STUMP » Articles » An Elegy for the "Experts" and for Memory » 2 June 2021, 19:54

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An Elegy for the "Experts" and for Memory  

by

2 June 2021, 19:54

Oh wait, I don’t mean elegy for the self-appointed experts. I mean exaltation over them completely murdering their own reputations.

I have been extremely annoyed over the past year plus some months. No, it’s not necessarily over people who really don’t think through arguments over counting dead people. It’s not necessarily about brazen requests for undeserved public funds.

It’s about people who are trying to claim certainty where there is nothing but uncertainty.

People who decided that they could simply proclaim some stuff couldn’t possibly be true…. because they don’t like it. No, things they don’t like can’t be true.

And then, most importantly, those who decided they might be able to change the record and then never be called to account.

Learn some intellectual humility, dammit

Back in 2017, I wrote the following: The Murder-Suicide of Expertise

THE SUICIDE OF EXPERTISE

But here are the hallmarks of why “experts” are not being trusted:

  • The experts are not all that expert (well-credentialed, but deeply ignorant)
  • The experts lack intellectual humility – they hold onto wrong claims far past reasonability as a result, and make overconfident pronouncements
  • The experts are intellectually dishonest
  • The experts aren’t the people who get hurt by what they get wrong

Does this sound at all familiar to you?

Again, I wrote that in 2017. Not in the middle of the COVID muddle.

“Experts” had already been pissing away their credibility back in 2017, if you were paying attention.

At this point, in 2021, even the normally credulous are asking: why should I trust your “expertise”? You got so many things wrong!

Ah, but some of them are trying their latest “clever” trick: change the past, and you never have to admit you were wrong.

Why change history?

This is the part that really annoys me in all the behavior of the past year.

People trying to change the historical record, so that they don’t have to be exposed for their blatant wrongness.

It was one thing when it was Stalin literally having history rewritten for his own purposes. And that people are still trying to uphold Stalin’s lies.

But now, in a futile attempt to hang onto relevancy, various media outlets are trying to edit their past in order to deny that there is no reason for anybody to trust them.

To build trust: admit mistakes

Perhaps some people still trust the Washington Post as a source of information. I don’t know such people.

Look, I am willing to allow for mistakes — we are all human, after all. But when I come across people unwilling to admit to any mistakes, well, I am not going to trust them in the future. I’m not that foolish (or young) any more.

I’ve screwed up in my own blog posts, and here is a very good example of such a screw up: UPDATES and REPOST: Public Pension Watch: How Important is the Mortality Assumption? And Other Assumptions? — I will just give you a taste of what I had to do in admitting my mistake:

[original: I believe that’s a comparison of GAM-1971 against RP-2000. I will do a life expectancy comparison in a later post. UPDATE: I was wrong about that, and I will definitely have a few more follow-ups to this post.]

I did a follow-up: Public Pensions Followup: The Effect of Assumptions and Materiality. Yes, it does get into some wonky detail, but it’s about focusing on material error, not minor nit-picking. I was wrong about a large thing in my original post, and I was trying to correct my mistake. Yes, I understand many people think it’s unimportant, but for those paying attention I made a large mistake and I needed to admit that.

I have no problem with admitting I was wrong, and I try to avoid making the same mistake in the future. I made my error in the full view of whoever read my stuff, and I had to correct it in the same place, making clear what had happened.

But now we have people trying to hide their screw-ups. When we remember they screwed up. It was not that long ago, dudes.

Given such behavior, why would we trust such people at all?

Keeping a watch

Now I’m going to mention once again Actuarial News.

Back in 2014, early on for STUMP (but not early for me keeping a watch), I noted: Public Pensions: Why Keeping a Watch is Important. In 2017, I mentioned again: Public Pensions: Why It’s Important to Keep Watching.

In those two posts, the reason to note items at the time they were reported was because of the long-term evolution of public pension concerns. Indeed, I originally started my watch in the now-defunct Actuarial Outpost in 2008 or 2009 for that very reason.

Now I know I have to do this because some people will go back and try to change the record.

In Actuarial News, I try to capture salient info, such as the headline (at the time), authors, date of publication, date when I accessed (if relevant), etc. I wasn’t expecting people to go back and try to change the record a la Orwell’s 1984, but now I know better.

Many years ago, I knew that the original sources may get moved or removed from the internet, just because not everybody would keep up websites.

I wasn’t expecting people to completely change what was there. This is gaslighting in the original sense, making one question one’s own memory.

In many of the cases, the people trying to change their own record of what they said in the past are not nefarious Stalins trying to hide mass murders, but ordinary schmoes simply trying to cover over their mediocre mistakes.

Just frickin admit error

I’m not disappointed. That would mean I had expectations of better behavior. I can’t say I did.

I’m not really angry. I save my anger for when I need energy to get things done. My energy is not going to do anything about this.

I am annoyed.

If these people just admitted they were wrong in the past, and will try not to make such mistakes in the future, will go a long way in establishing future credibility.

That many people have decided to take the “nuh uh, I never wrote that” route has made it much easier for me to carve down who I will actually pay attention to.

So, “experts”?

If you wonder why people aren’t paying attention to your profound pronouncements after you have scrubbed your past?

You were the ones who decided your credibility was really most sincerely dead. Not me. Not others.

You did that.

I don’t want to hear any whining about what you did to yourselves.


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