When the same people keep getting quoted, time and again, on a topic that doesn't require specialized knowledge and years of study: beware!

Why should a short list of names appear repeatedly as experts on fuzzy issues such as "The Internet and Society", "The Future of the Corporation", and so forth? Doubtless these pundits give good sound bites, pithy sayings to add flavor to a reporter's story --- but do they really know anything special? It's entertaining to look back at their writings from a decade ago (for those who have been active that long) and see how inaccurate their confidently-stated prognostications were. It's also fun to observe the interlocking web of cross-citations which futurati teammates give each other. Once you're a member of the club you get free referrals from your friends, and you in turn put pointers to their work in your writings. (Just like web sites trading ad banners with one another and counting that as revenue.) The wheel goes around, until external events cause the self-licking ice cream cone to melt down.

Mutual admiration communities of press-friendly quotesmiths aren't really dangerous in the long run. (How many can you remember from a generation ago?) But in the shorter term they narrow the spectrum of viewpoints that get public examination --- and thereby lower the overall quality of thinking. When you see the same people pontificating in three or more places, step back and ask: doesn't anybody else have something to say on this issue? Then look around, in the Library, on the Web, etc., for non-celebrity experts.

You'll discover persons who don't spend all their time seeking the limelight: multifaceted individuals who realize that complex problems don't have bumper-stickerizable solutions --- and who therefore can't in honesty give simplistic slogans in answer to reporters' questions. These are quiet, thoughtful people ... people who will give you new and important ideas ... good people worth knowing.

Sunday, October 15, 2000 at 18:33:01 (EDT) = 2000-10-15

TopicThinking - TopicSociety

(correlates: ExtractTraction, MissingSenses, NativityNetwork, ...)