Expertise is Dangerous

Courts and other dispute resolution agencies often rely on experts to help them understand the conflict at hand. In some countries, they even ask experts to tell them the decision that they would recommend. And when the expert gives an opinion, it carries a special weight.

This is highly dangerous. Why? From my experience, experts tend to view problems from the perspective of their education. And there are two aspects of education that cause bias. The first is a bias towards over-reach. Highly trained people think they know more than they do.  That tends to blind experts to answers that fall outside their expertise. To cardiologists thing they understand the brain even if they know nothing about neurons. Second, judgment (intelligence) is situational. It cannot be book learned. Real life conflict arises from real life – not books. So the perspective of a person with book learning only can be less than helpful.

So why do we fall back on experts? Because they sound more authoritative. That is why TV commercials selling toothpaste use actors that look like doctors.

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