Lies Someone Told You: “He’s an expert”

What do Herman Melville and Warren Buffet have in common?
For one thing they accurately described a plague of false competency.
What do I mean? And what is there to learn from it?
Let’s start closer to the beginning.


(first off let me apologize in advance for this poor quality post, it has been written in a frustrated hurry)

If you are like me, when you were young, you thought that the world was run by competent adults. And then the older you got the clearer it became to you that competency is not necessarily to be found in the world of adult humans.

To be short, there are no “experts.” There is more, much more to be said about that. But I will not say much here (it will have to wait until I have time later).

There are people who are good at things. This rarely has to do with where they went to school and who gave them a shiny sheet of paper with a stamp on it.

All of those people were not so good at the same thing until they put in more time and effort. So there is very little difference between them and you.

However, some of them are considered “experts” because they have one of those shiny papers. (I have some shiny papers too, and I know they don’t mean much)

Shiny papers are given out by institutions. These are little more than groups of people trying to establish credibility without much real foundation for it. But, if they get there first, or endure longer, or do something to the competition, they can be “recognized” as the leading institution for blah blah blah. If they do that long enough they might get good at it (and being good at something is the only real quality that makes one worthy of being called an “expert”)

So our institutions that establish credibility are not really much of anything. But people who are good at things want papers to show that they are good at it, and so the cycle continues.

The problem (at least in my opinion) is that people with papers are not necessarily great at things and people without papers (or who cannot get papers) might be better. In many cases are better.

But we judge lowly those without papers. And often they judge themselves lowly too. There is as some have put it “an imposter syndrome” that keeps people who are good at something from becoming great at it. Or it denies recognition to people even though they are great.

At the end of the day, we are all flawed humans. There are no experts. Or we are all experts. Take your pick.

Now on the macro level…
Warren Buffet (responding to the Bernie Madoff saga and stock market/ real estate bubbles) made the statement that when the tide goes out you find out who has been swimming naked.

I would go farther and side with Herman Melville’s sentiments at the end of Moby Dick and say that everyone, including juggernauts and nations are swimming with their pants off…
Melville’s statement was about “fast fish” versus “loose fish” and it is a bit to explain here, but his basic meaning was to question on what foundation some of the seemingly rock-solid institutions are grounded. (Hint: not very rock-solid at all)
For instance he says “What was America before Columbus but a ‘loose fish’?” {i.e. Even though there were natives living in the Americas they couldn’t hold their land fast from the intruding Europeans. American has no “right” to it’s land, it belonged to people who were already there. But America has slaughtered and displaced those people and fought wars to hold onto it’s territory so it has the right of the “fast (secured) fish”}

The right of the “fast (secured) fish” (the right that every nation is based on), is a swimming-with-your-pants-off right. In other words, no “right” at all. But until the tide goes out, all can keep up the ruse.
But when the tide goes out, beware.

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    :)