USA Today unleashes pundits David Mastio and Jill Lawrence to trade fours about the message of that ridiculous New Yorker cartoon. Here's Ms Lawrence, for the defense. "The experts might not always be right. They might sometimes be smug. They might even be out of touch. But we need them." Among you, dear readers, there might be a few who have been in more than one meeting where the peacocking and straining at gnats moves you to scream, Hold! Enough!, or to stuff coffee grounds in your ears. And Mr Mastio, for the prosecution. "The fact is that “the experts” too often have a parochial view that looks at Washington power and policy through a narrow lens, most often leaving out the way high-minded theory can become brutal reality." Yes. Complex adaptive systems tend to do what they darn well please.
Why, then, do I suggest that experts be out of sight, and out of earshot?
Because, in their proper place, they can use their expertise in the service of others. In the proper places, Ms Lawrence has the idea. "Obviously, experts sometimes make mistakes. It’s inevitable in a country and a world of increasingly complex and interconnected problems. But that doesn’t mean novices are going to do better." As does Mr Mastio. "I’d be so much happier in a world where we could trust the experts. Set it and forget it, I say." Put another way, when the experts are doing their jobs properly, you don't have to cuss out the referee or make invidious comments about the train delayer.
In life, though, we get too many incompetent calls and too much video review. Or a train that leaves Chicago on time and is three hours late at South Bend. Perhaps some of that is the consequence of a do more with less mentality. The true expert might be the person who knows when it's best to leave well enough alone, rather than to intervene, to tweak, to anticipate every nuance and complexity.