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No Authorities

In a recent post on quantum computing (QC), unfolding and debunking yet another garbled bit of publicity, Scott Aaronson explains nicely how science works:

... I love the way Carl Sagan once put it: "In science, there are no authorities. At most, there are experts." ... When they speak, I listen to them—not because of how much money or how many people they manage or how many awards they've won, but because I can interact with them directly and see for myself the agility of their reasoning and their responsiveness to evidence.

As a general rule, I'll weight the opinion of a single individual whose judgment I admire over the collective decision of an organization of thousands—even if the organization is itself full of individuals whose judgments I admire. I've disagreed vehemently with [another individual] about whether scalable QC is possible at all, but one thing [he] said that's always stuck with me is that "the whole is stupider than the sum of its parts"—so that even in (say) a funding panel composed of brilliant scientists, the tiniest grain of stupidity in each one can get exponentially amplified by the others. This matches my experience.

cf. MissJudgment (1999-05-27), QuestionAuthority (2000-01-18), AuthoritarianButtons (2002-06-07), DrawingTheLine (2004-07-11), Reflective Judgment (2014-04-09), ...) - ^z - 2015-12-30