Scoring my COVID Predictions Part 5 – Skepticism about Experts
“Always listen to experts. They'll tell you what can't be done, and why. Then do it.” Robert A. Heinlein, Time Enough for Love
“Philosophers are people who know less and less about more and more, until they know nothing about everything. Scientists are people who know more and more about less and less, until they know everything about nothing.” Konrad Lorenz
Prediction 5 – People will no longer blindly follow expert’s advice.
We want to follow the advice of experts. That's why we pay them! Wise leaders listen to their experts, then take that counsel and apply history and common sense when developing solutions. They recognize that the advice will be heavily influenced by their area of expertise, however we live in a world of many variables. No single perspective should be the sole reason for a decision.
Naturally I assumed many “leaders” would reject this approach and make poor decisions. That post is here.
In retrospect, I wasn’t pessimistic enough!
To give leaders credit, there was a lot of conflicting information. I am sympathetic to the “fog of war” argument, that decisions made quickly with imperfect data often produce unintended consequences. However, it is reasonable to expect analysis, introspection and course corrections as new data is presented. Did many of our leaders do that?
To use an expression I learned growing up, “they doubled down on stupid”. Even when it became apparent that certain approaches yielded superior results, they refused to adjust to the new reality. It was also fascinating to see how many in leadership roles “gaslit” their own constituents by yelling “follow the science” while completely rejecting it!
The rejection of reality by “leaders” has become a new operating model. Maybe it always was, but now it is so blatantly obvious that even casual observers are noticing. The person responsible for “transportation” in the United States was interviewed recently, and he explained he was doing a great job making transportation more inexpensive and reliable. In the real world there were a record number of flight cancellations and delays, and gas prices are at an all time high. Later that week I watched the person responsible for border security explaining that he was also doing a great job, even as any casual observer can see the border is completely out of control and migrant deaths are at an all time high.
I have a friend who is a senior leader in a large organization. This is a critical organization, and it is slowly collapsing. Extraordinarily high levels of attrition combined with increasing workload has created an unsustainable work environment. Even the core functions are no longer reliable. He told me that he was on a conference call last month, and the senior leaders spent most of the time describing how well they were doing!
There is wisdom in the crowd, and the crowd is rejecting the tale’s many leaders are telling. Those who were paying close attention have always seen through the opinions of “experts”, but the gaslighting has become so prevalent that people are moving through cognitive dissonance into complete skepticism.
I’m not sure if that is good or bad.
There is a saying in rock climbing: "You can't argue with the rock." No amount of rationalization will save you if you slip and fall. Reality is like that. You can delude yourself during the fall, but eventually you face the rock. Gravity, economics and policies are all like that. You can ignore reality for a while, but not forever. Decisions have consequences...eventually.