The Expert and Establishment Problem
March 14th, 2020
It is March 14, 2020.
In the midst of COVID-19, many are beginning to realize there is an "Expert and Establishment Problem": Simply, many of those we consider "Experts" are in fact pseudo-experts who do not know what they are talking about when it comes to complex domains. I think this is because of three problems:
- No Skin in the Game.
- IYI  Parroting.
Experts cannot tell Science (the process) from Scientism (the "observation as fact").
We often get fooled by Experts as they apply statistical techniques from Mediocristan to Extremistan, and call it "Science". For example, something along the lines of the following:
- "You are ‘X number of times' more likely to get hit by a truck than you are to get Ebola." What Experts don’t understand is getting hit by a truck (or getting struck by lightning, crashing on a plane, getting into a car accident, or drowning in a bathtub) is an isolated event, whereas a VIRUS is not.
- "This is the best we have". What Experts don’t understand is that this conflates science and scientism. Science is rigorous and makes no claims outside a version narrow domain.
With psychology papers replicating less than 40%, dietary advice reversing after 30 years of fatphobia, macroeconomic analysis working worse than astrology, the appointment of Bernanke who was less than clueless of the risks, and pharmaceutical trials replicating at best only 1/3th of the time, people are perfectly entitled to rely on their own ancestral instinct and listen to their grandmothers (or Montaigne and such filtered classical knowledge) with a better track record than these policymaking goons… Indeed one can see that these academico-bureaucrats wanting to run our lives aren’t even rigorous, whether in medical statistics or policymaking. They can’t tell science from scientism — in fact in their eyes scientism looks more scientific than real science. — Nassim Nicholas Taleb
No Skin in the Game.
Experts drag us into interventions and policies that feel good, where there is no personal detriment for failure.
In a most recent example, instead of applying statistical techniques from Extremistan to COVID-19, the World Health Organization and other Experts failed to understand the situation required them to invoke the Precautionary Principle, and protect everyone against significant downside risk. They effectively mistook absence of evidence for evidence of absence, failing to understand when you see evidence it is too late.
So herein lies the biggest problem with Experts: Eventually someone has to pay the price, and it is not them.
Here are just a few examples of someone else paying the price for Expert intervention:
- Low Fat Diets
- Food Pyramid
- Cholesterol-lowering Medication
- Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
- Liberation of Iraq
- Liberation of Libya
Experts have their own way of thinking and they've indoctrinated a class of fellows known as IYIs.
IYIs patronize the non-IYI class . One can witness such "patronizing" during Thanksgiving breaks across America: IYI students return home from University, then patronize their parents at the dinner table for being "racist, ignorant, and unintelligent" when—in fact—it is the student who is "racist, ignorant, and unintelligent".
With IYIs, we’re not dealing with people with huge intellect. For example, they want "Democracy" their way, but fail see the inconsistencies across various scales (e.g., Democracy at a Federal levels looks and performs differently than democracy at a local level).
Thankfully, after decades of Expert policy—such as those from Brussels and the European Union—many are beginning to realize Grandma’s wisdom is much more robust than Experts.
We no longer want Experts telling us what to do: What to eat, who you should vote for (e.g., the "Shillary Clinton" types), how you should be thinking, what you should fear, what you should not fear , or what countries should be "liberated" from tyranny.
Starting with the Tea Party, and then Trump and Brexit, the non-IYI class had begun to realize that this game of Globalization doesn’t pay for them. It pays for others who are not held accountable when things go wrong.
The non-IYI class wants to be left alone. They want more local authority. They intuitively understand robust systems cannot come top-down, and that they have to come much more organically.
 Intellectual Yet Idiot.
 The Non-Intellectual Yet Idiot. Defined as those people who Rocky Balboa would call "Ham and Eggers", who elitists would call "The Bottom 30%", or who my mother would call "People with Street Smarts".
 One rather good example is from an Expert MD who "specializes in infectious diseases" that issued the following Public Service Announcement: "In the US, COVID-19 is still rare, so feeling really lousy is much more likely to be flu than COVID-19."
"Oath of the Horatii" by Jacques-Louis David. Image From Wikipedia.org. Depicts a scene from a Roman legend about a seventh-century BC dispute between two warring cities, Rome and Alba Longa, stressing the importance of patriotism and self-sacrifice for one's country. Instead of the two cities sending their armies to war, they agree to choose three men from each city; the victor in that fight will be the victorious city.
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