- The expert instead of being the “ultimate” authority in arbitrating truth from error, has been dethroned and it is forced to take a position among other sources.
This is a subtle, yet profound shift in the acquiring and management of information. The role of the expert has not been eradicated, only set in its rightful place. The expert gave way to experts: a diversity of educated views on the subject. The ease of information flow has helped on both ends of receiving and transmission. People don’t only get a wealth of information at their finger tips but have a way to express themselves in front of a world wide audience without the constraints of the traditional publishing channels. This way Google (with the help of a host of other factors, no doubt) did not only give us access to information, but helped us cement the realization of the flawed nature of uni-directional source of knowledge (where human beings are involved).
It is known you get a better understanding when you check more than one source, … that is, if you know other sources exist, you can get to them and it doesn’t take too long. This is where Google represents a step forward from the printing press (Books, magazines, etc.) In the old era, you knew about other sources and could access them if you were in some way connected to the academia. Nowadays a person from a third world country can access, for example, the library of Oxford, video recorded courses from MIT, recorded talks, respected magazines or any other information ever produced … with a simple computer connected to internet.
The laity has been empowered and has been conferred the right to share in the authority, the arbitrating role to decide what is true. Individuals validate or invalidate the experts, not the other way around. So in a strange way, we all become experts, more educated people. The power has been transferred from the hands of a few to the many. Since we are at the beginning of a new era, this transfer has not been fully realized. Unfortunately there are still power houses and institutions holding dear to their control of the masses and still a lot of people believing in their dependence upon them. But this is slowly changing and we witness the dawn of a new horizons.
This new era does not mean we now know everything or that we are experts in everything. We do not have the time, nor should we. We will continue to depend on other people to give us information, to educate us, to tell us the “truth” in a particular situation, on a particular issue or in a particular field. But now, we can check our sources making experts fight with each other for our devotion. We have the power to hire and fire experts, so that instead of the community serving them (which has been the case for eons), the experts now have to serve the community.
Next Monday we will look at how this shift has affected the world of theology.
Do you share in my view of this new era? What would you add to what I said?
What do you think of the demise of the experts? Is it really happening?