January was the most-read month in the history of FCPA Professor. Thumbs up and many thanks for making FCPA Professor a part of your day.
Each of the tens of thousands of people who visit FCPA Professor each month no doubt have their own reasons for doing so, and I hope depth of coverage and the desire to read experienced analysis of the FCPA and related topics are at the top of the list.
In this regard, two articles – both outside the FCPA context – recently caught my eye and I give them a thumbs up because the articles are relevant to the ebb and flow and quality of certain information in the public domain concerning the FCPA and related topics. (see here and here for prior posts on similar issues).
This article is titled “In Praise of Depth” and states in pertinent part:
“I’m craving more depth in my life, and so are they. My strong suspicion is that it’s because we’re drowning in so much trivia — a tsunami of texts and tweets, instant messages and Gchat; Facebook posts and bookmarked websites we mindlessly cruise; and multiple Google searches to get answers to the endless, often useless questions that happen to pop into our overcrowded minds. The hunger we’re all feeling is for instant gratification. It’s not unlike the siren call of a fragrant chocolate chip cookie — or, for that matter, the allure of any drug that promises a frisson of pleasure. But the dopamine squirts we get from these drugs are short-lived. They mostly prompt a craving for more — a compulsion to match the initial buzz by upping the ante in the face of diminishing returns. What we chase through our digital devices is instant connection and information. What we get is no more nutritious or enduringly satisfying than a sugary dessert. We don’t need more bits and bytes of information, or more frequent updates about each other’s modest daily accomplishments. What we need instead is more wisdom, insight, understanding and discernment — less quantity, higher quality; less breadth and more depth.”
This article is titled “The Death of Expertise” and states in pertinent part:
“I fear we are witnessing the ‘death of expertise’: a Google-fueled, Wikipedia-based, blog-sodden collapse of any division between professionals and laymen, students and teachers, knowers and wonderers – in other words, between those of any achievement in an area and those with none at all. By this, I do not mean the death of actual expertise, the knowledge of specific things that sets some people apart from others in various areas. There will always be doctors, lawyers, engineers, and other specialists in various fields. Rather, what I fear has died is any acknowledgement of expertise as anything that should alter our thoughts or change the way we live.
Critics might dismiss all this by saying that everyone has a right to participate in the public sphere. That’s true. But every discussion must take place within limits and above a certain baseline of competence.
Once upon a time — way back in the Dark Ages before the 2000s — people seemed to understand, in a general way, the difference between experts and laymen.
How did this peevishness about expertise come about, and how can it have gotten so immensely foolish? Some of it is purely due to the globalization of communication. There are no longer any gatekeepers: the journals and op-ed pages that were once strictly edited have been drowned under the weight of self-publishable blogs. There was once a time when participation in public debate, even in the pages of the local newspaper, required submission of a letter or an article, and that submission had to be written intelligently, pass editorial review, and stand with the author’s name attached. Even then, it was a big deal to get a letter in a major newspaper. Now, anyone can bum rush the comments section of any major publication. Sometimes, that results in a free-for-all that spurs better thinking. Most of the time, however, it means that anyone can post anything they want, under any anonymous cover, and never have to defend their views or get called out for being wrong.
Expertise is necessary, and it’s not going away. Unless we return it to a healthy role in public policy, we’re going to have stupider and less productive arguments every day.
Experts come in many flavors. Education enables it, but practitioners in a field acquire expertise through experience; usually the combination of the two is the mark of a true expert in a field. But if you have neither education nor experience, you might want to consider exactly what it is you’re bringing to the argument.
In any discussion, you have a positive obligation to learn at least enough to make the conversation possible. The University of Google doesn’t count. Remember: having a strong opinion about something isn’t the same as knowing something.”
In short, thanks for reading FCPA Professor and thumbs up to depth and expertise.