Experts

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Back in my days on the road as a safety consultant there was an old saying. It said, “An expert was anyone with a briefcase that was more than a hundred miles from home.” These days it seems that experts are defined as anyone near a microphone or a word processor who can string together long sentences of impressive sounding, yet meaningless, verbal salad. And if the verbal salad works well with the “meal” of the media’s particular bias all the better. Here’s a few examples of totally off the mark predictions that were given credence:

Back in 2016 dozens of “experts” predicted doom for our economy should Donald Trump be elected. The most famous doomsayer was the Nobel Prize winner in economics and NY Times columnist, Paul Krugman. He said that, due to Trumps election, “We are probably looking at a global recession with no end in sight.” Result…… The strongest economy in history, a record-breaking stock market, lowest ever unemployment numbers, and (best of all) wages rising fastest for lower and middle income level workers.

In 1988 experts predicted the Maldives would be under water in 30 years due to global warming (that’s what they called it back then). They predicted the West Side Highway in New York would be under water by 2019. In 2008 Al Gore said that “experts” predicted that Arctic ice would be gone in 5 years. And the New York Times famously touted “the end of snow” in 2000. Result….The Maldives are just fine, traffic is heavy on the West Side Highway this morning, and there is more Arctic ice now than in 2008. Last year people were skiing in Colorado on the Fourth of July.

Just recently experts said the killing of Qassem Soleimani would drag us into another “endless war.” Some called it a “1914 moment” referring to the beginning of the First World War. It was “reckless,” “impulsive,” and would only lead to our own demise. It was being called “Trump’s Iraq.” Experts wondered would NATO stand with us in the conflagration? Result……a feeble attempt at a retaliation and, although Iran could still attempt a terror attack at any time, it seems pretty quiet compared to World War III.

Back in 2000 “experts” predicted a mini-Armageddon for Y2K. Supposedly the turning of the calendars from years that began in “19” to years that began in “20” was going to make computers and all the things they control go crazy. Electric grids, water systems, and banks were under threat. They said it was “possible” planes would fall from the sky on New Years Eve! I worked on a project that created an entirely separate water supply (at great cost I might add) for the dialysis unit of a major hospital out of fear that the city water would not function. Result……mostly nothing.

In 1998 Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman (see above) predicted that the internet would have little effect on the economy or commerce with “no greater impact than the fax machine.” Result….Can you say Amazon? Google? Facebook?

“Experts” have been predicting for years that polar bears and penguins were in imminent danger of extinction at the hands of evil mankind’s global warming. Result…..In 2019 polar bear populations were at the highest level on record since 1973. This number was so good that climate activists began dropping the polar bear as the go-to face of their propaganda releases. Penguins were the source of much hand wringing until a March 2018 discovery of a colony of 1.5 million of them in Antarctica. Not so amazingly, the “experts” did not even know they existed.

Just recently “experts” screamed that tariffs were going to make everything cost more. Washing machines, cars, and, and …..everything!! Farmers would be crushed and auto makers would suffer. Result…….a trade agreement was reached with Canada and Mexico as well as the first phase of a trade agreement with China. These agreements will bring tens of billions of dollars worth of business to farmers, auto manufacturers, and other American businesses. According to CNBC, only 8.3% of corporations had raised their prices to consumers as of the end of 2018 even though they experienced higher costs. It turns out that when prices were raised demand dropped enough to make them reconsider in many cases. It seems the market really does set prices.

If you have an attention span long enough to compare what happens in the real world to the predictions of “experts” you can find an almost endless number of these. Trust me. I’m an expert on this kind of thing.

4 thoughts on “Experts

  1. The phenomenon that you’re commenting on is called “herd instinct”, the strong tendency of people to adopt the majority view as though that view must have been thoroughly researched since so many believe it. Instead, Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Minister of Propaganda, had it right when he said “if you repeat a lie often enough everyone will believe it. Fact is that few of us are independent thinkers and we’re too lazy to do the research ourselves. So we find what others are saying, follow our biases and attach to the ones that take us where we already want to go. That’s why disaster forecasts are so popular; that satisfy our need for something dramatic that tickles our emotions. Forecasts saying that everything will be pretty normal for the next 10 years just don’t feed our need for excitement. Those proclaiming unprecedented disaster are the popular ones.

  2. Oh and the theorem that comes from this is “All public prophecies are wrong! Every time without exception.” And the more dramatic they are and louder they are proclaimed, the more wrong they will be.

    • I suppose that depends on what you consider a “prophecy.” Churchill was right and Chamberlain was wrong. Those predicting the housing crash of 2008 were right and those claiming there was no crisis were wrong. In that sense, you can’t say anything about their correctness “without exception.”

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