I flew on a plane from my land locked metropolis to the beach in a different state. After a few taps on my phone, I am transfigured into an expert on local marine life and tide cycles. A work trip to a city I’ve never been to? Tip-tap, I have local knowledge of all the best cuisine within a three mile radius. Is something broken in my home? Air conditioner? Dry wall? Tip-tap, I’m now an expert tradesman. The power to access infinite knowledge is intoxicating.
At the same time, I feel the Internet and these pocket computers created a world of expert idiots. We’re quick to equate a list of facts as knowledge. We repeat it at lightspeed. Armed with a Dunning-Kruger’s worth of confidence, free to regurgitate these newly acquired facts with minimal accountability. We broadcast in TikToks, Instagrams, YouTubes, and most infamously podcasts.
Again, the access to knowledge is incredible. It’s the overwhelming confidence that comes along with it that I wonder about.
I read an anti-billionaire rant from Paul Krugman called “The Rich Are Crazier Than You and Me” and he described this same knowledge confidence dilemma when combined with wealth and socio-political issues.
[T]heir financial success all too often convinces them that they’re uniquely brilliant, able to instantly master any subject, without any need to consult people who’ve actually worked hard to understand the issues. And in many cases they became wealthy by defying conventional wisdom, which predisposes them to believe that such defiance is justified across the board. – Paul Krugman, The Rich Are Crazier Than You and Me
It’s easy to conflate wealth with wisdom, prosperity with divine blessing. This is the story of empires, monarchs, and religions. Speaking of money…
We live at a particular junction in time where Large Language Models and their propensity to
hallucinate generate the wrong answer will exacerbate the problem. I’m excited about a future where I don’t need to be an expert at Photoshop to generate an image, but I’m leery of the ethics of how the machine learned that task. I think there are applications of this technology, but at the same time I’m confused how we all know the technology is spicy predictive text, an expert bullshitter, but we’ve said “Oh yeah, let’s roll this out everywhere and build businesses on this.”
One thing I’m trying to get better at on my two-white-guys-who-yammer-for-an-hour podcast is saying “Based on my experience…” or “In my opinion…” or “Based on my limited understanding…” or some such device to caveat my language… but I think the best and most apt answer is even shorter: “I don’t know.”