The website inc.com/quora posted “Why You Should Never, Ever Stop Challenging Conventional Wisdom”. I have lifted most of their little gems of wisdom. I am posting this as it fits well with my previous blog about theTheory of Man-Made Global Warming Effect.
The experts are usually wrong.
Experts (those who predict the future for a living) are, more often than not, dart-throwers. They perform no better than chance. And recently they have performed even worse than chance.
“Economists have predicted nine of the last five recessions.”
We are ALL biased. We see the world through a very hazy prism of our experiences.
There is no unbiased news outlet. Even “real news” has an element of untruth to it. Almost every news story I had intimate knowledge of made a significant reporting mistake of factual error in the story.
We’re human, and we make mistakes. We’re human, and we see the world with our strong bias. We overweight individual sources and underweight others. We discount data that is very good, and we rely on data that is wrong. We see patterns when there are none and see coincidences when there are conspiracies
The “expert” can be dangerous.
We live in a world where people spend a lot of time building their bona fides so they can make their living off their “expertise.” Most of the top 1% of earners make their living predicting the future. But because people come with huge biases, their predictions can often be very, very wrong.
Sacred cows tend not to be that sacred.
Experts tend to talk to other experts and can get sucked into a dangerous groupthink. Once all experts agree on something, even when it is highly speculative, it can become calcified.
We see groupthink happen most often is the softer sciences like political science, sociology, foreign policy, and economics. The more specialized the field, the more people find themselves talking to each other and the more they will be prone to repeat one another.
While it is harder to happen in hard science, we see it happen there too. Wrong ideas are clung on to too long because it is hard to change one’s mind about the world. Max Planck famously said, “Science advances one funeral at a time.”
None of this means experts are trying to be sinister. Yes, sometimes people are on the payroll of an interest (for instance, many people who campaign against oil pipelines are indirectly funded by the railroad companies), but that is not usually the case. Biases control people’s thoughts much more than money
Protect yourself from experts through contrarian thinking.
Conventional Wisdom is often very conventional thinking.
Before accepting opinions as truth, think through the issues yourself. Don’t just look for agendas but look for biases. If a surgeon recommends a particular procedure that only her hospital does, seek out other opinions.
Seek out outcasts. Seek out non-expert experts who often challenge the status quo. Some that I would recommend are Peter Thiel, Naval Ravikant, Nassim Taleb, Paul Graham John Hempton, Charles Songhurst, Sam Altman, and Slate Star Codex. I’d even throw in some mainstream thinkers like Malcolm Gladwell, Susan Athey, Daniel Kahneman, Richard Feynman, Tim Ferriss, and Charlie Munger because people like them will always make you think.
Of course, experts can be right. They often are.
You don’t have time to question everything in this world — you might turn into the Unabomber if you did.
For instance, even if you cannot prove the earth is round, it is not a good idea to think the world is flat. It is likely that the government did not fake the moon landing. And when you were born, you probably were not delivered by a stork.
The 40-year life lesson: experts are (very often) wrong.
Just because someone knows much more about you about a particular subject, do not assume they are correct. Do not bestow authority on them just because they are wearing a lab coat or possess a Ph.D.
Just because someone has spent more time learning about something, it does not mean that they are a closer to the truth than you