February 25, 2020

There's no such thing as expertise. It just doesn't exist. The expert is full of shit.
Scott Adams, partially in reference to two cabinet drawers in a corner where one is blocked, quoted in Joel Stein's "In Defense of Elitism: Why I'm Better Than You and You are Better Than Someone Who Didn't Buy This Book"
I've been thinking about this, in the context of a quote I can't find about "guys so dumb that they think smart doesn't exist". Or about a Quora I can't find about what it's like going up against an elite fencer - that the match is over before you know it. Or (I think Nick Hornby - dang I am usually better at relocating passages than this) on playing against a retired pro football player in his amateur league, and when they saw the player on tv they derided his speed and kicking strength, but in that context of that league he was inhumanely fast with a cannon for a leg.

So, one the one hand, it would be stupid for me to be in denial about how much better elite professionals can be - but I don't have a knack for absorbing that lesson, because of my fixed mindset that intuits that people never change that much, or at least, not often. So everything just feels lucky, plus a bit of practice - but I know that's a distorted view.

Maybe Adams' view is more true for intellectual stuff? Like you can get muscle memory for physical tasks, but there's no real equivalent for the intellectual stuff, that the more complex a set of ideas gets the more of a house of cards it becomes, prone to collapse by some unforeseen, out-of-the-model force?

Stein quotes Libertarian billionaire Charles Koch:
If you believe, as for example Hillary does, that those in power are so much smarter and have better information than those of us in the great unwashed out here have--that we're either too evil or too stupid to run our own lives, and those in power are much better--you have what Hayek called the fatal conceit and William Easterly called the tyranny of experts.
The "so-called experts always get it wrong!" is the rallying cry of a certain type of populist. Joel Stein's point, though, is that there's the Meteorologist Fallacy™ you get stuck on the day they get it wrong, and don't notice how often they get it right:
Meteorologists are getting better at predictions, making the Meteorologist Fallacy™ even more ridiculous: three-day forecasts of high temperatures are now as accurate as one-day forecasts were in 2005, making a huge difference to people involved in aviation, commercial fishing, and last-minute three-day vacations.
And when I pause to look around me- most folks I know would be hard-pressed to make a decent cottage, never mind what it must take to build a skyscraper with toilets that can flush 40 floors up. Expertise clearly exists; the only question is, it what fields might it not apply, or where intellectual expertise starts to be used as a cover for more basic agendas.
Oy, speaking of trying to take down the "so-called experts" - Flat-Earther Mad Mike Hughes died in a homemade rocket.
Happy Mardi Gras!

Lipsitch predicts that, within the coming year, some 40 to 70 percent of people around the world will be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. But, he clarifies emphatically, this does not mean that all will have severe illnesses. "It's likely that many will have mild disease, or may be asymptomatic," he said. As with influenza, which is often life-threatening to people with chronic health conditions and of older age, most cases pass without medical care. (Overall, around 14 percent of people with influenza have no symptoms.)
A big part of the key is going to be resist panicking. Be brave, be ready, we will get through this if and whenever it comes around. It's going to spread so widely because it is not as deadly - not to be blase about who gets hit, but this isn't germ-pocalypse.

But jeez, neither government nor the free market has done well with vaccines - not enough concern from voters, not enough of a clear path to near term profit. SARS was a warning shot, and we blew it off.