In every field, there are very few true experts, who understand the given subject and operates accordingly. There are, however, typically, very many pseudo-experts, who do not not understand the subject but yet are able to operate because they have compiled a large amount of tips and tricks on how to behave and respond by copying the behavior of the experts(*). The problem why pseudo-experts is that pseudo-experts do not understand why the rules are the way they are. This means that they do not understand the limits and context of the rules they are copying and so when the limits are exceeded or they leave their familiar surroundings, they do not know how to think and act because they are really unfamiliar with the subject on a fundamental level.

(*) Ironically, I once wrote a list of tips on how to become an expert 😀

The novice can not tell the difference between experts and pseudo-experts and he is thus much more likely to follow the pseudo-experts simply because there are more of them. Since pseudo-experts do not know what they don’t know and often fashion themselves experts or at least well-informed (perhaps they follow the news?)—after all, have they not accumulated an enormous amount of information—they can appear supremely confident which makes them so much more dangerous and likely to be followed by the novice.

Not being an expert, the easiest way for a novice to tell the difference between a real expert and a pseudo-expert is to observe the way they communicate, specifically the kind of knowledge that is being communicated. If all that is being communicated is long lists of rules or tips, you are dealing with a pseudo-expert. He may well know how to operate just fine, but if he ever leaves the comfort zone of his rule-zone he will be lost.

Unclear writing also indicates a pseudo-expert. Unclear writing typically means unclear thinking as thoughts are mostly words and writing is a direct mapping of such thought. An expert should have clear thoughts and with just a little practice be able to put down even complicated thoughts on paper in a way that is simple to understand. Conversely, a pseudo-expert will have no chance doing that because he does not understand the overall mapping of the original thought.

The best thing a novice can do is to become somewhat of an expert himself. Of course, there are no end of pseudo-experts telling you that you need to consult a (pseudo?)-expert before you even think of doing anything. This very prevalent attitude propagates the system and it is as dangerous as believing in people that appear confident in their knowledge.

Originally posted 2009-11-18 14:21:42.