Experts on Being Experts
Do you consider yourself an expert in something? Have you been called one before? Recently, I was. Instead of feeling full of pride, I felt deflated and stuck. I had to ask myself why.
Well, for one thing, the term expert is so loosely used that we all get to be one, one way or another. Lately, I've been noticing the term "expert" increasingly being bandied about in my work but also at dinner parties, thrown around in a half joking/ half serious way of describing a person's knowledge.
Secondly, experts are not necessarily that accurate or reliable. I myself flat out refuse to learn some things because I reason an expert is already doing all the heavy lifting in that area and they can think it through for me. As it turns out, when I watched the Doc Zone's documentary, The Trouble with Experts , I am not the only one. The documentary examines our cultural obsession with enshrining experts. We trust them, but as the documentary points out, they are more often than not, sharing fallacious opinions and predictions.
As my peers gain experience in their respective fields, I hear us being told that "you are the experts". "You know what needs to be done, etc..." The term is used to establish who has authority and should be granted more authority over a certain jurisdiction of knowledge or information or understanding and this has troubled me for a while. Experts know. They do not struggle to understand. The people we hear from on t.v. tell us in sound bites what we supposedly need to digest to understand. But what if our area of expertise is not easily digestible. What if being an expert cuts us off from deepening our overall knowledge of the subject? Who would want to be one then?
Finally, what I do not like the most about the term expert is that it sets up a polarising image of us and them. "Us", who get it and "them" who don't. I do not believe knowledge and gaining more of it should be a have or have not proposition, but rather a never ending river flowing through trees, under dark spooky bridges and out into the wide open sea. There is plenty of room for of all of us in that flowing current.