In a themed edition tonight, The Slog asks once again if there is any correlation between levels of education/IQ, and fitness for purpose in a real job. I leave the judgement re this one to your good selves.
Mr Facebook Mark Zuckerberg has apparently had an audience with the Pope. I’m wondering if maybe the Pontiff needs a little advice about his friend-count….only, a few days ago, he tried to be nice to the harder end of Islam the Religion of Peace, and got an abrupt reply along the lines of go stick it up your cassock. Whether Mohammed has unfriended the man in the Vatican is unclear, but I think we can assume they won’t be exchanging Ramadan cards any time soon.
Zuckerberg was educated at Harvard, and has probably done more than any other single individual to hand the keys to your private life to Big Brother. Mind you, he has also made himself 62.3 billion bucks.
Although I’m not a fan at all of Michael Gove, he did strike exactly the right chord during the Referendum campaign when he expressed his distrust of experts.
Not surprisingly, the knee-jerk Left took this as evidence that here was yet another Brexit amateur leading Britain over a cliff of economic disaster as a result of which all their children would be sold into slavery. In fact, he was referring specifically to the predictions of doom being issued by 250 economists. Even the rabidly pro-EU Financial Times is now finally coming round to the view that maybe these visions of impending Pompeii were a tad overstated.
However, there is a far more important element in this question: I suspect Gove was actually suggesting that not every person being announced as an expert is really an expert at all.
I remember in 2007 getting a bit sick of hearing that Gordon Brown was our Greatest Ever Chancellor. So I Googled and delved and rang and asked around, and eventually traced the description back to an Observer interview with Brooon in 1999 – in which he said that his ambition was to be remembered as our Greatest Ever Chancellor. It would be reassuring to conclude that Gordon’s was a self-fulfilling wish, except that of course he turned out to be our Smuggest Ever Chancellor – the man who claimed to have banished boom and bust, and just six months before one of the biggest financial crashes in history told the Commons he was “delivering a Budget for longterm stability”. A year later, Britain’s national debt obligations had doubled.
Calling someone an economics expert is just the same as calling somebody an expert in military strategy, sub-atomic physics or neuroanatomy. The truth is that every self-styled form of expertise can be overtaken in a trice by one contrarian idea or new discovery. Ever since the NASA Voyager mission started calling in on one planet after another is our solar system, experts on everything from Saturn’s moons to Neptune’s weight have been proved wrong. At the moment, every military ‘expert’ is having to come to grips with the discovery of graphene, and every brain anatomist with the discovery of cerebral plasticity.
But Gove was I think going a stage beyond this, and referring to self-appointed experts who don’t even have the speed of contemporary advance as an excuse. People, oddly enough, like George Osborne (fiscal expert), Hillary Clinton (foreign policy expert), Theresa May (security expert), Jeremy Hunt (health provision expert) and Iain Duncan-Smith (welfare expert).
Michael Gove was right: ‘expert’ as a descriptor is no guarantee of reliability when it comes to the much-vaunted opinion. All of which leaves me wondering whether he was any kind of educational expert.
Tony Blair ‘blamed’ the Brexit referendum result on people who were ‘uneducated’. By any standards, Ed Balls is extremely well educated and covered in degrees. Read this opinion from Mr Balls just months before the UK banking collapse:
Sleep well: your future is in the hands of experts.