June 07, 2018

House 2418 - People Don't Want To Hear Actual Experts - They Want To Hear Daddy

As a vociferous member of the commentariat, I have a large propensity to produce large amounts of weapons grade nonsense. The mere fact that I know nothing about a given subject is no barrier to me spewing forth many hundreds of words. Also, the fact that I am a straight white male who is aged 18-65, means that in general the world values my half baked opinion more than other people's through on precisely zero grounds whatsoever.
To anyone who is an academic of any subject, to anyone who has spent their life learning everything that there is to learn about a given field, and to anyone whose opinion should be relied upon for these very same reasons, the fact that my opinion on anything is valued so highly by the world at large, is ridiculous. The fact that as a straight white male aged 18-65, my opinion is valued more highly by the world at large than the well thought out opinions of proper experts, is downright criminal.

Recently I have noticed a trend, particularly in media organisations like Fox News and their distinctly smaller cousin Sky News here in Australia (other news outlets are available), that they have diversified beyond the opinions of straight white males aged 18-65 and have discovered the opinions of straight white females with blonde hair aged 25-50. Their opinions are just as half baked as mine and the reason that I suspect that they are on Fox News and Sky News is that they are there to look pretty for an audience of straight white males aged 40-85. If that sounds like a mismatch, then you need to remember who wields the majority of power in board rooms and parliaments across the Anglosphere.
This is also ridiculous.

If I point the light of self awareness onto people like myself, which doesn't particularly happen all that much, what we tend to find is that there is a very distinct and obvious problem where complete ignorance on a given subject is mistaken for being unbiased and objective. This is distinctly stupid because as pattern recognition machines who will readily form tribes, we tend to make the basic mistake that anyone who has the same set of opinions as us is unbiased and that people who are on the other side of the divide are all idiots and terribly misguided in their opinions. This is also ridiculous.

The thing that really annoys me is that even though we have access to all the information in the world and in a way that we've never had before, it seems that people would rather hear the half baked opinions of people who are vaguely guessing at things rather than listen to experts who have spent many years doing research and reading into subjects. The problem with ignorance being mistaken for non bias is that the opinions of experts tend to be devalued. This isn't exactly a new phenomenon either; Galileo was imprisoned for daring to suggest that there were things whizzing around Jupiter and not the Earth, and the works of people like Aristotle were taken as truth for centuries despite there being many things wrong with his opinions and those pesky real world facts not lining up with his vague guesses.

I'm not specifically going to call out the incidents of published moronia that I found because the world will have moved on, even before I've had time to process it all but it seems to me that the best people who should be speaking into the realm of public discussion should be those people who actually have the best knowledge and experience.
There was a conference of people from various airlines this week, speaking about doing something about the underrepresentation of women on the boards of airlines. Now it would make sense to me as an outsider, that the best people who should speak on such an issue, are either those women already on boards so that they could relay their lived experience, or perhaps those people who work in recruitment and who have the power to decide the outcomes of those decisions. Instead, we got twenty-three men and one woman, none of whom were either on the boards of the airlines that they represented and none of whom had any lived experience when it came to promoting women to the boards of airlines. Instead we got public relations officers, who were generally unable to answer questions put to them.
I'd like to say that this is a one off thing but this kind of thing happens constantly.

This week I've seen the current education minister has been on Twitter complaining about the opposition not answering questions about their education policy (which they hadn't actually put forward anyway) but when it came to him answering specific questions about his own policies, he had no idea. I've seen a chap being interviewed twice about climate change and claiming to be from the House of Lords, when in actual fact he appeared to know nothing about the specifics of climate change or the mechanisms which might cause it and neither was he actually from the House of Lords. I saw the curious tale of someone who purported to be an expert on the Royal Family, despite not actually living in the United Kingdom nor being British, nor seemingly to know very much about the Royal Family. I saw the opinions of an established research scientist who was a cancer specialist, given less time than a man trying to sell something - she was telling the host that the product was complete nonsense but the host kept on shutting her down on the grounds that the salesman was holding out hope for cancer sufferers.

It seems to me that in an age of information overload, the world has decided that it would rather hear the opinions of straight white men who vaguely carry a resemblance of daddy, than the opinions of people who actually know what they are talking about. People's itching ears want their confirmation biases scratched, throwing aside common sense (which is increasingly becoming more uncommon) and sound reasoning.
As a straight white male aged between 18-65 whose only real expertise is in playing complicated sudokus which are otherwise known as tax returns, at manipulating Excel documents, and compiling thousand plus word servings of weapons grade nonsense, I know that my opinions are virtually worthless and like to back up any opinions that I generate with the research of proper experts. The problem is that too many people like me who either have power or whose opinions are too highly valued, are ridiculously self-unaware.
If you want to know why Brexit, Trump, 700 horsepower cars, fried lasagne at petrol stations, privatisation of public services, SUVs, Rugby League, and many more idiotic things are allowed to be, then look no further than straight white males aged 18-65 and the general public's trust in them despite and in spite of all and any available evidence.

No comments: