was some missing context. 👇
"I think the people in this country have had enough of experts from organisations with acronyms saying that they know what is best and getting it consistently wrong."
It wasn't really about experts at all.
He was describing the IYI's (Intellectual Yet Idiots) that Nassim Taleb savaged so brilliantly in Skin In The Game.
The IYI pathologizes others for doing things he doesn’t understand without ever realizing it is his understanding that may be limited.
He thinks people should act according to their best interests and he knows their interests, particularly if they are “red necks” or English non-crisp-vowel class who voted for Brexit.
When plebeians do something that makes sense to them, but not to him, the IYI uses the term “uneducated”.
What we generally call participation in the political process, he calls by two distinct designations: “democracy” when it fits the IYI, and “populism” when the plebeians dare voting in a way that contradicts his preferences.
Typically, the IYI get the first order logic right, but not second-order (or higher) effects making him totally incompetent in complex domains.
Which explains so much about those who pretend to be experts but are really nothing of the sort...
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So, is it possible to distinguish between the different types of experts and how they 'serve' society?
You've got the intellectual experts who thrive within a non-meritocratic hierarchy, where people are promoted based on perceptions within the organisation or years of service rather than talent or skill...
Those types of experts are usually given positions of authority, not because they are they best or most knowledgeable, but because they are the best at navigating the internal hierarchies...
And society apparently needs these authoritative experts to maintain societal order.
Are there any actual experts worth listening to?
Well, the proper definition of an expert is someone who is very knowledgeable about or skilful in a particular area or domain.
The obvious problem? It takes time to become an expert.
Which suggests that by the time someone becomes an expert, they are experts from a world that no longer exists... 👇
Gaining experience takes time, effort, and often comes at the price of making painful mistakes. You don’t want to let those lessons go.
You want them to mean something, to help you from making the same painful mistakes again.
To help others from making the same mistakes you made.
So it will always be the case that those with the most experience – and the good, smart, accurate wisdom that comes from it – will be the least willing to adapt their views as the world evolves.
One takeaway from this is that no age has a monopoly on insight, and different levels of experience offer different kinds of lessons.
Vishal Khandelwal recently wrote that old guys don’t understand tech, but young guys don’t understand risk.
Another way to put it is: everyone has something to teach.
Brilliantly put. Although that last point is one to pick at.
Not because it's necessarily wrong...
In our error-prone, humanistic ways, we often make the assumption that if someone has been in the trenches, then there will be something to learn from them.
Take Nick Leeson for example, the Rogue Trader who brought down Barings Bank in 1995.
How did he manage to stay under the radar and build such an enormous position without getting a tap on the shoulder?
Is it like the criminals that crack the code (until they get caught), get reformed in prison, then come out and help close the loopholes they had exploited?
Sir Gavin Laird (a former Member of the Court of the Bank of England) ... made a speech that suggested what I did at Barings was sophisticated, meticulous, complex, well thought out and that I sought to undermine the banking system in the United Kingdom.
I’m sorry but he was wrong on all counts. It was crude, basic, full of holes and someone massively out of their depth.
- Nick Leeson
Not much teachable there. How about we try a true investing legend?
Stanley Druckenmiller famously gave in to FOMO and bought $6 billion worth of tech stocks an hour before the tech bubble burst in March 2000.
What's the takeaway Stan...?
"You asked me what I learned. I didn't learn anything. I already knew that I wasn't supposed to do that.
I was just an emotional basket case and couldn't help myself.”
Even the greats make mistakes, I guess. It's not like he was young and fresh-faced either.
Druck started out in 1977, founded Duquesne in 1981, joined Soros at Quantum in '88, broke the Bank of England in '92. He was an experienced risk-taker.
I mean, if that doesn't qualify you as an expert, then what does?
But he gave in to FOMO like a complete noob so, is he still worthy of his expert status?
See, our perceptions and actions are shaped by our experiences.
I don't accept that Druck learnt nothing from that event.
On a subconscious level, the near-instant feedback and scale of the loss will be seared into his memory forever. Neural pathways never forget.
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And that is at the heart of the expert problem.
Over time, people become set in their ways. They do the same job, around the same people, and are exposed to the same ideas. Everything they see and do reinforces existing beliefs and behaviours.
The longer this goes on the less open to change (or conflicting ideas) they become.
Which means they will inevitably become experts from a world that no longer exists.
But this fate is not inevitable.
IF we challenge ourselves to be uncomfortable and accept ideas that conflict with our existing beliefs.
And perhaps most importantly, we reject the idea that becoming an expert is something anyone should aspire to... 👇
“The new is always thought odd, and some of us are so constituted that we can never get over thinking that anything which is new must be [wrong]…
The moment one gets into the ‘expert’ state of mind a great number of things become impossible.”
- Henry Ford
“Alice laughed. 'There's no use trying,'
'One can't believe impossible things.'
I daresay you haven't had much practice,' said the Queen.
'When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.
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