Sunday, December 21, 2008
The Why of Experts
Experts are paid for one thing: to provide certainty. Someone complained that economic forecasters are as blind as ancient soothsayers. The purpose of experts is misunderstood. Their function is not to provide knowledge, and still less clear thinking. Instead, it is to provide (the illusion of) certainty. People hate dissonance, doubt and uncertainty. Experts help dispel these.
Economic forecasters' job is to provide an impression that the future is knowable. If the expert fails to provide that certainty, people will find other ways of achieving an illusory certainty anyway. They need certainty to avoid the uncomfortable fact that the world is uncertain, that mistakes are inevitable, and that we are not as in control of things as we think. Blaming experts for being wrong is like complaining that the economy is not yellow. It's a category error so howling as to be nonsensical.