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Expertise on Expertise

Noreena Hertz's very good TED talk recently became available. The full lecture is worth watching, but I think it can ultimately be summed up by this one line: "we've become addicted to experts".

As a blogger, I've experienced the expertise debate first-hand. After all, I write a blog that covers themes like cities, urbanism, economics, etc. And who am I? I'm just a guy with a bachelor's degree. Or, as many people would accuse, hardly an expert on any topic.

Without a doubt, there are some fantastic blogs out there, some of them are written by people with advanced degrees in the topics they write about; but others are written by people who simply have a genuine interest in these things. In many cases, I believe that if you removed the bylines and asked readers to identify whether a given author is an "expert" or merely a "hobbyist", it would be a challenge.

At the end of the day, it's probably true that a person with a PhD has more to say on their area of interest than does an average person; but the flaw is thinking that everything an expert says must automatically be correct, by virtue of their degree or title or awards, while everything that anyone else says in conflict with that point of view must be wrong.


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