Call it a coincidence… or divine intervention. Last week during a discussion about the Book of Daniel, I expressed an opinion that I have become skeptical of connections people make between different elements in life and that I prefer to make my own connections. Today, during an NPR program on how Easily Accessible Info Blurs The Line Of Expertise I heard some interesting thoughts about the subject. Then I read On the Internet, Is Everyone an Expert? and realized that I was not alone if NPR was talking about it.
So, before I continue, let me make a disclaimer. Whatever I say are my thoughts. These could be right or they could be wrong, you judge. You make the connections. Based on your experience, education and beliefs, you determine if what I say is worth the electrons that carry it to any corner of this planet. Do not take anything I say as absolute truth, law, certified, or proven. Do not consider me to be an expert (what’s an expert anyway?). Do not rely on what I say as your journey is guaranteed to be different. God knows, I don’t. A wise man (my “cousin” who helped me return to America) one day told me “Listen to everyone, but do what you think is right.”
This may be an extreme interpretation of considering myself as someone “who knows that he doesn’t know.” Experiencing the Internet and the overwhelming avalanche of information from every media outlet daily, I am convinced that most people out there “don’t know” (just like me). Whether they realize that or not is a different story. Couple days ago, someone said on the news the market is down because of XYZ. This is a perfect example of misinformation. There are many markets. The stock market, for example, is made up of thousands of traded securities. Each security has its own market. In its market, there are millions of participants. They trade securities for many reasons…. EVERY SECOND! So, when the millions of decisions of millions of participants affect thousands of securities every second, how can an “expert” say why the market is down?
The dictionary definition of an expert is a person who has special skill or knowledge in some particular field. Notice how this definition requires a judgment – we must determine whether the knowledge or skill is special. In other words, expertise is relative. As we learn more, practice more, experience more, we also tend to become “experts” in our own areas. The playing field has been leveled by the Internet with the availability of vast volumes of information on every topic. Only time is the limit! Because of time being one of the main limiting factors in gaining expertise and because of our own lack of time, I see danger in our tendency to consider people experts in areas wider than their true narrow field of expertise. Therefore, I suggest that it is even more important today than ever before to carefully examine the facts, to find the true authority on a subject, to speak with a number of experts, to study the topic ourselves, to not blindly follow, to ask many questions, and to remain humble.