You’ll find them in the court room, on TV, in magazines, and more often than not, on the receiving end of your (hefty) check. Some of them are pressed and polished, presenting a perfect picture of professionalism achieved only by those willing to spend the time, while others might be mistaken for an eccentric vagabond, mysterious and yet intriguing in their strange ways.
Did you say “experts”?
Yes, that’s who I’m talking about. People who claim to be “experts” in their fields, whatever subjects those may be. These individuals are called upon in certain cases to testify on behalf of other people or evidence, to speak to the public on television or radio, or provide advice and direction to those who just don’t have the time to learn such complicated things.
Information is complicated, that much we can agree on. Ever heard the phrase, “there are two sides to every story”? I’m sure in the course of your lifetime you’ve seen the applicability of such a statement. How about, “a picture is worth a thousand words”?
But are those thousand words exactly the same to each person? And is the information given in any story all the knowledge available?
Let’s consider the word “knowledge” for a moment.
Right now, you have the knowledge available to read this post. You know enough of the English language to understand what I’m writing, and if you don’t know the meaning of a word I use, you’ve got the vast resources of the internet to help you. These exact resources, or rather, the resource of today, is none other than the World Wide Web.
When I got the same Android phone my boyfriend has as my new phone, he was excited to show me the “Ok Google” (voice recognition) feature. After some childish interactions with this technological device, I came to realize the handiness of such a feature.
I could literally sit down with Google for the rest of my days and have barely uncovered the tip of the iceberg in terms of the knowledge available. And as we’ve all come to know via Freud, that’s nothing compared to what lies underneath.
So, if knowledge is an iceberg, what sort of iceberg are you currently working on? What do you spend your days researching?
Here’s my thought: those experts from a few paragraphs ago, those people aren’t just working on an iceberg, they’re directing it.
In my new job as a medical assistant I’ve learned an iceberg-ton of things about the medical industry so far (spoiler alert, those white coats hide a lot of red tape). One of the simplest things I’ve come to realize is that the medical industry is based on the entire principle of knowledge—and who does and does not have it.
When you’re not feeling yourself, you see a doctor because you expect them to have an answer. The public does the same thing when a crime is committed, only with police. This applies to your insurance agent, your lawyer, your tax professional, and anyone else you consult. You go to someone else because they have knowledge you don’t—and you pay them for the privilege to gain that specific knowledge.
Isn’t that why we go to college (if we attend)?
Ok Google, riddle me this: if the World Wide Web has every answer known to man—broadly speaking, of course, because secrets will inevitably always exist—why do we still need experts?
I found myself wrestling with this the other day, as I pondered the whole money-knowledge exchange that happens every day at the doctor’s office I work at. It’s not something you see, because the only card to change hands across that front desk has the name “Medicare” on it, but there is still a transaction occurring. If I can search on the web for the cause of my symptoms, why would I pay to see a doctor, who might possibly tell me the exact same thing I could have researched?
In truth, I haven’t found a satisfying answer yet. Is it because these experts command so much knowledge that we compensate them for their time and wisdom? Do we feel more validated when we receive an opinion from someone who commands respect and/or power, rather than relying on our own judgment?
My suspicions are that the reality lies more in the value of truth than anything else. In the medical field, truth is substantiated by scientific evidence. X-rays and MRIs and tests come back in quantifiable results. The catch is, you need a radiologist or a lab technician to interpret those results. The degrees they have, the money they’ve parted with to sustain the titles they do, that knowledge has come from a creditable source. That’s exactly where I think the world wide web begins to break apart. The quality of knowledge out there varies, a lot.
Experts these days must be more on top of it than before, especially with such quick fact-checking resources as Google. Gone are the days where you had to spend hours at the library looking for the right stats in the right book. But it’s interesting to think about libraries all the same: they’re a vast hoard filled by those minds who chose to write and publish their knowledge for the rest of the world to have access to. Separated by subject, they’re (obviously) the physical manifestation of the banks of societal knowledge we’ve stored up over centuries.
Add to the mix the fact that it’s easier than ever to publish a book these days—true or not—and suddenly you’ll start to see why knowledge, though vast and available to all who seek it, is still a protected species.
Where do you get your knowledge?
Rebecca Henderson holds a Master’s in German and a Bachelor’s in Creative Writing. Best expressing herself through the written word, she enjoys the smell of burning rubber and can recite the ABC’s of the automotive world upon command. Rebecca hopes to shift your world perspective through her words, because looking out the same window every day hardly makes for an interesting life.