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Don’t Assume that Experts Know Something You Do Not 


It’s about brains, really. 

People who consider themselves public health experts, and no doubt those who consider themselves climate change experts, don’t consider other people’s brains as being on a par with theirs. That opens a wide door to those who consider themselves experts. If you are an “expert” and have a superior brain, there is no reason to have any compunction about inserting your decision-making into the lives of others – the benighted lessers – and seizing the rights of others, including the foundational rights to decide for oneself what is best for you and to express those decisions openly. 

Weirdly, we’ve lived through about three years of a lot of people agreeing with the “experts.” That is, the message back to the “experts” is essentially “You’re right. Our brains are not up to the level of yours, so we will happily allow you to make all decisions for us. We willingly submit.” It’s been the human equivalent of that skinny glass-bodied bird with the top hat who just nods, occasionally dipping its beak into the water in the glass. It nods all day, it nods all night, and it just keeps nodding.

Part of that acquiescence can be attributed to a constant drumbeat suggesting this group of “experts” actually knows the truth, “the science.” Wrap unwavering arrogance (openly backed by members of the same acceptably-educated in-group projecting their own self-anointing, in-group-bonding arrogance into the issue) with a heavy blanket of “You’re going to die if you don’t listen,” and it’s understandable that normal people are cowed. 

Still, it’s about brains.

An analogy I landed on to illustrate some of what bothers me in all this is the picture of computer systems that link computers through servers to create supercomputers. We all use computer systems that link computers through servers to create supercomputers. Think about search engines. Those search engines that answer your question in 0.0056 seconds do that through combined processing ability on server farms. In my state, some of those server farms are located near Columbia River dams, maybe to take advantage of unlimited power.

Why don’t we apply the same computer-server-linking thought process to come up with a crude measure for human information processing? After all, many if not most tangible devices that have improved life for humans have had more than one parent involved. The Wright brothers were the first to demonstrate powered flight and they deserve every bit of credit for that. They were, however, not the inventors of the aileron that makes modern flight possible. Their wing-warping worked for the Wright Flyer. Maybe not so much for a 747.

Some human brains combined with some other human brains (and a lot of persistence, experimentation, and hard work) and voila! we have flight as we know it. Add in a lot more human brains cooperating and the 747 becomes feasible.

It’s more than a little like you accessing Google’s server farm from your computer. However, in the vast majority of cases, production of tangible inventions involves a good deal more personal contact between cooperating individuals than does accessing Google.

That brings up another problem thrust upon us from the current crop of arrogant “experts:” we’re not supposed to talk up close and personal with each other. We’re not supposed to travel to talk with each other. Could that be because we might combine our thought processes and learn something uncomfortable to or about the “experts?” It certainly puts innovation at risk.

Back to the computer-server logic: some time ago I developed some numbers to crudely judge human ability to process information using a combined, or maybe additive, brain-power-processor paradigm. At the time I originally did these calculations, the US was somewhat smaller, but the proportions have changed only to make the point stronger, and these numbers are easy to follow.

The goal of the exercise is to analyze the brain-power of the “experts.” Unfortunately for our calculations, but probably fortunate for humanity, an Experts R Us registry doesn’t exist that could be accessed to evaluate the “experts” perhaps more accurately. Therefore, a proxy group is necessary. My chosen proxy is holders of a PhD degree.

PhDs have the top academic degree most disciplines offer. In the following calculations I mean no disrespect to any individual holding a PhD. (Given a little time I’m sure I could come up with a list of PhDs I actively disrespect, but that’s probably my personal issue and doesn’t mean I disrespect the degree as such.) Nonetheless, I will use the PhDs as a surrogate for the self-anointed self-appointed elitist “experts” who project their control on us.

Using the computer-server search engines a few years ago, I learned the US population was 304 million people. At the same time, the US contained a little over 5 million PhDs (5,107,200). If we remove the roughly 5 million PhDs from the 304 million full population, that leaves roughly 299 million regular old folks in the US at that time. The 299 million don’t have PhDs, but they may have professional degrees, Masters degrees, Bachelors degrees, a high school diploma, a GED (General Educational Development) certificate, a journeyman standing, an apprenticeship, or no degree at all. That’s 299 million of a mixed bag, including a group with disabilities and too many MPHs.

Following the computer-server example, and since we respect the PhD degree as the top of the academic heap, we will assign all 5 million PhDs in the US an IQ of a perfect 200. Even most PhDs would consider that absurd, but let’s be generous.

Now we will wire together those 5 million perfect 200 IQ PhD brains into a human server farm. The cumulative IQ represented is 1 billion (a little over since there were a little more than 5 million PhDs).

Next is the same calculation for the benighted masses of IQ-deprived, barely functional people who somehow pass as normal, but only normal in comparison to each other, not normal in comparison to the “experts.” 

Since the benighted masses are only normal in intelligence – only average – they/we will be assigned the average IQ of 100. That means, if we beleaguered only-normals attach ourselves together as a human server-farm, we have a total IQ of 29.9 billion. Billion with a B. That is 29.9 times the cumulative calculation power of the nation’s PhDs (again, a proxy for the “experts”). 

Looking at that from another direction, the IQ required across the population of the benighted masses to match the cumulative IQ of the nation’s defined-as-IQ-perfect PhDs is a little over 3.4. Three point four, not thirty-four. In other words, if the normal people in the country have the average IQ of cabbage, we can match the combined calculation power of the country’s IQ-perfect PhDs – “the experts.” 

That also means that if we raise our average IQs from cabbage to… say, a salamander, we far outstrip the cumulative IQ of the nation’s “experts.”

Does that mean anything in the real world? It only means this: The “expert” class is nothing special in intelligence. If anything this is a clarion call to the general masses of the US to stop assuming the “experts” know something. You can use the same search engines as they do to learn facts, and together we far, far outstrip the intelligence of all the experts put together. We should not be intimidated, but rather we should be outraged that this minor clique of primarily arrogant versus extra-smart people has demanded, with the active assistance of government, to be surrogate decision-makers for normal people. 

It’s hard, though, not to be impressed with their highly developed form of condescension. Very close to being an art form.

As Richard Feynman (1965 Nobel in Physics) wrote, “Science is the Belief in the Ignorance of the Experts.” Time to follow Feynman. Forget following arrogant clowns defining themselves as “the science.”

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  • Eric Hussey

    President of the Optometric Extension Program Foundation (an educational foundation), Chair of the organizing committee for the International Congress of Behavioral Optometry 2024, Chair of the Northwest Congress of Optometry, all under the umbrella of the Optometric Extension Program Foundation. Member of the American Optometric Association and Optometric Physicians of Washington.

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