Many people try to buy expertise.
For instance, businesses often hire marketers to create a strategy to attract more customers. But it's difficult to distinguish an experienced marketer from a mediocre one unless you know the field.
Case studies, awards, and accomplishments seem to help distinguish the good from the bad. But you won't understand their importance if you don't know the field. For example, the marketer could pay to be on Forbes' 30 under 30, Fox, or your favorite intellectual magazine, sometimes for as little as $100. Those of you outside of the media industry probably didn't know this. Like businesses hiring mediocre marketers, you could, too, be deceived by these "trust signals" because you wouldn't understand how easy they are to have.
You can't buy expertise in other fields either:
Unexperienced personal trainers prescribe the same routine for everyone.
People are fooled every day by scientific findings because they don't understand statistics.
You can hire a designer to create a website for you. But you won't know what an effective website looks like when you see it.
The Emperor's New Clothes is an 1837 tale that highlights how we can't buy all knowledge or expertise.
During the story, two rogues pose as weavers and offer a king clothing that is invisible to anyone "unfit for his office [to work with him] or extraordinarily simple in character." The king pays and they start "weaving."
Later, the king asked his old minister to check progress. He was a "man of sense" and suited to the role he was hired to do. In other words, someone capable of seeing the garments. After entering the room, the impostors asked him if the design and colors pleased them. "I will tell the Emperor without delay, how very beautiful they are," he said, afraid of revealing he couldn't see them.
When it's time for the king to see the clothes, he realizes there's nothing there.
"'How is this?' said the Emperor to himself. 'Am I a simpleton, or am I unfit to be an Emperor? That would be the worst thing that could happen.' 'Oh! The cloth is charming,' said he aloud. 'It has my complete approbation.'"
He eventually goes on a parade to show off his clothes in front of the crowd. Citizens praise the garments, afraid to admit they cannot see them. It is not until a kid says, "but the Emperor has nothing at all on!" that everyone, including the king, realizes that they were never clothes.
There's no workaround to building expertise than learning from an expert. But how can you distinguish experts from people who claim to be experts? I have three heuristics.
First, you can look at the number of multi-disciplinary arguments the expert uses to support a thesis. For example, an expert (1) that says there aren't differences in toy preferences between male and female children but shows a single psychological study backing this point has less credibility than one (2) with morphological and pediatric endocrinological evidence against the feminist's claims backing that thesis. These two experts would have less credibility than a third who defuses the counter-arguments from a series of studies opposing the evidence that expert two used.
Second, you can look for people with skin in the game. People who have walked the talk and who lose when you lose.
The problem is that you can fake skin in the game in many fields, as shown in my marketing example. I can invest $200 to publish one of my essays in 150 news outlets in under three days and have you think I'm an accomplished writer who you should pay $5000 per month to coach you. So the skin in the game heuristic only saves you from clueless snake-oil salespeople, but not from those skilled at making people believe there is an invisible bucket hat in front of them.
Third, you look for foundational texts that a wide range of scientists from different scientific fields recommend:
Scientists tend to be more meticulous about their arguments.
Recommendations from different fields to avoid field-based biases, as described in tip #1.
These tips won't save you completely, however. Even the most brilliant people on earth can position themselves as experts in an area they don't understand.
The documentary Particle Fever showed the process to find the Higgs boson, a subatomic particle said to be the key to understanding how the universe operates. Groups of brilliant physicists stood on two sides. One believed the universe operated under supersymmetry, and the other that there are multiple universes. What you have to know from these theories is that one allows for the advancement of physics, and the other suggests our universe is unpredictable, and thus physics is somewhat useless. As a result, either both sides are wrong, or one is wrong. So a group of brilliant individuals has been seen as an expert in a subject that doesn't exist.
The only solution is to become an expert yourself. Immerse yourself into a field that interests you using a map with the three heuristics I mentioned. This won't save you from taking the wrong path. But it will raise the odds that you eventually reach the right one, as long as you keep searching.
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How do you pay $100 to be on Forbes 30 Under 30? Tell me !!!