by F.

I’m on a listserv about decision making and today an e-mail arrived discussing some more results on how experts suck:

In my article with Scott Armstrong in the latest issue of Interfaces (37:3), we describe findings from experiments in which we asked experts and novices to choose which decision (out of between three and six) the parties in eight real conflicts would make. For example, one was a disguised version of a conflict over water between Iraq and Syria in the mid-1970s. Selecting by chance would have matched the actual decision 28% of the time. So how accurate were the experts? 32%. That is not much better than the 29% of the novices’ picks.

My reaction was to yawn. Yeah, we pretty much know that, in many cases, so-called “experts” suck. Let’s turn to a more interesting question: what is expertise and in what domains or problem spaces is it useful (if any)?

For some insight into that question, this article is reasonably interesting, though the author seems self-interested and thus loses much credibility. Still, it’s a useful summary of when expertise may be worth attaining.

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