Expertise and how to handle pseudo experts

I hate pseudo experts.

People acting as experts are sprouting online. They post and comment as if they have proficiency in a subject matter. Their words and verbal demeanor portray competence. Woe to those who challenge their mental acumen!

But are they really experts? Or did their expertise arise from Google, Wikipedia, or, far worse, the socmed posts of similar pseudo experts?

The words expert and expertise come from the Latin word experiri , meaning “to try.” That these words share the same etymology as experience and experiment connote a relationship. You can’t claim expertise unless you try, which means you should have experience and you should have experimented. Absent that you can’t claim expertise.

I claim expertise in my line of work — as well as my other “hobbies” — because of my decades of experience. And I’m not just talking theoretical experience. If you want to claim expertise, you need practical real-life experience. It’s one thing to learn about driving from reading a book; you need to get behind the wheel to even claim you know how to drive.

Expertise isn’t static. There are so many discoveries, so many disrupting technologies, and so many challenges to the status quo that experts have to continuously sharpen their skills. Doctors continuously attend medical conferences. In the blink of an eye, programmers moved from desktop languages to mobile app development. Unless you constantly keep up with the latest research and learn and experiment and apply that knowledge, your expertise will become passé.

And while my skills were sharpened through constant application and repeated experience, my understanding grew through the tedious trial-and-error process of experimentation. By trying new things and testing boundaries, I learned what works and what doesn’t. In many aspects of life — be it in work, relationships, hobbies, or physical activities — I have pushed the limits, sometimes until something breaks. That’s how I learn.

That’s why true experts remain open minded. They don’t relax in their glass towers, arrogant with their laurels. They engage. They accept challenges. They test the limits. They break things. They push the envelope. The fail. But they learn. Sometimes they get hurt and they look stupid but they learn.

The one thing that I hate with pseudo experts is that when challenged and proven wrong, they double-down and stick to their fake expertise and resort to insults. Sometimes you can tell they are pseudo experts because they start hurling ad hominem attacks. They don’t step back and consider that maybe their understanding is wrong. Maybe there are other ways. Maybe there is another explanation.

And the one thing I hate about socmed is that these pseudo experts have a forum that amplifies their pseudo expertise. The problem with socmed is that pseudo experts become influencers, which breeds more pseudo experts. Then they dig deep in the trenches of their false understanding, investing their integrity and character into that false belief, that to consider themselves wrong becomes totally unacceptable.

That’s how you can tell if someone is a pseudo expert. You challenge them. You ask questions. Then pay close attention to how the react. Do they answer calmly? Do they back their assertions with facts or well-established information? Do they demonstrate a clear, objective thought process?

Or do they launch an all-out, emotional attack? Do they hurl insults? Are their explanations riddled with fallacies, like shifting goal posts or attacking the strawman?

I don’t hate pseudo experts for their ignorance. I hate them for their hubris. Hubris as manifested in their refusal to acknowledge facts and their persistence to spread falsehood to stroke their egos. What to do with them? You can’t educate them because they remain steadfast in their warped beliefs. You can’t ignore them be because they continue to poison minds. You can’t argue with them because it’s explaining differential calculus to a monkey.

Maybe that’s why I’m drawn to comedians and satirists. Because the only other option is to ridicule pseudo experts.

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