To be an expert

Unfortunately, people thinking they’re smart because they searched the internet is like thinking they’re good swimmers because they got wet walking through a rainstorm.

Tom Nichols – The Death of Expertise

I’m a mathematician. On occasion, I have made the simplest of arithmetic errors in the presence of others who know I have a Ph.d. in mathematics. They roast me lightly, as they should, because I deserve it. Then we move on.

But something important is left unsaid and understood. They don’t stop trusting my expertise in mathematics. They know that I am able to solve problems that they could not, and respect me for it.

As a mathematician, I’m allowed the luxury of mistakes and a few incorrect answers from time to time without losing trust. Most other professions enjoyed this freedom at one point, too. In modern times, this is not the case.

A medical doctor or doctors who get a case wrong unfortunately are defined by this slight rather than the multitude of cases they have correctly identified but are ignorantly ignored. Why? There was that one time that someone got on the internet and “did some research” and claimed something against the doctor’s diagnosis and happened to be correct.

We don’t have a healthy skeptisism about experts. Instead, we actually resent them.

Tom Nichols – The Death of Expertise

It doesn’t help that once you have an unhealthy skeptisism that turns into cynicism, the internet monitors your data and behavior and provides you with more information that will feed that cynicism. Soon, you’ve fallen down a rabbit hole so far from the truth.

I saw something from a source I like and it told me something I wanted to hear.

Tom Nichols – The Death of Expertise

It doesn’t seem like this will get better. The chasm between truth and the wildly outrageous will continue to widen. It is sad to see the blatant disregard for expertise in the world. When people believe it is OK to shun the advice of experts who have devoted a significant part of their lives to studying and learning their trade in exchange for a few minutes on the internet, humanity’s future is in jeopardy.

Never have so many people had so much access to so much knowledge and yet have been so resistant to learning anything.

Tom Nichols – The Death of Expertise

Want to be a part of the solution rather than the problem? Learn how to calm your mind so that you can dive deep into a subject and actually learn something. Build back trust in the majority of experts, by maintaining a healthy skepticism rather than a damaging one.

Featured photo by Rita Morais on Unsplash.

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